First lady of Ethiopia visits UWM

Maternal and infant health care. Nutrition. Empowering women in the economy.

These are all areas of concern in both Ethiopia and Milwaukee.

Roman Tesfaye, the first lady of Ethiopia, visited the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Zilber School of Public Health on Oct. 3 to learn more about all of these topics, and to share information on what her country is doing to address these issues.

Roman Tesfaye (right), first lady of Ethiopia, discusses urban farming with Venice Williams of Milwaukee’s Alice’s Garden during a visit to UWM’s Zilber School of Public Health Oct. 3. (UWM Photo/Kathy Quirk)

The stop in Milwaukee was part of a visit to Wisconsin with a delegation of Ethiopian government, industry and university experts to study the dairy industry in Wisconsin, and to share lessons between countries about integrated approaches to agriculture and community development. This was the Tesfaye’s first visit to Wisconsin.

A panel of researchers from the Zilber School presented overviews of their research:

  • Lance Weinhardt, professor and associate dean, discussed the recently completed SAGE4Health project, which evaluated the impact of economic and food security interventions on HIV vulnerability in rural Malawi.
  • Renee Walker, assistant professor of community and behavioral health promotion, talked about her work on the impact of poverty and racial inequalities on nutrition-related diseases in Milwaukee.
  • Emmanuel Ngui, associate professor of community and behavioral health promotion, highlighted research on maternal and child health in Milwaukee, particularly efforts to lower the number of babies who are born too early and too small, key issues contributing to the high infant mortality rate in Milwaukee.

Dr. Ferew Lemma, a senior nutrition adviser in the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, shared information about the country’s efforts to improve nutrition, particularly its effect on maternal and infant health. Ethiopia has an ambitious agenda called the Seqota Declaration to eliminate childhood malnutrition.

Finally, a group of Milwaukee food entrepreneurs shared their experiences and some of the food and herbs they’ve developed.  The entrepreneurs included:

  • Venice Williams of Alice’s Garden, an urban farm;
  • Bob Wills of the Clock Shadow Creamery, an urban cheese shop and factory;
  • Martha Davis Kipcak of Mighty Fine Food LLC, which specializes in artisan pimento cheese;
  • Yollande Deacon of Irie Zulu, an African and Jamaican restaurant and food business;
  • JoAnne and Maanaan Sabir, who operate The Juice Kitchen on North Avenue.

The Office of the First Lady of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was established in July 2013, the first time in Ethiopia’s history that the country had such a formal office. Tesfaye, who earned master’s degrees in leadership and economics, has focused on social and economic development, nutrition, cancer prevention and control, education and HIV/AIDS prevention and control.

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