UNICEF and Italian Agency for Development Cooperation made it possible for host communities and refugees in Itang Special District to access clean and reliable water supply

By Dorosella Bishanga

ITANG SPECIAL WOREDA (DISTRICT), GAMBELLA REGIONAL STATE, 6 October 2017-While it is commonly understood that water flowing in river streams is not clean and suitable for drinking nor cooking, in Itang town, Baro River was the only main source of water supply in which households depended for everyday domestic use. Consequently, as the Itang Town Water Supply Scheme was launched in October 2017, residents were delighted for the assured access to clean and reliable water supply.

The inauguration event of the Itang Town Water Supply Scheme was attended by his Excellency Senai Akwer, Vice President, Gambella Regional State, his Excellency, Thok Thoan, Head, Gambella Regional Bureau of Water and Resource Development. Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Ms Ginevra Letizia, Head of the Italian Cooperation Agency Office, members of the Woreda Administration, the residents of Itang town, and delegations from UNICEF and the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation in Ethiopia.

Itang water scheme supported by Italian Agency for Development Cooperation
The Itang water supply scheme will provide water for 11,319 and 10,000 individuals in Itang and Thurpham respectively. As part of the multi donor integrated water supply project, the project will provide safe water to a total of 205,703 refugees in three camps of Kule, Tierkidi and Nguenyiel refugee camps after the system upgrade. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Mulugeta Ayene

During the inauguration of the Itang Water Supply Scheme, UNICEF Representative, Gillian Mellsop expressed her gratitude both to the Gambella Regional and the Itang Special Woreda leaders, by recognizing their commitment during the implementation of the Itang Water Supply Scheme and the remarkable collaboration towards realizing key development milestones on access to clean water as put forward in the government development agenda. Ms. Mellsop said, “With the right investment, it is possible to provide a more reliable and resilient water service to rural communities; that reduces their vulnerability and also improves the quality of their lives – in this case, also contribute to peace building efforts by avoiding potential conflict over limited available resources.”

Conveying her gratitude for the financial contributions made by the  Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, which made it possible for the building of the Itang Town Water Scheme, Ms Mellsop added, “I also thank our very generous donors, including the Italian Cooperation Agency, who are also here with us, whose support has made it possible for the building of the permanent water scheme that not only provides water for the town but also the large population of refugees that is hosted in three refugee camps Tierkidi, Kule and Nguenyiel found in this Woreda.

Likewise, Ms Ginevra Letizia, the Director of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) conveyed her gratefulness to the Regional and Itang Woreda administration for their cooperation as well as the management to ensure the successful completion of the project. Insisting on the need to strengthen community structures hosting refugees, Ms Letizia said, “It is a pillar for the AICS humanitarian interventions to also target hosting communities since these are the ones sustaining the burden of welcoming refugees and an equitable access for both to basic services like water is a guarantee for peace and stability.”

Itang water scheme supported by Italian Agency for Development Cooperation
UNICEF Representative Ms Gillian Mellsop and the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation Country Director Ms Ginevra Letizia inaugurating the Itang Water Supply Scheme at the elevated water tank together with the representative of the Itang Woreda Administration. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Mulugeta Ayene

The Itang water supply scheme will provide water for 11,319 and 10,000 individuals in Itang and Thurpham respectively.  As part of the multi donor integrated water supply project, the project will provide safe water to a total of 205,703 refugees in three camps of Kule, Tierkidi and Nguenyiel refugee camps after the system upgrade.

To curtail the development – humanitarian funding challenges, UNICEF is responding to humanitarian needs in emergency contexts, while at the same time investing in government management systems to increase the self-reliant capacity of the communities. Being one of the emerging regional states and emergency affected regions in the country hosting a proportionally large population of refugees compared to the hosting population, UNICEF has prioritized Gambella. UNICEF provides support to increase sustainable community access to safe water supply by funding the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of water supply schemes both in refugee camps and host communities.

