Intensive Care in Sub-Saharan Africa: A National Review of the Service Status in Ethiopia

Fitsum Kifle* (Corresponding Author), Yared Boru, Hailu Tamiru, Menbeu Sultan, Yenegeta Walelign, Azeb Demelash, Abigail Beane, Rashan Haniffa, Alegnta Gebreyesus, Jolene Moore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The burden of critical illness in low-income countries is high and expected to rise. This has implications for wider public health measures including maternal mortality, deaths from communicable diseases, and the global burden of disease related to injury. There is a paucity of data pertaining to the provision of critical care in low-income countries. This study provides a review of critical care services in Ethiopia.

Multicenter structured onsite surveys incorporating face-to-face interviews, narrative discussions, and on-site assessment were conducted at intensive care units (ICUs) in September 2020 to ascertain structure, organization, workforce, resources, and service capacity. The 12 recommended variables and classification criteria of the World Federation of Societies of Intensive and Critical Care Medicine (WFSICCM) taskforce criteria were utilized to provide an overview of service and service classification.

A total of 51 of 53 (96%) ICUs were included, representing 324 beds, for a population of 114 million; this corresponds to approximately 0.3 public ICU beds per 100,000 population. Services were concentrated in the capital Addis Ababa with 25% of bed capacity and 51% of critical care physicians. No ICU had piped oxygen. Only 33% (106) beds had all of the 3 basic recommended noninvasive monitoring devices (sphygmomanometer, pulse oximetry, and electrocardiography). There was limited capacity for ventilation (n = 189; 58%), invasive monitoring (n = 9; 3%), and renal dialysis (n = 4; 8%). Infection prevention and control strategies were lacking.

This study highlights major deficiencies in quantity, distribution, organization, and provision of intensive care in Ethiopia. Improvement efforts led by the Ministry of Health with input from the acute care workforce are an urgent priority.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnesthesia and Analgesia
Early online date5 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Nov 2021


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