Eritrean refugee women and their Ethiopian hosts in the Afar region of Ethiopia ensure children attend school

By Amanda Westfall

Afar region, Ethiopia-On 21 September, in Asayita Woreda, Afar Region, Ethiopia, female community leaders who missed the opportunity for education when they were young, are now ensuring their children don’t follow that same path. Through the UNICEF-introduced and UK-Aid funded Accelerated Readiness Programme, children from both refugee and host communities in Afar Region, Ethiopia are participating in the summer programme to help prepare for primary school.

Zahara Halo, 28, a mother of three from Afar Region, Ethiopia, has never been to school. She was married, had a child at 13, and spent the latter half of her childhood raising her children and performing household chores expected of Afaari women: collecting water, cooking, building huts, tending cattle, and raising children.

Rokiya Mohammed, 35, is an Afaari woman from the Afar region of Eritrea. She also has never enjoyed the benefits of education, having spent much of her life doing household chores and caring for her seven children.
Approximately 13 years ago, Rokiya fled Eritrea to Ethiopia during the war between the two countries. She arrived with other Eritreans to Asayita Woreda where she has integrated into the host Ethiopian community and has received support ever since.

Zahar and Rokiya, although from two different countries, have many things in common. Both have learned to live in harsh desert climates, both are from pastoralist cultures, and both never had the opportunity for school. However, both are determined to change that pattern for their children.

They are part of the community’s Women’s Self Help Group, where they work to change the conditions for women and children in the community. Among other group activities, such as adult literacy classes and providing loans for small business, they are the delegated community leaders who ensure their children go to school.

Eritrean refugee girls, Aysa, Musa, and Lali, attend UNICEF’s ASR programme at Sembile Primary School along with their fellow refugee and host community classmates. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Tadesse

When these women heard that the new Accelerated School Readiness (ASR) programme was coming to Afar, they were determined to help. As Zahara explains:
“As the group leader (of the Women’s Group) we have difficulties in finding group members who can read and write, and we suffer a lot from this. That is why I am inspired to put my child in school. I do not want him to suffer as I have.”

Accelerated School Readiness(ASR) 

Eritrean Refugee and Ethiopian host community children participating in ASR at Sembile Primary School © UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Tadesse

ASR was designed for vulnerable children who never had early learning opportunities (like private or public pre-school) but are of age to begin primary school. It was developed through proven research on the importance of play-based activities (i.e. story-telling, art activities, literacy games) to help develop early literacy and communications skills. ASR gets children excited for school, ready for school, and keeps them in school.

In Ethiopia primary school dropout rates remain unfortunately high, with the highest rates found in Grade 1 (at 18 per cent), which is strongly linked to a lack of quality pre-primary opportunities. ASR is an innovative response to this challenge. In 2015, UNICEF introduced the initiative in rural areas of Ethiopia. Because it is relatively inexpensive (approximately US$13 per child), quick (two months over the summer), and effective, it has become a popular option for disadvantaged areas.

In 2016, ASR was offered to refugees and their host communities in an integrated and equitable approach. When they heard the news that ASR would be coming to refugees and host communities in Afar Region, the Women’s Group was ready and excited to support.

ASR is only possible through female community leaders

In Asayita Woreda, children are anywhere and everywhere – in condensed urban areas and expansive rural communities. In the vast deserts of the Afar Region where the climate is harsh and transportation services are minimal, it can be a major challenge to get children to school – a feat that is only possible by the determined female leaders of the community.

In less than one week, these women helped mobilize 258 children from urban and rural areas of Asayita Woreda, an area that spans almost 1,700 square kilometers.

Zahara explains how they were able to accomplish this: “We go from door-to-door and provide school materials for low income children … thereby giving the parents incentives to send children to school.”

Another Women’s Group member, Zahara Ali adds, “I know all of the mothers. I go knock on doors and say that you better send your children to school. I check up on each of them.”