Besides, UNICEF is adopting new approaches to provide water to communities where water is scarce by conveying water from reliable ground water sources where it is available. Shifting from surface water sources to groundwater sources, the Itang Town Water Supply Scheme is composed of pressure main line collector pipes, storage tanks/reservoirs, a central collection tank, a booster station and an elevated water tank. In addition, the system includes the installation of electro-mechanical equipment such as pumps and generators to the host communities in Itang.  18 water kiosks including the pipe distribution system have been constructed to supply at least 20 litres of water for daily use by communities.

To ensure optimum water use, the Itang Town Water Supply System is being upgraded with the aim to meet the demand of an additional 85,000 refugees in the newly established Nguenyiel camp and surrounding communities. Through collaboration and additional financial support from the German / KfW funding, the project will supply and install pressure main pipes from Itang to the booster station, install additional storage tanks at the collection chamber and booster station, construct additional power houses, supply and install additional electro-mechanical equipment at Itang and the Thurpham pumping station, drill two additional boreholes and rehabilitate two additional boreholes.

Similarly, UNICEF has led the development of the business plan for the entire water supply project by promoting cost recovery through user fees obtained for domestic uses of water for drinking, food preparation, washing, cleaning and miscellaneous domestic purposes and institutional uses. A study was conducted with residents of Itang and Thurpham analyzing the institutional capacity and willingness to pay for water supply and sanitation services. In the context of (i) what is being paid for water at the moment; (ii) consumers’ perception about the value of the effort they make to collect water; (iii) the maximum amount that consumers would be willing to pay for a water supply service and (iv) the affordable rate to be paid by the low-income section of the society to determine the bottom level of price for water.

Additionally, UNICEF is building the capacity of the Regional Water Bureau and Itang Special Woreda Water Office to improve the overall WASH sector coordination and institutional capacity building. UNICEF has supported the establishment of Itang Town Water Utility which will manage, operate and maintain the entire water supply project.  In coordination with UNHCR and the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), the government agency with the mandate for water supply provision for refugees in the country, UNICEF is implementing the cost recovery model of public sector utility management for WASH services as a sustainable long-term solution to service provision to refugee populations.  As part of this model ARRA plays a key role through membership on the water board which oversees the water utility to ensure accountability to refugee populations.

As UNICEF continues to advocate for a robust partnership with the Regional Government and donor support for different programmes in the region; it calls for a well-defined operation and maintenance system to improve efficiencies, reduce water losses, and increase the sustainability of services.

Ethiopia: Vital events registration launched

By Nikodimos Alemayehu and Marie Angeline Aquino

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia. August 2016 – Ethiopia launched throughout the country on 4 August 2016 a permanent, compulsory and universal registration and certification of vital events such as birth, death, marriage and divorce.

Vital events registration kicks off in Ethiopia
(L-R) Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia , H.E Ms Elsa Tesfaye, Director General of Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA), H.E Dr Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and H.E Mr Getachew Ambaye, Attorney General holds a symbolic certificate for birth registration. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

The inauguration ceremony took place in the presence of the Ethiopian President Dr Mulatu Teshome, UNICEF Representative Gillian Mellsop as well as representatives of other ministries and development partners.

“The Government of Ethiopia has given great emphasis to vital events registration across the country by putting the appropriate policies in place, establishing a system up to the lowest administrative level and deploying massive resources in this endeavor,” said Teshome at the ceremony. “I am confident that, with the collaboration and commitment of all stakeholders, we will succeed in the operationalization of the system, just like we have succeeded in other development sectors in the country.”

Mellsop underscored in her address the importance of the registry in protecting children and combatting child trafficking.

‘’With no proof of age and identity, Ethiopian children become a more attractive ‘commodity’ to a child trafficker, and will not even have the minimal protection that a birth certificate provides against early marriage, child labour, or detention and prosecution of the child as an adult.”

Ethiopia ranks among the lowest in sub-Saharan countries on birth registration with less than 10 per cent of children under the age of 5 with their births registered.

The issue is especially urgent because 48 per cent of the 92 million-strong population is under the age of 18 – 90 per cent of whom are unregistered. The Government has committed itself to reaching at least 50 per cent of children with registration and certification services over the next two years.

