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.

Helping health workers save Ethiopia’s youngest children

By Demissew Bizuwerk

Kejelo, Tiro AFETA, Oromia, 14 June 2018: Inside the small room of Kejelo health post, health extension worker Amelework Getachew carefully monitors her stock of medicines stacked on a small wooden shelf. She checks to make sure that an Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS), a fluid replacement used to prevent and treat diarrhoea, Amoxicillin Dispersible Tablet and Gentamicin injection, antibiotics used to treat children with pneumonia and serious bacterial infections, are available in good quantity. She cross checks the numbers on each bin card and the actual quantities on the shelf. “I can’t afford to run out of these medicines,” says Amelework, pointing towards a stock of sachets of ORS and packs of amoxicillin tablets and gentamicin injections. “They are lifesaving.”

After Amelework is done taking inventory, she collects her essential job-aids for home visits and attends to five-month-old Aziza in her home as part of her routine house-to-house visit. This way, Amelework makes sure that pregnant women and newborn babies get health follow-ups.

When Aziza was only 45 days old, she suffered from pneumonia, the common killer of infants in Ethiopia. “I was so worried when my child was sick,” says Rawda, Aziza’s mother. “She was struggling to breathe and had it not been for ‘doctor’, my child would not have survived.”

“I was so worried when my child was sick. She was struggling to breathe

Amelework, whose name also means “a golden character,” is a committed health worker. Her nine-year journey as a health extension worker started in a remote village of Kereyu Dodo when she was given the daunting task of changing people’s attitudes on a range of health-related misconceptions.  It wasn’t easy for her to convince people to dig toilets or use bed nets to keep them safe from malaria. “They used to call us names like the ‘toilet controllers’ or ‘bed net checkers,” she remembers.

CNBC Jimma, Oromia
Amelework examines five months old Aziza. When Aziza was 45 days old, she suffered from Pneumonia. But now she is growing up healthy. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Demissew Bizuwerk

But Amelework is now dubbed ‘doctor’, a name bestowed to her out of love and respect by the village women.  She is key to the livelihoods of the community, saving mothers and newborns including little Aziza in the small village of Kejelo.

Although Ethiopia has managed to significantly reduce its under-five child mortality, newborn deaths have declined at a much slower pace.  Twenty-nine newborn babies die out of every 1,000 live births from preventable causes such as complications due to prematurity, birth asphyxia, and infections like sepsis, and pneumonia[1]. Newborn deaths also account for a greater and growing share of all deaths among children under 5; almost 44 per cent.

Supported by UNICEF, the Government of Ethiopia introduced the Community Based Newborn Care (CBNC) strategy in 2012. CBNC aims to empower health extension workers, such as Amelework, with skills to provide maternal and child health services during pregnancy, childbirth and postnatally. Heath extension workers are also trained to identify and treat newborns with severe bacterial infections or sepsis where referral is not possible. They provide treatment for sick children both at the health post and in houses during their regular visits.

“The treatment we are providing is free of charge,” says Amelework. “This is encouraging mothers to bring their children early when they are sick.  It is also helping us to save young children from serious illnesses like pneumonia.”

Amelework is trained to provide CBNC services by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc/ The Last Ten Kilometers Project (JSI/L10K), which is implementing the programme with technical and financial support from UNICEF.  She also gets constant support and follow-up from the CBNC supervision team who regularly visit her health post to make sure that she is applying the standard operating procedures.

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Wosen Darge, the CBNC Regional Technical Officer from JSI/L10K supports Amelework with regular visits to her health post. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Demissew Bizuwerk

“We train and support Amelework to deliver her very important work by effectively identifying sick children in the village during her regular immunization outreach work and when she is providing house-to-house postnatal care,” says Wosen Darge, the CBNC Regional Technical Officer from JSI/L10K.  “We also monitor and evaluate her records to ensure key information is recorded and stored in the treatment book.”

Amelework is also provided with guidance and support on supply management. She keeps track of her medical supplies to avoid shortages of crical drugs that she needs for immediate use.

“Nothing is more fulfilling than seeing a mother’s happy face when her child is recovering from such illnesses”

UNICEF is supporting the scaling up of CBNC services with funds from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. Working in coordination with the Ministry of Health, it is expected that the positive experiences observed in villages like Kejelo will be expanded to pastoralist areas.

