The Paradox of Birth Tourism

Sep 10 , 2023
By Eden Sahle

Upon announcing that my my husband and I were expecting our first child, family and friends expressed their concerns about our birth plan.

They urged us to have our child in the United States, where my inlaws reside. Their concerns were not primarily about Ethiopia's high infant and maternal mortality rates but rather about the uncertainties of giving birth in the country.

While it is true that only a small number of women in Ethiopia can afford birth tourism, this practice reflects a desire for a secure and healthy future for their children.

Many of our family members and acquaintances have travelled abroad to give birth and secure citizenship for their children. One couple recently invested a significant amount of money in medical expenses and travel to secure a brighter future for their children.

They had misgivings that their children would likely have a bleak future, as believed children born in the country typically face numerous challenges in terms of overall well-being when compared to those born in developed countries.

It was difficult to argue against their point.

Children in Ethiopia face a daunting array of challenges, including chronic conflict, dire economic conditions, a lack of opportunity, and poor access to education which have persisted for generations, creating a cycle of poverty and deprivation that is difficult to break.

On the other hand, kids born in wealthy nations oftentimes have access to a better quality of life and education, which can lead to higher cognitive abilities and more years of schooling.

Studies indicate that holding a high-quality education and lifestyle can have long-term benefits as it can help to create a more valuable professional network and provide better healthcare opportunities.

The nation still struggles to reduce the number of newborn deaths within the first 28 days.

Although there has been significant progress in reducing maternal and child mortality over the last two decades, there is still a long road ahead for the country. Unfortunately, the rates of maternal mortality (412 per 100,000 live births) and child mortality (67 per 1,000 children) are still unacceptably high.

This is due to a number of factors, including a struggling healthcare system, underfunded health services, a lack of skilled and specialised healthcare providers, and a lack of investment in maternal and newborn health. Inaccessibility to quality antenatal, obstetric and postnatal health services, especially in rural areas, hampers further progress in reducing maternal deaths.

Insufficient skilled birth attendance exacerbates the persistent problem.

The tragic death of my former colleague in childbirth is a stark reminder of the persistent health and safety challenges that women in the capital face. Medical doctor friends who reviewed her records believe she is one of many mothers whose lives might have been saved with appropriate maternal healthcare.

This trend is a sign of despair and a lack of hope for the future of Ethiopia, as many parents are now choosing to have their children in wealthy nations where they believe they will be safer. However, this is not a solution to the underlying problems that we face. Instead, the government must invest in maternal and child health care and other essential services in order to create a better future for all its citizens.

A peaceful country is a haven, where children can grow up safe and healthy and adults can thrive. When communities are in unity, they create a force for good that can overcome adversity. Conversely, a nation divided and conflict-ridden is like a ship without a rudder, adrift in a stormy sea; constantly at risk of collapse.

Our decision to have our child here is not based on a sense of security or a belief that our child will have a bright future in the country. Nor is it because we underestimate the benefits of having our child in a developed nation. Rather, it is rooted in our faith, which gives us the strength to see beyond the current challenges.

We believe in our nation's potential and strive to contribute towards its greatness.

We are confident that this can be a place where everyone has an opportunity to reach their full potential.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 10,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1219]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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