Equal opportunities for refugees and host community children

Some Eritrean refugees, like Rokiya, have integrated into the local town, but some have decided to stay in the refugee camp just a few kilometers away. When Rokiya heard that ASR is also happening in the camp she was extremely grateful. “We are so happy our brothers and sisters also get this programme. We are grateful to see our children have equal opportunities like the host communities.”

Zahara and her six-year-old son Zuruson
© UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Tadesse

Because of determined women like Zahara and Rokiya, positive change is possible for the next generation in Asayita Woreda. As Women’s Group member Misre Ali explains, “We are in the darkness. We never had a chance to be educated and we don’t want this for our children. We want them to know many things.”

Since the introduction of ASR in Ethiopia, UNICEF has directly supported over 45,000 children in addition to the thousands more the Government has helped through their ASR interventions. As a result, hundreds of thousands of children have enjoyed its benefits in becoming well prepared for primary school.

Baby WASH: increasing communities’ awareness through health extension workers

by Hiwot Ghiday, Selamawit Yetemegn, Anina Stauffacher

Sekota Woreda, Northern Amhara region, 5 October 2018– Nigist lives 20km north of Sekota town in the mountainous and remote northern part of Ethiopia. Together with her husband and two children she lives in a one-room rock-built house in the centre of the village. The village is surrounded by rocky crop fields, where the men plough with the help of two oxen.

In early August, during the rainy season, everything looks not lush but pleasantly green. As Nigist takes a seat on a dusty plastic chair, the neighboring children come closer sitting and standing on the gravely dirt curious to hear and see what she is about to tell.

With the youngest child safely on her back, Nigist starts talking about how she cares for him. She explains how she washes the baby’s hands and face three times per day often with soap. “I would always like to wash my baby with soap, but we sometimes find it difficult to afford soap, then I wash him with water only”, she says. “I also wash his body every other day, for my older child it is less frequent”. Nigist’s understanding of the consequences of not properly washing her children’s hands and face with soap seems limited and leads her not to prioritize buying soap rather than other items.

UNICEF in collaboration with the BBC Media Action is currently piloting an EU-funded Baby WASH project in Zequalla and Sekota Woredas, Wag Himra Zone, northern Ethiopia. The aim of the Baby WASH project is to reduce the microbial burden encountered by young children in their play and feeding environments. In addition, the project aims to reduce trachoma and other disease exposure of children and therefore help reducing child stunting [1].

In August 2018, health extension workers were trained to work with the communities to change hygiene practices improving early childhood development. The focus lies on safe disposal of child feces, handwashing with soap, face hygiene, shoe wearing, protective play areas and food hygiene.

During the training, health extension workers learnt about Baby WASH activities and how to work with the communities to effectively change behavior. Listening groups and group discussions at community level using radio recordings are part of the methods the health extension workers use to raise Baby WASH issues in their own community. Additionally, during public discussion led by the local health office, key expectations were raised and discussed.

Debessa, a health extension worker describing the training on Baby WASH activities and how she plans to work with mothers in her community ©UNICEF2018Stauffacher
Debessa, a health extension worker describing the training on Baby WASH activities and how she plans to work with mothers in her community ©UNICEF/2018/Stauffacher

Debessa is one of the two health extension workers in the kebele where Nigist lives. Debessa says: “I know about safe sanitation and hygiene practices, but these interventions focusing on babies and young children are new for me. It is very interesting and I am learning a lot during the training.” Debessa is happy about attending the training together with other colleagues from Sekota Woreda.

She and her colleague working in the same kebele agree: “we are very motivated to go back home and work with the mothers on the Baby WASH, it is exciting. For the handwashing practices specifically focusing on babies and young children, we will connect it to previous handwashing promotion activities. To encourage families to properly dispose child feces, we expect that it will need some time for the change to be effective because this is a new concept for many in the community. And potties are expensive, it isn’t a priority for the families to spend money on potties particularly at this time of the year where families invest most of their money in farming”.

The key actions promoted during the training are summarized in form of pictures with both Amharic and Hemtegna language so training material can be used at community level.

