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HDI, through its collaboration with Family Health International (FHI) and Save the Children USA, has had a visible presence in Ethiopia for the last 7 years. HDI has provided short and long-term technical assistance to Save the Children USA/Ethiopia and FHI and has been instrumental in developing some of the most popular and effective communication campaigns in Ethiopia.

One of the most recognized billboard images in Ethiopia. This billboard is part of the CATS campaign to reduce the impact of stigma and discrimination in Ethiopia.


In addition to its work with FHI Nepal, Indonesia, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Guyana, HDI has provided technical assistance to FHI Ethiopia for the development of comprehensive behavior change communication (BCC) campaigns to reduce stigma and discrimination for those affected by HIV/AIDS and to promote voluntary counseling and testing.

HDI’s approach in Ethiopia for the IMPACT Project was designed to improve HIV preventive behaviors, reduce risk behaviors, improve care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and reduce stigma and discrimination. It recognized the need for communication that goes beyond awareness to address the factors that help people change their beliefs, attitudes and consequently their behaviors. The approach focuses on building local, regional and national capacity to develop integrated, comprehensive BCC that leads members of the target population to positive action by stimulating discussion and increasing self-perception of risk.

A comprehensive communication strategy was developed with two key components: Compassion, Tolerance and Sensitivity Campaign (CATS Campaign) and Voluntary Counseling and Testing Campaign (VCT Campaign). After the success of these campaigns in Addis Ababa, the BCC component was extended to the three regions in Ethiopia — Amhara, SNNPR, and Oromia.


The CATS campaign was a multimedia campaign that included Billboards, Radio Spots, Posters, Music Video and events. CATS has been referred to as one of the most popular and successful HIV/AIDS campaigns in Ethiopia. The billboards were rated as “the best in town’’ by an Addis Ababa City Council evaluation and the CATS music video became the No. 1 hit on the Ethiopian charts and stayed there for 1 year. The images of the CATS campaign became so popular that they were replicated throughout the country by non-aligned beneficiaries including the private sector. HDI helped coordinate free media time, press coverage of the campaign and dialogues and discussions on various media related to the campaign, which resulted in free publicity worth over US$ 500,000 for the CATS campaign, including support from the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation.

Replication of the CATS campaign billboard by a private pharmacy in Gondar.


The campaigns that focused on Stigma and Discrimination and VCT were launched in three regions – Amhara, SNNPR, and Oromia – using a range of media and channels. Anecdotal evidence suggests that these campaigns were not only well received by the target audience, but that perceptions were changed. The key protagonists (characters created for dramatic effect) of the campaign —Anbes (SNNPR and Amhara) and Boja (Oromia)— have become household names. Radio talk shows, attended by FHI staff as part of an informal campaign evaluation exercise, revealed that the radio spots for the regional campaign have a huge fan following and people listen to them like drama serials. These radio spots have become a source of discussion and debate within communities and households on the issue of HIV/AIDS.

This billboard was part of the campaign to promote voluntary counseling and testing.


In addition to collaborating with Save the Children USA in Pakistan, Nepal, Mali and Malawi, HDI was contracted by Save the Children to develop a campaign to promote tetanus vaccination among pregnant women in Ethiopia from 2001-2004. In Ethiopia, HDI designed a demand generation strategy using culturally appropriate community mobilization approaches in combination with mass media to promote the government’s national tetanus campaign. Similarly, in Ethiopia, HDI worked to foster a dialogue between men and women; husbands with their wives; and fathers with their daughters to talk about the benefits of tetanus immunizations through an innovative and provocative approach using a heroine who challenges the “old” ways and demonstrates the benefits of the new ways. This character is used on all promotional material and is the protagonist in a feature film, called Askenkitab (amulets of protection). The film addresses issues of early marriage, spouse abuse, female genital cutting, and HIV/AIDS. Addressing immunization in isolation of the context in which women live would be shortsighted. HDI hired, trained and deployed two teams of community mobilizers and two video vans to reach 9 zones and hundreds of woredas (districts) and kebeles (neighborhoods) over a 9-month period. The total target was approximately 9 million women, and HDI achieved an 85% coverage rate.

As a result of HDI’s successes across several countries, HDI was asked to co-author a “how-to” manual on mobilizing communities for immunization published by UNICEF in 2005.