UNICEF’s support to Ethiopia’s national civil registration is based on a recognition that birth registration is an important element of ensuring the rights and protection of children.

For children, being registered at birth is key to other rights such as access to basic social services, protection, nationality and later the full rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. Moreover, not only is vital events registration essential for compiling statistics that are required to develop policies and implement social services, it is also, as Mellsop points out, “a pre-requisite in measuring equity; for monitoring trends such as child mortality, maternal health and gender equality.”

Inaugural ceremony of National Vital Events Registration in SNNPR capital Hawassa
One-month child Samrawit at a birth registration centre in Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR) capital Hawassa August 6, 2016. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

UNICEF has supported the Government in putting in place a decentralized registration and certification system, which is informed by a legislative framework promulgated in August 2012.

UNICEF is a catalyst in creating this new system with support that includes the reform of the legislative framework, the development of a national strategy and its implementation across the country.

An important element of the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) system is its interoperability with the health sector. On this aspect, UNICEF has worked in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Health in its efforts to formalize the interoperability, culminating in the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two ministries.

The important of involving the Health Ministry is because it already has its own well organized and decentralized network stretching across the country. This arrangement allows the health facilities found in nearly every community to manage notifications of births and deaths.

The actual registration and certification of all vital events started on 6 August 2016 at the lowest administrative level of the kebele (sub-district).

With Ethiopia’s new conventional vital events registration system in place, there are better opportunities for accelerating vital events registration in Ethiopia, and realizing one of the fundamental rights of children – the right to be registered upon birth.

Abducted as a child, returned an adult after 18 years

By Wossen Mulatu


GAMBELLA, Ethiopia,  25 May 2016 – Eighteen years after he was kidnapped as a child by raiders, Paul Tok*, 19, came home to his native village of Dima to a warm welcome.

In the long years of his captivity by the Murle tribesmen in neighbouring South Sudan, where he was attached to a local family, forced to learn the language and help raise their cattle and farm their land, he never forgot who he was.

His brother, five years older and taken with him, repeatedly told him that they were different. “We are Anuak, we will never be Murle.”

The Murle have long raided their neighbours for cattle and children. In the last decade, 50 children have been taken from the Anuak parts of Ethiopia in Gambella State in yearly raids.

Those raids, however, sprang to international prominence when the Murle launched a massive cross border operation against 13 Nuer villages in mid-April, killing more than 200 people and carting off 146 children and thousands of cattle.

As the Ethiopian Government works to release these children, the experience of others kidnapped by the Murle has come under renewed scrutiny.

Dawn raid and captivity

Paul Tok, 19, Ongogi Kebele, Jor woreda, Gambella region.
When Paul Tok, 19, returned to his own village in Dima, everyone was filled with joy and there was a big fiesta by the community. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

Paul and his older brother were kidnapped in 1997 in a violent attack on their village. His mother fought to keep her sons and was slashed with a knife that left her weak and she died of illness four years later. Her husband followed her into the grave two years afterwards following a prolonged period of depression.

Paul would only find out about his parents death on his return years later. He and his brother were taken to the village of Lelot in South Sudan and attached to a family who already had 10 other children and was put to work.

Paul said he never liked his life with the Murle.

“I didn’t like the food, the language and the fact that we didn’t wear any clothes,” he said. “Since the Murle take pride in having lots of cattle, they gave us a lot of milk. They also gave us blood from the oxen to drink but I never dared to try it.”

“They taught us to hunt wild animals and when we failed, they would tell us we were not man enough and beat us,” he recalled. They were also beaten when they refused to join the deadly cattle raid attacks against the Anuak. ”I never collaborated with them – how could I steal from my community?”

Paul and his brother were allowed to attend school and Paul studied up to 9th grade.

Escape and reunification

When fighting wracked South Sudan as rival tribes battled each other in a civil war during the past few years, Paul decided to join the flow of refugees into Ethiopia and make his way back to Dima.