Piloting the EU-funded Baby WASH project in collaboration with the government is a promising way forward to start triggering behavioral change with a focus on pregnant women, babies and children under 3. Shifting from a “have to” approach to a stronger focus of “how to”, Baby WASH requires close integration with existing interventions on maternal, new born and child health, early childhood development and nutrition.

A paper published by UNICEF and John Hopkins University in the Journal of Tropical Medicine and International Health highlighted the need to target interventions to reduce unsafe practices of disposal of baby and child feces. UNICEF Ethiopia WASH has included Baby WASH into its strategy for the new country program to contribute to the improvement of early childhood development.

[1] Stunting is a sign of ‘shortness’ and develops over a long period of time. In children and adults, it is measured through the height-for-age nutritional index. In Ethiopia approximately 40 per cent of children are stunted.

The power of female teachers and role models in Ethiopia’s pastoralist communities

Asyia Adam, 20, values her education over child marriage and inspires her female students, younger sisters, and girls in the community to put education first. She is a prime example to why investing in female teachers can build a new generation of leaders in Ethiopia

By Amanda Westfall

The Afar region of Ethiopia is one of the harshest and hottest locations in the world, holding the record high average temperature for an inhabited location, consistently reaching over 41°C (105°F). It is also a region that is hardest hit by droughts, where in 2015 half a million people were left without any water supply. When access to essential resources diminishes as each dry season hits, and one must migrate to find food and water, it takes the strongest mold of humans to survive.

And for females, where 91 per cent suffer from female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), 66 per cent are married as children, and only 2.1 per cent complete their primary education, it takes an even stronger mold to survive, thrive, stay in school, complete school, and find a paying job as an adult.

Asyia Adam, now 20, was married to an older man that her parents selected when she was 16 (Grade 8). Her new husband only completed Grade 8 and did not approve of Asyia having a higher education than him.

But Asyia witnessed too many girls dropping out of school because of marriage and would not have this for herself; her education was far too important. It took some time to convince her husband and her parents, but they eventually agreed to support her aspirations. She had to travel 220 km away to attend and finish secondary school in Logyia town, and then went on to gain a basic teaching degree at the teacher’s college, an education level that only 1.5 per cent of Afari girls reach.

Since Asyia and her husband envisioned different futures for her, a divorce was necessary. The divorce took some time to process and was only finalized last year.

Investing in quality teachers

Asyia beat the odds and is now a paid pre-primary teacher for the Government’s “O” class (kindergarten) at Alelo School for pastoralist children in Teru woreda (district), where she teaches and inspires 60 beautiful children daily.

Asyia, pre-primary teacher for the Government’s “O” class, displays the supplementary materials she made out of local materials (wood and charcoal) for her students ©UNICEF Ethiopia2018Amanda WestfallWhen the Government first introduced the “O” class to pastoralist communities it was difficult to understand the benefits. With no specialized pre-primary teachers and little to no resources made available, schools would typically assign any primary teacher to teach an extra class. In most cases, these teachers had no prior training on early childhood development. As a result, classes were not engaging, and children continued to drop out, with first grade dropout rates standing at 22 per cent.

In response and together with the Government, UNICEF developed an early childhood education training programme for teachers about the importance of early stimulation, lesson planning, and play-based activities for young children. UNICEF also supported the construction of new pre-primary classrooms and the provision of educational and play materials.

Asyia participated in one of the 20-day trainings in November last year. In her general teaching degree she did not learn about the roles that early stimulation and active play-based activities have for the mental development of young children. The UNICEF training also taught her how to develop lesson plans. “[Before the training] I didn’t know or even plan lessons at all.” Now Asyia plans every lesson properly and has noticed a real difference. “Before, children were afraid and shy to come. Now, because of active participation, they love to come and sometimes don’t want to go back home.”

She explains her ultimate goal for the students. “If I improve my methods and teach active participation, by the time they complete ‘O’ class they should be able to write, read, express themselves and have the behavioral skills needed for Grade 1.”