CNBC Jimma, Oromia
Amelework is the indispensable medical person for Kejelo village mothers and children. She is dubbed ‘doctor’ by the local women for saving their children. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Demissew Bizuwerk

A humble hard worker such as Amelework embodies Ethiopia’s hope to end preventable newborn and child deaths within this generation. “Nothing is more fulfilling than seeing a mother’s happy face when her child is recovering from such illnesses,” she says, “I am a mother myself and I know the feeling.”

Aziza is growing up healthy, her mother’s wish is to see her daughter becoming a ‘doctor’, like Amelework. “She [Amelework] saved my child’s life and I want my daughter to also do the same when she grows up,” says Rawda, with eyes full of hope to see a bright future for her baby daughter.

[1] EDHS 2016

In Ethiopia, Child Victims of Sexual Violence Communicate through Art Therapy

UNICEF and Government Communication Affairs Office Provide Training on Ending Violence Against Children

By Frehiwot Yilma

ADAMA, OROMIA REGION, 26 March 2018 – The explanation of the first picture immediately grabbed everyone’s attention in the room as psychologist Mekonnen Belete described how the child that drew it was showing that she had been abused by an uncle.

Here at the UNICEF-supported One-stop Centre in Adama Hospital in the Oromia region, counsellors are using a model adapted from the Thutuzela Care Centres of South Africa to provide timely and comprehensive medical and counselling services to victims of Violence Against Women and Children.

IMG_2972“Usually when children draw disfigured faces it indicates the people they are drawing are not very helpful. As you can see the woman’s mouth is wider than usual to indicate the woman (the child’s mother) was laughing at her when she told her of the abuse she experienced by the uncle who came from the rural areas indicated by the child in a form of a hut,” said Mekonnen, who noted that most of the children he counsels are abused by acquaintances, stepfathers and relatives.

The Adama One-stop Centre was introduced in 2013, the second to be established in Ethiopia after the centre in the Gandhi Hospital in the capital Addis Ababa and it has been successful in rehabilitating survivors as well as prosecuting the perpetrators by offering medical and legal services to victims of sexual violence. In the Oromia region, there are two other such centres in Shashemene and Jimma towns that were established and supported by UNICEF.

The centre is staffed by three prosecutors and four female investigative police officers. Clinical and counselling services are managed by a medical doctor, nurse and a psychologist provided by the hospital. Overall management of the centre is entrusted to the Justice Office, which coordinates through a multi-sectoral steering committee comprising, but not limited to, representatives from the Women, Children Affairs Office, the Health Office, the High/Woreda Court, the Adama Police Commission, the Education Office and selected child care institutions, showing how protecting women and children cannot be left to one party – everyone has a role to play. Concerted efforts bring tangible and sustainable change to ensure that not even one case is treated as the norm.

The second picture, in the sequence of the five pictures drawn by the child as she recovered from the trauma of the abuse by her uncle, is brighter than the first one but still has traces of uncertainty. According to Mekonnen, the flag in the picture indicates the medical and legal services she received. Until the girl gains confidence in these services, the flag remains at the side of the picture, showing her doubt about the system surrounding her.

Before the establishment of the One-stop Centre, victims of sexual violence were hidden for a number of reasons, including the families believing their children (especially if they accused family members), the stigma around sexual violence, blaming the victim, the lack of victim friendly services, denial that the actions took place and the difficulty of proving the abuse.

IMG_2975“The number of victims we support has been increasing from year to year,” said Inspector Etenesh Deresse of the Adama Police, the focal person for women and children cases. “This is not because children were not abused before, but people are now putting their trust in the confidentiality, speed, victim friendly and accuracy of the services provided in the centre. Now, parents and caregivers are bringing alleged reports (to us) just to make sure.”

UNICEF helped the Oromia Police College to revise its curriculum to include issues of violence against children as well as have courts include social workers on the government payroll. Currently, 40 courts have child-friendly benches and the One-stop Centre service has been scaled up from three to 17 hospitals in the region.

In the final picture the child drew, a new thought, the product of several counselling sessions, has emerged – hope for her and justice for her uncle. She was finally able to put herself in the picture and imagine and dream again.