“I told them my story in Anuak language when I was in the camp. They were so happy and they hid me and gave me food and clothing. My aunt was looking for me tirelessly and she heard about my return and came to take me,” he said with pride.

Though Paul is thrilled to be reunited with his family, he misses his brother who is still in South Sudan. “He is now in 11th grade in Juba and he wants to finish school. We would have come together. I don’t think he will waste a day to return after he finishes school,” Paul said.

Paul is now receiving lots of affection from his own community. Along with his aunt and relatives, he gets support from the woreda (district) including clothing and school materials and has now re-enrolled. He still lives in fear, however, that the Murle will come back and take him away. “They know me as their child and I will be considered a traitor if found,” he said.

There has been a steady increase in cross-border child abduction over the past decade. The civil war in South Sudan and the easy availability of weapons has exacerbated the rate of these abductions both in terms of the numbers of children abducted and adults killed each year.

Deng Chol, 5 years old boy from Nipnip Kebele (sub-district), with his mother
Deng Chol, 5 years old boy from Nipnip Kebele (sub-district), with his mother Nyapuk Kang at a temporary residence of abducted children © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Tesfaye

However, after the April 15 attack, the Ethiopian Government made a statement that the Ethiopian forces will follow the Murle armed men into their territories in South Sudan to rescue the abducted children.

UNICEF is working in close collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia and partners on a response plan which includes reintegration, psychological support, basic health care and nutrition services as well as providing items such as tents for their accommodation and clothing for each child.

UNICEF has called for the children’s swift and unconditional return.

“I hope they will stop abducting our children,” says Okew Owar, head of the Jor Woreda. “For the Murle, the more children they steal from us, the richer and powerful they become since children are sold and exchanged for cattle.”

After the reunification with his community, Paul wants to improve his Anuak since he has forgotten some words apart from what his brother taught him when they were children. He can now speak the Murle language fluently as well as a little Arabic.

“I would like to become a teacher and teach my community,” he said.


*Name of subject has been changed to protect privacy


Return, recovery and reunification of the abducted children in Gambella

By Wossen Mulatu

Nyatayin Both, 25, Kuanyluaalthoan kebele, Lare woreda, Gambella Region.
25-year-old Nyatayin with her one year old daughter Nyakoch Gatdet at a temporary shelter for returned children in Gambella. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

GAMBELLA, Ethiopia, 25 May 2016 – When the attack on the village came, 25-year-old Nyatayin Both held tightly to two of her children, but the raiders still managed to kidnap the two others amidst the panic and commotion.

“I wish I’d had four hands to hold them and save all of my four children,” she recalled, describing the horrific day in mid-April in Ethiopia’s Gambella region when she lost her 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.

In a raid of unprecedented scale, some 200 people were killed and 146 children were taken by raiders from neighboring South Sudan, widely described as Murle tribesmen. The Ethiopian military and the local Gambella Government have been negotiating for their slow release ever since.

For Nyatayin, it meant a miracle to see the return of her 9-year-old daughter Nyamuoch.

“At first it was just rumors that some of the children had returned, but later we were told by local officials to come and identify our children,” she said. “I was hoping to see mine, when I spotted my daughter among the many children standing in a circle, I was thrilled and praised the Lord and thanked the government for taking action.”

It was a joy tempered by the fact that her other son was still out there and of course the death of so many relatives that day, including her husband. So far 91 children have been recovered.

UNICEF is working closely with the Government of Ethiopia and partners on a response plan which includes reintegration, psychological support, basic health care and nutrition services as well as providing tents and clothing for each child.

Currently, the children are being cared for at a two-storey guest house of the Gambella Regional Government, where Sarah Nyauony Deng is supervising their care.

“When they arrive here, most of them were so silent and isolated themselves, but after some time, they start to socialize with others, play together and become cheerful,” she said. “Most of them also have injuries on their legs from the long walks.”

Nyamuoch Gatdet, 9 years, 1st grade student, Kuanyluaalthoan kebele, Lare woreda, Gambella region.
Nyamuoch Gatdet, 9 years, was one of the 146 children who were abducted from their communities in the Gambella Region ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

Flashbacks from the forest
Nyamuoch recalls that terrible day she was taken from her village that began at dawn with the sound of shots.