A true role model for young girls

Asyia is a true role model for all students, particularly for young girls. When asking her students why they like school, 6-year-olds Ahmed Mohammed, Halima Abdu, and Ali Ahmed just pointed to their teacher, indicating that Asyia was the main reason. When Asyia was asked if she sees herself as a role model for girls at her school, her sisters (Asyia is the oldest child of nine), and girls in her community, Asyia shows her widest smile, with pride in her eyes, and nods ‘yes.’
Ahmed Mohammed is a 6-year-old pre-school student in Asyia’s class. Here he is demonstrating how he can write the Afari alphabet ©UNICEF Ethiopia2018Amanda Westfall
If pastoralist communities do not see the value of education, then it is obvious that girls will not stay in school. It takes skilled, trained, inspiring and dedicated female teachers – like Asyia – to bring positive change for pastoralist girls who live in Afar’s harsh climate.

Asyia now lives as a single woman in her very own traditional home just a short walking distance from the school. She is happy, empowered and continues to inspire young girls to put education first.

UNICEF advocates to bring more women into leadership roles in the education sector, so that women can be the inspiration for young girls to lead their country one day.

Reflecting on UNICEF’s 65th Anniversary in Benishangul-Gumuz Region

By Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia

On the 20th of September 2018, Benishangul-Gumuz Government  co-hosted with us an event commemorating 65 years of UNICEF’s presence in Ethiopia. This month, UNICEF’s 65th anniversary coincided with the official opening of schools across Ethiopia. Taking children to school is a moment of great pride for many families who do so in the expectation that their children will have a chance to fulfil their full potential. Indeed, the school may be the most influential institution in a child’s life after family and the home. It is the foundation upon which children seek to build a better future for themselves and their families.

Celebration of 65th Anniversary of UNICEF in Ethiopia held in conjunction with go-back to school campaign, Assosa Benshangul Gumuz Regional State.
UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Ms. Gillian Mellsop officially opening the photograph exhibition of the 65th Anniversary of UNICEF in Ethiopia held in conjunction with go-back to school campaign, Assosa Benshangul Gumuz Regional State. 

Looking back at 65 years of UNICEF in Benishangul and the development gains the region has achieved, in particular during the period of the Millennium Development Goals, one thing is clear: none of these results would have been possible without the strong commitment and leadership of the Benishangul Regional Government.

An occasion like this reminds us of what more needs to be done to make life better for every child.We should not only reflect on what Ethiopia and the Benishangul Region have achieved in the last 65 years, we should also reflect on what more we can do to improve the wellbeing of every child.

Using this opportunity, we have launched, together with Mr. Ashadli Hassen, President of the Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State, UNICEF’s 65th anniversary publication “Always for Children”.

In recent years, the region has succeeded in reducing under-five mortality from 169 per thousand in 2011 to 98 per thousand in 2016. Ninety-seven per cent of health facilities are providing Integrated Management of Childhood Illness services and 98 per cent of health posts provide Integrated Community Case Management and Immunization at scale. We are delighted that, with the support of UNICEF and other partners, the Regional Government has taken a courageous decision to make treatment of under five children free of charge.

In nutrition, the region has one of the highest proportions of children eating diverse foods, which may be explained by the agricultural biodiversity in the region. At 20 per cent, the minimum diet diversity for children in the region is second only to Addis Ababa and higher than the national average of 14 per cent. In the last three years, the number of health centers providing treatment services for severe acute malnutrition has reached 100 per cent, a clear demonstration of the Regional Health Bureau’s commitment to bringing nutrition to the front and center of the region’s development agenda.

Despite the region having a low water supply coverage of 58.2 per cent, the rate of non-functionality of water schemes is only eight per cent. It takes great effort and commitment to achieve such a low rate, and we recognize the strong leadership of the Regional Water Bureau. Sanitation coverage is above the national average, and the Sanitation Marketing Project, which is being piloted in five kebeles with UNICEF support, is yielding significant results in improving access to improved sanitation.