IMG_2971When Mekonnen showed pictures drawn by children who were not abused, the difference in the attitude and aspirations was evident. Those who were not abused were able to write about the subjects they were learning, draw their house or a landscape in a free and lively way, but the ones with some trace of abuse tend to focus on one particular aspect of their life and sometimes were not even be able to depict that.

UNICEF has provided critical support to improve child justice in Ethiopia by providing equipment, supplies and capacity building trainings to the centres as well as other child friendly services such as child friendly courts, child protection units and justice offices in different regions. UNICEF works with the bureau of justice, Women and Children Affairs, the Supreme Court and police to prevent violence against children.

Sweden contributes US$ 3 million to UNICEF’s 2018 humanitarian appeal for children in Ethiopia

30 April 2018, Addis Ababa: The Government of Sweden has provided US$3 million to UNICEF Ethiopia’s 2018 Humanitarian Action for Children. The funds will be used to meet the needs of internally displaced populations in the Oromia and Somali regions of Ethiopia.

“We are grateful to the Government of Sweden for this contribution, which confirms Sweden’s continued commitment to supporting populations affected by humanitarian emergencies,” said UNICEF Representative Gillian Mellsop. “This is the first such significant contribution to our funding appeal in 2018. It will enable us to alleviate the hardships currently faced by populations living in IDP sites where access to basic services remains low and where conditions, especially for children, are simply unbearable.”

Current estimates place the number of persons internally displaced by climatic and conflict factors at around 1.7 million. The displaced are settled in 916 sites across the country.

The contribution from Sweden will enable UNICEF to provide critical and much-needed water and sanitation, nutrition, and health services to displaced populations in the two regions. Other services will include education and child protection.

Specifically, Sweden’s support will go towards:

  • Trucking of water to IDP sites and construction or expansion of water supply systems;
  • Diarrhoea treatment, vaccination of children against measles, and distribution of mosquito nets;
  • Treatment of children with acute malnutrition and provision of high protein biscuits to prevent malnutrition in children and pregnant and lactating women;
  • Provision of emergency education, including early childhood development;
  • Reunification of separated and unaccompanied children with their families and preventing and mitigating risks faced by children, especially girls.

While the Government continues to prioritize the return and resettlement of the IDPs, thousands of displaced people are still in need of urgent life-saving assistance. UNICEF’s US$ 112 million humanitarian appeal for children targets 3.1 million people with support, out of which 1.5 million are children. Presently, the appeal has a shortfall of US$ 86 million, with nutrition, health, and education having the most significant gaps.

In Ethiopia, passionate teachers prepare children for school

By Kosumo Shiraishi

BURKA RAMIS, OROMIA, 21 August 2017- In Burka Ramis, a remote rural village of West Hararge, Oromia region, Ethiopia, 50 young boys and girls sing cheerfully in their classroom. It is summer, a school break time for the rest of the pupils, but for these children, it is a regular class session.

Beriso Genemo, their teacher, prepares detailed weekly and monthly lesson plans. He decided to join teachers in his school who participate in summer teaching of beginners, because he understands the importance of school readiness, especially for children from rural and disadvantaged communities.

This summer initiative is known as the Accelerated-School-Readiness (ASR) programme. ASR is an innovative early learning model that lasts eight weeks and targets six-year-olds from poor families. It provides quality education by trained teachers such as Beriso to help children, who previously had no access to preschool or other early learning models, so that they make smooth transition from home to school.

Teachers prepare children for school
Beriso Genemo provides outdoor play activities for children from disadvantaged families as a part of the ASR programme in West Hararge, Oromia Region, Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Kosumo

“The programme helps children to learn better and reach to their full potential,” says Beriso “I could already see their progress.”

Other ASR teachers, Huseein Ahmed from Nano Bereda School and Adana Geri from Borte School also acknowledge the importance of the programme. They explained that attending the ASR class is helpful because children can learn how to take lessons, interact with teacher and classmates and go to school by themselves.

Supporting children who don’t have the opportunity for early learning

Research shows that investing in quality early learning programmes is one of the most effective ways to improve a child’s success in a school.[1] In Ethiopia, children under five comprise the largest age bracket in the population. There are approximately 10 million children aged 0-3 years, and 7.7 million children aged 4-6 years. Investing in Early Child Development (ECD) interventions, like early learning, is critical for the long-term prosperity of the country.