“I was still asleep and suddenly I heard gunfire and ran out of the house. I was filled with fear and anxiety,” she said. “I started running along with many other children and adults but they caught most of us and took us to a forest. Where I was, most of the abducted children were strangers except a boy I recognized from my village.”

Nyamuoch said they were constantly talking to them but none of the children understood a word. “I think they were trying to teach us their language,” she said. “I am so happy to be back to my family. My mother and I cried for a long time with happiness and now she is with me again, I am not scared anymore.”


Working with the president’s office and the Bureau of Women and Children Affairs, UNICEF has drawn upon a detailed action plan for child protection, including identification, documentation, psycho-social first aid and family assessments to facilitate appropriate rehabilitation services during reunification of the children.

Children in Gambella at the Presidential Guest House
Children in Gambella Presidential Guest House after their recovery from abduction ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Tesfaye

“Currently, we are doing a needs assessment to mobilize resources for the abducted children and their families. Some of the children have lost one or both parents, some their cattle and some their huts as it was burned by the Murle,” said Ocher Ocher Obang of the Bureau of Women and Children’s Affairs in Gambella.

In addition, many in the affected communities are afraid to return to their remote villages for fear of renewed attacks by the Murle.

With the return of the rains, the displaced families need land to till, shelter to live in, as well as additional clothing and health care.

As the Ethiopian and South Sudanese governments strengthen their efforts to recover the remaining abducted children, UNICEF calls for the children’s swift and unconditional return to their families.

“I thought they would lock us in the forest forever,” said Nyamuoch. “When I grow up, I only want to do good things for humanity by becoming a teacher or a doctor – I will never forget this incident.”


African youth to African leaders: “You must do more to end conflicts in Africa”

Nyabon Guin (female) 3 years, Bilikum Kebele, Lare Woreda Gambella
Nyabon Guin, 3 is happy that she is back and reunified with her family in Gambella, Ethiopia after being abducted by armed men from the neighbouring South Sudan © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

GAMBELLA, Ethiopia/ DAKAR, Senegal/NAIROBI, Kenya, 16 June 2016 – African leaders are not doing enough to stop conflicts in Africa, said two-thirds of the nearly 86,000 youth surveyed in a recent mobile-based poll conducted in nine African countries.

Using a messaging tool called U-Report, the short survey was sent to 1.4 million mobile users in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Central African Republic, Senegal, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Guinea, from 18 May to 1 June 2016.

The U-Report users surveyed, who are typically between 15 and 30 years of age, were asked to provide their opinion on conflicts and crises in Africa through short multiple choice questions on their mobile phones.

The findings of the survey will be shared with African leaders on the Day of the African Child, which is marked every year on 16 June by the African Union.

“It is so crucial, and even urgent for the leaders to heed the voices of the youth, if we must silence the guns by 2020, as set in our Agenda 2063. This is flagship project to which the youth must also recognize their role and take their responsibility,” said the African Union Commission Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Key findings:

  • Asked whether African leaders are doing enough to stop conflicts and crises in Africa, two out of three respondents (70 per cent) believe that African leaders are not doing enough.
  • When asked why Africa is more prone to conflict than other regions, 56 per cent of respondents believe that ‘politicians fighting for power’ is the main reason while 19 per cent said ‘inequality’, 17 per cent said ‘poverty’ and 4 per cent said ‘access to food and water’.
  • What can leaders do to stop conflicts? Nearly a quarter of respondents (24 per cent) said a ‘strong economy’ while 20 per cent believe African countries needs to be more independent in their ‘foreign policy’, 19 per cent said investing in ‘good education’, 14 per cent said ‘talk to each other’, 10 per cent said ‘talk to other country’ and 9 per cent said ‘security’.

Humanitarian crises in Africa continue to spill over borders in recent years, with children and families increasingly on the move. More than 1.2 million people face insecurity in the Central African Republic due to a complex humanitarian and protection crisis that has spread to neighbouring countries.