An issue of great concern to us is the low rates of children registered at birth. In the last few years, we have worked hard to support the establishment of the Vital Event Registration Agency and, with it, a comprehensive national birth registration system. With the system now in place in kebeles across the region, we want to see more children having birth certificates. The child justice system is also showing promising signs of improvement with the establishment of child-friendly benches in the court system in nine woredas.

Celebration of 65th Anniversary of UNICEF in Ethiopia held in conjunction with go-back to school campaign, Assosa Benshangul Gumuz Regional State.
Children presenting musical show to participants on the event of the 65th Anniversary of UNICEF in Ethiopia held in conjunction with go-back to school campaign, Assosa Benshangul Gumuz Regional State.

We are seeing similar progress in education where the Gross Enrolment Rate at pre-primary level has increased from 23.2 per cent in 2012 to 40.1 per cent in 2016. During the last five years, the Primary Net Enrolment Rate has also increased from 89.3 per cent to 96.1 per cent.

As Benishangul-Gumuz is hosting significant numbers of refugees, UNICEF is supporting the region to improve sustainable basic social service delivery through the Building Self-Reliance Project for Refugees and Host Communities. This project is helping to meet the crucial needs of these vulnerable communities.

The story of UNICEF in Benishangul is also the story of thousands of determined and courageous women and men who have worked relentlessly to reach the most vulnerable children. Their tireless efforts for the children and women of Benishangul have not gone unnoticed and as we celebrate the many success stories today, we are also celebrating your contributions. UNICEF remains committed to continue working with you to build on these successes until every child enjoys the dignity and quality of life he or she deserves. In this endeavour, we will continue to work with our NGO partners, civil society, institutions of higher learning, sister UN agencies, and communities.

For more pictures go to our Flickr page

How to improve the quality of education in refugee camps? Qualify the teachers.

In Ethiopia, refugee incentive teachers are on their way to obtaining professional teaching diplomas.

By Amanda Westfall 

On 17 August, South Sudanese and Sudanese refugees Anur, Sami, James, Abdalaziz, and Poch went to college for the first time. They are part of the first group of 42 refugees on their way to becoming professional teachers.

As agents of change for their communities, they will use their new skills to improve the quality of education for refugee children. Abdalaziz Ramada, Sami Balla, and James Jawalla have been refugees for 7 years. Anur Ismael has been a refugee for 20 years. Poch Jackson Petov has been a refugee for 25 years, his entire life.

All five fled the conflict in Sudan and South Sudan. All five lost loved ones, families and friends. Some, like Poch and James, have survived as refugees with no family at all –either lost or killed in the conflict.

All are known as ‘refugees’ to their friends, to Ethiopian host communities, the Ethiopian government, and to the world. With this status they cannot legally work in Ethiopia and have had limited opportunities for college or university to enhance their skills and become professionals… Until now.

In July this year, 42 refugee incentive teachers in Benishangul-Gumuz region were given an opportunity of a life time. Abdalaziz, James, Amur, Sami, Poch, and 37 others were enrolled in the region’s teachers’ college. The refugees rode a bus for eight hours, moved onto the GilGel-Beles College of Teachers Education campus, and are currently studying for their teaching diplomas.

For refugee teachers, long-term opportunities for skills development have been nearly non-existent, since trainings are typically offered as short courses, giving them the minimum skills to educate refugee children. Therefore, and not surprisingly, only 33 per cent of those who teach in primary schools in the region are qualified professional teachers who hold teaching diplomas. This means that the majority of refugee children are receiving their primary education from unqualified personnel, many of whom have not even completed secondary school (23 per cent).

However, the Ethiopian Government has made a commitment to improve the situation for refugees and give them opportunities to integrate within Ethiopian society, as demonstrated by the government’s nine pledges to support refugees and the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework process in Ethiopia. They understand that it is crucial to provide opportunities to refugees for career growth, especially in the teaching sector, so that the quality of education in the camps can improve and that children have better education, better opportunities, and better skills to make positive contributions to their communities – whether in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, or where ever they end up in the future.

