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.

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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.

Ethiopia launches an integrated measles, vitamin A, and deworming campaign for displaced people in Gedeo Zone

Addis Ababa, 7 August 2018 – The Ethiopian Ministry of Health has launched a preventive measles vaccination campaign to immunize 928 000 children aged 6 months to 15 years among the internally displaced and host communities in Gedeo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region. The campaign will also involve administering vitamin A to children aged six months to five years and deworming of children aged two to five years. Plans are underway for a similar campaign targeting 516 000 children in West Guji Zone of Oromia Region. 

There are close to one million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Gedeo and West Guji zones sheltering in schools, unfinished buildings, and tents.  The make-shift camps are crowded with limited access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation, posing an increased risk for the spread of communicable diseases. Children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are at high risk of malnutrition.

“Conducting vaccination campaigns for the displaced and host communities is key to preventing an outbreak of infectious diseases such as measles. Malnutrition also needs to be addressed, which is why this campaign is integrated with vitamin A distribution and deworming for young children,” Dr Akpaka Kalu, WHO Representative in Ethiopia, said.  “WHO teams are on the ground in Gedeo working with government staff for technical, operational and logistical support to the campaign and to the overall health emergency response.”

UNICEF is procuring 750 000 doses of the measles vaccine while the balance of 900 000 doses is being bought by the Ministry of Health.

“In an emergency of this nature, it is often the children who endure the greatest suffering,” said UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia Ms. Gillian Mellsop. “In these very difficult times for the children of Gedeo and West Guji zones, it is critical that we are present, together with the government and other humanitarian partners, to provide vaccination and other much-needed lifesaving support to children and women.”

With little access to food and safe water, children and women are facing a rapidly deteriorating nutrition situation. UNICEF has provided malnutrition treatment supplies, deployed trucks to ferry safe water in West Guji, and distributed soap, jerry cans, water tanks, and other non-food items. Technical experts are on the ground to support the immunization campaign, monitor the screening and treatment of children with malnutrition, and mitigate violence against women and children. 

The World Health Organization is providing technical and operational support including microplanning for the campaign, training of supervisors and facilitators, coordination, logistics, and monitoring and supervision of the quality of campaign.

As part of the response to the humanitarian crisis, WHO has deployed four international and more than 30 national public health experts to the affected zones to provide technical support on the ground.  The organization has also donated medicines and medical supplies enough to provide emergency treatment to more than 200 000 people. 

More than US$ 500,000 has been allocated from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to WHO and UNICEF towards supporting the preventive measles campaign led by the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia through its regional health bureaus in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples and Oromia regions.  The campaign in Oromia Region is expected to commence on 10 August 2018.

Ethiopia invests US$ 31.4 million on innovative next-generation solar refrigerators for vaccines

Addis Ababa, 18 July 2018 –The Federal Ministry of Health has procured over 6,000 Solar Direct Drive (SDD) refrigerators for health posts and woreda (district) health offices in areas without reliable electricity. The devices will store vaccines at health facilities which will help keep millions of children alive and healthy. The Federal Ministry of Health fully funded the procurement of these solar refrigerators at a total cost of US$ 31.4 million. The procurement was supported by UNICEF given its global expertise in handling such large-scale purchases in a short time.

Prequalified by WHO, the SDD refrigerators are expected to expand immunization coverage in Ethiopia through significantly reducing the time and resources required for vaccine transportation. The devices will ensure the availability and safety of vaccines in remote areas where the country’s most vulnerable children live.

Solar Direct Drive (SDD) refrigerators Programme Launch
Enter H.E Dr Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health addressing media during the Solar Direct Drive (SDD) refrigerators programme launch. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mulugeta Ayene

The procurement follows a unique bundled procurement services approach which includes warranty, delivery of spare parts, and training of supply chain and immunization focal persons both at federal and regional levels. In addition, a project management team led by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF will regularly review the progress and efficiency of operations.

At the ceremony, H.E Dr Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health, said, “The Government of Ethiopia underlines its commitment to equip all health posts, health centres and hospitals with optimal cold chain equipment to ensure quality and improve access of the immunization programme.”

“The Solar Direct Drive devices we are being rolled out are the successful outcome of the strong partnership built between the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and other health partners to ensure that no child is left behind on immunization,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia.

Solar Direct Drive (SDD) refrigerators Programme Launch
Ms Gillian Mellsop visits a display during Solar Direct Drive (SDD) refrigerators programme launch. The SDD refrigerators are expected to expand immunization coverage in Ethiopia through significantly reducing the time and resources required for vaccine transportation. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mulugeta Ayene

Immunization is one of the most cost-effective health investments. By protecting children against vaccine preventable diseases, immunization plays a central role in ending preventable child deaths. Despite significant improvements over the past decades, in Ethiopia, only 38.5 per cent of children between 12 and 23 months receive all basic vaccinations. There are also great disparities in terms of access to vaccination services between rural and urban areas.

One of the key strategies to improve access and utilization of immunization services is to improve the cold chain system, especially at health post level. Therefore, the Ministry of Health invested in solar powered refrigerators which are more cost effective and sustainable than refrigerators using gas or kerosene, in remote areas where there is no electricity.

Ethiopia’s Health Sector Transformation Plan (HSTP) has set ambitious goals to improve equity, coverage and utilization of essential health services at all levels by 2020. Achieving these goals will require significant investments, including in innovative technology.

While it remains important to achieve high coverage rates of essential health services, such as immunization of mothers and children, continued efforts are required to provide quality health services to all citizens regardless of differences in socio-economic status or geographic location.

UNICEF signs annual workplans with the Government of Ethiopia worth US$ 56 million

By Metasebia Solomon

Addis Ababa, 9th July 2018: UNICEF signed annual workplans with the Government of Ethiopia for the Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2011. The workplans were signed by Mr Admasu Nebebe, State Minister in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation (MoFEC), Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia and heads of Regional Bureaus of Finance and Economic Cooperation.  UNFPA also attended the signing ceremony, as one of the UN agencies signing annual workplans with the Government of Ethiopia under the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF 2016-2020).  UNFPA was represented by Mrs. Bettina Maas, UNFPA Country Representative to Ethiopia.

AWP signing ceremony
UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Gillian Mellsop, Admasu Nebebe, State Minister, Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation and Bettina Maas, UNFPA Country Representative to Ethiopia, shake hands after signing the annual workplans. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Zerihun Sewunet

The workplans will create a platform for the implementation of integrated child-focused development interventions in Ethiopia’s regional states and city administrations. This year, with support from MoFEC, UNICEF has managed to reduce the number of work plans from 143 to 89 by integrating related programmes that are currently being implemented by different implementing partners. The reduction will strengthen collaboration and coordination among implementing partners and will contribute to efficient utilization of resources by reducing operating costs and facilitating joint programme implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

In his remarks, Mr. Admasu Nebebe said the continued support and resources mobilized by UNICEF and UN agencies in the past decades has been valuable to Ethiopia’s development. In particular, he singled out the participatory process used to develop the workplans as a key to enhance mutual accountability and ownership of programmes.

Ms. Gillian Mellsop said UNICEF highly values its partnership with MoFEC and the Regional Bureaus. Appreciating the fact that the vast majority of resources are allocated to the regions, Ms. Mellsop said UNICEF is grateful for the support and collaboration of the regional government partners to deliver results for children and women in general and to reach the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children in particular.

The workplans will be implemented by more than 140 regional and federal government partners covering 12 programme areas that include health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, education, early warning and disaster preparedness, violence against children, ending child marriage and FGM, birth registration, child rights, communication, public finance for children, evidence generation, and programme coordination, monitoring and evaluation.