Nearly 1.3 million children have been displaced by violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency across Cameroon, Chad, the Niger and Nigeria.

Two years into the conflict in South Sudan, nearly 2.4 million people have fled their homes, including 721,000 living as refugees. Burundi is facing a protection crisis that has driven some 265,000 people to flee across borders.

“The lives of millions of children and their families are disrupted, upended or destroyed by conflict every year in Africa,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “This survey speaks to every child’s right to be heard and gives African youth an opportunity to express their hopes for the future of their continent.”

U-Report is a social messaging tool available in 23 countries, including 15 African countries, allowing users to respond to polls, report issues and work as positive agents of change on behalf of people in their country. Once someone has joined U-Report, polls and alerts are sent via Direct Message and real-time responses are collected and mapped on a website, where results and ideas are shared back with the community.

For more information on U-Report: https://ureport.in/

Children need peace for education, and education for peace

By Wossen Mulatu

Nyamat Oactoct from Pagak village in Gambella.
“We need peace. If there is conflict, I cannot follow my education properly and there will be no development,” Nyamat. Her five year old younger sister and brother are abducted to a neighbouring South Sudan by the Murle tribe. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

GAMBELLA, Ethiopia,  25 May 2016 – On April 15, hundreds of heavily armed men stormed through Nyamat Oactot’s village of Pagak in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region, stealing cattle, shooting people and kidnapping children.

The 16-year-old girl’s younger brother and sister were taken by raiders believed to be from the Murle tribe from neighbouring South Sudan, and have yet to be recovered. In the aftermath, parents across this part of Gambella have kept their children out of school in fear of further attacks.

“We need peace, if there is conflict, I cannot follow my education properly and there will be no development,” Nyamat said.

Ruey Tut Rue,15, lost his mother and brother and wishes he could bury himself in his studies to keep from thinking about them, but instead he has been frustrated by three weeks of school closure.

“I feel upset and my mind is not focused,” he said. “Reading complicated subjects like biology and chemistry is now helping me to divert my attention from thinking about my mother.”

The attacks have also destroyed school materials making reopening the schools even harder, said Paul Puok Tang, the head of the Lare Woreda (district) education office.

“The dropout rates have also increased,” he said. “Through UNICEF and government  support, we are now trying to rehabilitate the schools and purchase school supplies for the communities that are affected.”

Gambella Region is one of the states in Ethiopia that is part of UNICEF’s Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme (PBEA), along with Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz and Somali regions.

These four regions suffer from neglect and frequent exposure to man-made and natural disasters such as drought and floods and because of their close proximity to conflict zones. Since 2014, annual disaster and risk response plans have been put in place to help them cope with major disasters.

Ruey Tut Rue, 15, and 7th grade student, Pagak village in Gambella.
Ruey Tut Rue, 15, and 7th grade student did not go to school for three weeks due to the recent abduction of large numbers of children in the Gambella Region of Ethiopia by Murle pastoralists from South Sudan ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

UNICEF has enlisted the support of the African Centre for Disaster Risk Management to come up with disaster and risk response plans at 31 schools in Gambella and 13 schools in Benishangul-Gumuz to develop the capacity of schools and communities to respond to disasters.

In the case of an attack like the recent cattle raid, villagers are taught to know when the raids come and what to do with their children during that period, said Omod Abela, Process Owner of Planning and Resource Mobilisation in Gog Woreda, Punido Kebele (sub-district),.

“We know that it is a seasonal occurrence – they come between March and May following their cattle and we teach communities not to send their children to herd cattle during this season, but to keep them at home and study,” he said. “Also, we teach parents that children should not play in isolation but surrounded by adult members of the community.”

PBEA seeks to strengthen resilience, social cohesion and peacebuilding in the four regions through strengthened policies and practices in education.

In Gambella, over 1,200 educational officials have been trained to promote peace and social cohesion within the region through disaster planning, peacebuilding, combatting school-related gender-based violence and promote child-friendly schooling.