A Desire for More Opportunities

South Sudanese refugees and current college students, Poch Jackson Petov and Hamid Abdallah Hamad in front of Gilgel-BelesCollege of Teacher Education. © UNICEF Ethiopia 2018 Amanda Westfall
South Sudanese refugees and current college students, Poch Jackson Petov and Hamid Abdallah Hamad in front of Gilgel-Beles College of Teacher Education. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Amanda Westfall

The opportunity arose because of an ambition to expand knowledge. In 2017, Poch, along with his colleagues demanded more opportunities. In the camps, all they earn is 700 Ethiopian Birr per month (about US$25) to ‘volunteer’ full time as teachers in primary schools. With no chances to go to college, become professionals, and earn a decent wage, something had to change.

“We had a meeting with school principals. We asked them, ‘Why can’t we get training to improve our skills?’ We are stuck in one position. Then we waited. Finally, [the opportunity] came and we have a partner to help us continue education.” (Poch)

Because of his ambition to expand his knowledge, as well as his understanding of the Ethiopian language, Amharic, Poch is the group’s student representative at the college. And he fought a hard life to reach this status. After his father was killed in the conflict in South Sudan, his mother fled to a refugee camp in Ethiopia while he was still in the womb. When he was in Grade 2, a conflict broke out in the camp and he was separated from his mother, never to see her again. With incredible determination, he managed to learn Amharic, gain a full primary and secondary education, and become an incentive teacher (in addition to being the best football goal keeper in Sherkole Camp). But just being a ‘volunteer teacher’ with no relevant qualifications was not enough.

Dreams for College Become Reality

In early 2018, UNICEF, UNHCR, and the Ethiopian Government, along with financial support from Education Cannot Wait, made dreams become reality. Posh, Anur, Sami, James, Abdalaziz, the 37 others from the Benishangul-Gumuz Region, and 301 others from Gambella Region were going to college.

In total, the programme brings 343 refugees to study and learn with their fellow ‘host’ Ethiopian students. The courses are taught in English, and they can choose which track to study, from Generalist, to Physical Education, Integrated Sciences, Math, Social Science, or English. They are provided with a full scholarship, which includes education, room and board, health care, and transport services to/from the college or camps. The regional government and colleges support with training, learning and integration at the school, while UNICEF, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR coordinate, finance, and manage the project.

A Chance for Generational Change

These refugee student-teachers are part of a new movement of change for the refugee communities. With new skills in teaching methodology, classroom management, and course-specific instruction, their knowledge will be passed on to the children in the camps.

As James and Sami explain, “I am proud of this programme. It will enable me to improve the knowledge of my community.” (James)

“Now, we can go back with the diploma and say we are teachers and we are professionals! I now have pride to work at the school.” (Sami)

With their new diplomas, Posh, Anur, Sami, James and Abdalaziz explained that they want to go back to the camps and use their new skills to improve the quality of education for their communities.

As the first group to enjoy this opportunity, they now set an example for future refugee student-teachers, so that each year the quality of education for refugee children continues to improve with an increase in more qualified teachers.

First Ever Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Day Observed in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 21st August 2018: As Ethiopia enters the third year of rolling out a comprehensive civil and vital events registration system, which includes birth registration, the government and its partners gathered on 18th August to commemorate the first ever civil registration and vital statics day.

Beyond the usual fanfare that accompanies these events, the day was an opportune moment to reflect on the progress the country has made since the comprehensive vital events registration system was launched in 2016.

In his opening remarks, the President of Ethiopia Dr. Mulatu Teshome said the vital events registration system was important as it enabled citizens to demand their constitutional rights and obtain comprehensive social and economic services. It also enabled the government to design laws, policies and strategies with concrete evidence and ensure their enforcement.