“Parents and children need to understand the value of education,” explained Tok Bel from Lare Woreda Education Office. “Out of school children are more prone to be involved in conflict situations. Even during the recent Murle attack, most lives that were saved were those of children who were attending classes when the incident happened. Education saves lives.”

Ethiopia started the implementation of the PBEA in October 2012 with the Federal Ministry of Education and the four regional education bureaus.

The programme, which ends in 2016, is integrated across UNICEF’s US$60 million Learning and Development Programme and is a global initiative funded by the Government of the Netherlands.

“Where there is peace, education will go well. Without knowledge and education, there are no doctors and without doctors, many people will die,” said Gatiat Wal Rik, 15, a student from Bulimkum Primary School.

ECHO’s support realises a safe space for South Sudan refugee children to be children

By Charlene Thompson

Children in one of the child friendly spaces in the Kule Refugee Camp
Children in one of the child friendly spaces in the Kule Refugee Camp ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Thompson

Gambella, Ethiopia 31 October, 2014 – There’s an exciting game of volleyball being played and both the participants and spectators are intently focused on the next move. A young boy serves and the ball hits the net; he doesn’t quite get it over but the children are laughing.

It’s a scene that could have taken place on any playground, with any group of children but this game is being played in the Kule Refugee Camp in Gambella, Ethiopia and all of the children here fled the war in South Sudan. This volleyball game is being played in one of the child friendly spaces (CFS) developed by UNICEF and Plan International with the financial support of ECHO and in partnership with Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) who manage the camp.

“This child friendly space is providing a safe area for children in this camp where they can play and learn and be themselves,” said Chuol Yar, a 27 year old refugee who is one of the camp’s community child protection workers. “This is a place where they can come and feel protected and love themselves. If they cannot do this here, then we are not doing things well,” he added.

According to UNICEF, child friendly spaces are designed to support the resilience and well‐being of children and young people through community organised, structured activities conducted in a safe, child friendly, and stimulating environment. Through the partnership between UNICEF and Plan International, 31 community child protection workers (14 female and 17 male) were trained in June and are currently providing support to children in two permanent and three temporary child friendly spaces in the Kule Camp.

They received training in principles of child friendly spaces, management of child friendly spaces, developing activities for children and monitoring and response to the needs of children.

The child friendly spaces in the Kule Refugee Camp cater to children from 3-18 years of age and they provide play areas for football, volleyball, jump rope and other outdoor activities. In addition, there are traditional storytelling sessions, dramas that are performed by the children, singing, reading materials and spaces where adolescents can engage in peer discussions.

South Sudan refugee children play in child friendly centre in Gambella Ethiopia
South Sudan refugee children play in child friendly centre in Gambella Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

The community child protection workers also visit homes in the Kule Camp to encourage parents to send their children to the child friendly spaces.

“I let the parents know all of the activities that we have in the child friendly spaces and tell them that it is a protected space where the children can play safely,” said David Riang, another community child protection worker at the refugee camp. “The parents usually agree and send the children to the child friendly spaces,” he said as his colleague Chuol quickly added “I tell them without play children cannot learn. Play is important for a child’s mental development.”

In addition to the Kule Camp, UNICEF, with the support of ECHO, is supporting child friendly spaces at the Tierkidi Camp and at the Akobo border entry point. “The children in these camps have already experienced very difficult and tragic circumstances in their short lives. The aim of these child friendly spaces is to provide a safe space where a child can come and be a child,” said Tezra Masini, Chief of the UNICEF Field Office in Gambella.

For many of the community child protection workers this experience has also provided them with the opportunity to develop skills and actively participate in supporting their community. Many are from the same regions in South Sudan and having fled war also share similar experiences with the children. They communicate with the children in their local language and tell traditional stories and social teachings of their clan.

“My dream if God is willing is to become a medical doctor and support my community,” Chuol said and it is a sentiment expressed by other community child protection workers as well. “My dream is for our children to have a better future and hopefully return home one day to a peaceful South Sudan,” noted Bigoa Kuong, a 24 year old social worker who then quickly added with a broad smile, “and also a basketball court for the children to play.”