Commemorated under the theme universal, permanent and continuous civil registration and vital statistics system for good governance and better lives, the event was held to raise public awareness about the importance of registering vital life events such as births, marriages, and deaths.

“As we embark on the third year, we can see that more than 18 per cent of children under one year of age are now registered with civil authorities, up from only 3 per cent in 2016,” said UNICEF Acting Representative Shalini Bahuguna.

Birth Registration Programme in Dodota woreda/district of Arsi zone, Oromia region
“Gemechu has a birth certificate” Gemechu’s parents, Bedaso Rago and his mother Ayati Kumbi, Awash Bishola Kebele, Oromia region. ©UNICEF Ethiopia /2017/Martha Tadesse

Ethiopia did not have a comprehensive vital events and civil registration system before 2016, as a result of which only three per cent of children under the age of five had their births registered with civil authorities and two in three of these children had a birth certificate. However, following the enactment of the Council of Ministers regulation to establish the Federal Vital Events Registration Agency (FVERA) and the national identity proclamation in 2012, a system for coordinating and supporting the registration of vital events registration was launched in July 2016.

Since then, 19,351 registration offices have been established across the country out of which 17,042 are providing vital events registration and certification services. Within this period, 965,457 births, 208,637 marriages, 8,089 divorces, 178,559 deaths, and 565 adoptions have been registered.

Key supporters of this programme who have channelled their support through UNICEF include the European Union via the Netherlands embassy (€4m) and Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (€1.5m). Other partners providing their support directly to FVERA include the World Bank (USD 15 million), UNHCR (computers, printers and laptops), Economic Commission for Africa and Plan International (technical support and capacity building), World Vision (media advocacy) and UNFPA and WHO (costing of the strategic plan).

Birth registration rates can be accelerated if bottlenecks such as the requirement that both mother and father should be present at the time the birth certificate is being issued are removed and if the first copy of the certificate is issued without a fee. Despite Ethiopia’s progress in expanding the system to cover 88 per cent of the country and improving rates of registration, most of the population, particularly in socially and economically disadvantaged areas, have neither heard about vital events registration nor understood its relevance. Thus, creating more awareness about the system and generating demand for its services remains a key focus of the programme.


Heads of WFP and UNICEF visit Somali Region of Ethiopia after days of civil unrest

ADDIS ABABA – The heads of the United Nations World Food Programme and UNICEF in Ethiopia have made a joint visit to Somali Region of Ethiopia to see firsthand how people affected by recent violence and civil unrest are being assisted.

WFP Country Director, Steven Were Omamo and UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia, Gillian Mellsop visited the regional capital Jijiga on Monday 13 August, where they assessed what further support was needed and emphasized the importance of strong partnerships in improving the situation.

A humanitarian coordination committee comprising both government and humanitarian partners has been established to identify food distribution points in the city, after thousands of people were forced from their homes amid the disturbances.

“The people here are facing enormous challenges, and we have been doing all we can to support them through food distributions over the past few days,” said Omamo. “It is encouraging to see how the situation is stabilizing through the efforts of the Government and the support of humanitarian partners, and federal and regional authorities.”

“Children and women still face enormous challenges in accessing basic services such as water and health,” said Mellsop. “Working with the regional government and our partners, we are doing our best to ensure that support continues to reach them even as we restore currently-suspended programmes for other vulnerable populations.”

UNICEF is providing high-energy biscuits to children and women, buckets, blankets, soap and water-treatment chemicals. Before the conflict, UNICEF was supporting the treatment of approximately 132,000 children and 110,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women for moderate malnutrition and 8,500 children for severe acute malnutrition. The support is expected to resume once the situation improves.

WFP is providing rice, pulses, oil, corn soya blend, and the supplement Plumpy’Sup to 52,000 people seeking shelter in temporary accommodation. It hopes to resume its regular operations in the coming days as the security situation continues to improve.

WFP usually provides food assistance to some 2 million food-insecure people in the Somali Region. Another 311,000 drought-affected people receive complementary WFP food assistance under the government-led Productive Safety Net Programme.