There are other forms of school readiness programmes in Ethiopia, the largest being the government’s “O” pre-school classes. However, ASR is one that fills a crucial gap because it operates in communities where formal preschool classes are not possible, such as in rural areas where it is difficult and costly to provide quality “O” classes.

UNICEF through the Swiss National Committee, with generous support from Roche, is currently supporting Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education to develop and implement the ASR programme in four regions (Oromia, Amhara, SNNP and Beningal-Gumuz).

Every ASR teacher participates in a comprehensive training and is provided with resource materials (books), as well as individual exercise booklets (workbooks) to distribute to each child.

The programme has generated commitment from all levels of Government, teachers communities and children as well. Abduselam, a community member from Burka Ramis says, “We appreciate this programme that prepares our children for proper education. Our community is providing support by renovating class rooms and encouraging families to send their six-year-old children to school.”

Beriso became a teacher eight years ago because he believes in empowering children and developing human resources within the country. “My dream is to see these disadvantaged children attending the ASR programme to become good citizens in our society.”

[1] Multiple research studies have evidenced the importance of early learning. See UNICEF’s research website for more details: https://www.unicef-irc.org/knowledge-pages/Early-Childhood/

Italy and UNICEF sign the agreement for the second phase of the “vital events registration project”.

ADDIS ABABA, 6 December 2017: Italy and UNICEF signed today a financing agreement for the project “Strengthening the Civil Registration System for Children’s Right to Identity: Identification for Development – ID – Second Phasefor an amount of one million Euros.

The first phase of the project is currently under implementation in 50% of the Woredas and Kebeles of Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ (SNNP) regions. The second phase, which is funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for a period of 12 months, will cover the remaining 50% of the Woredas and Kebeles of Oromia and SNNP Regional States.

The agreement signed today by the Italian Ambassador Arturo Luzzi, the UNICEF Representative, Ms. Gillian Mellsop and the Director of the Addis Ababa Office of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, Ms. Ginevra Letizia, will implement strategic activities aimed at: 1)improving institutional and technical capacity of the Regional Vital Events Registration Agencies (RVERAs) in Oromia and SNNPR; 2) establishing a standardized database and data management system; 3) providing RVERAs with modern IT devices and transportation, in order to better reach remote and disadvantaged areas. 820,000 newborn children will benefit from this initiative.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Arturo Luzzi, Ambassador of Italy to Ethiopia said that: “Through this initiative, we reiterate our strong commitment to work closely with the Ethiopian Authorities in order to ensure the basic rights and protection of newborns and children, since the first crucial step of identification and registration”.

Italy and UNICEF sign the agreement for the second phase of the “vital events registration project”
Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia says: the Italy support will allow UNICEF to scale up its programmatic support to the Regional Vital Events Registration Agencies of Oromia and SNNP region.

Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, on her part said: “We enter into the second phase of this partnership having witnessed encouraging results over the past twelve months. The renewed support will allow UNICEF to scale up its programmatic support to the Regional Vital Events Registration Agencies of Oromia and SNNP regions in their efforts to further improve and standardize the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics system.”

Ms. Ginevra Letizia, Head of the Addis Ababa Office of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation underlined that “The project works at community level, raising the awareness on the importance and benefits of birth registration, that is a crucial element for each individual also allowing citizens to benefit from social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights, reducing the phenomena of marginalization and exploitation”.

The Government of Sweden grants US$ 2.5 million to UNICEF for emergency response

The Government of Sweden provides another US$2.5 million to UNICEF Ethiopia to support Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), health and nutrition programmes in the drought affected regions of Afar, Oromia Somali and Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s regions.

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In Ethiopia, where 8.5 million people are currently in need of relief food assistance due to the recurrent drought emergency, 376,000 children are estimated to require treatment for severe acute malnutrition, 10.5 million people require access to safe drinking water and sanitation services and 1.9 million school-aged children need emergency school feeding and learning material assistance.

The contribution provided by the Government of Sweden will be used to construct and rehabilitate water supply schemes, procure Emergency Drug and Case Treatment Centre kits as well as obtain Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) supplies including ready to use therapeutic food (RUTF), tents and Stabilization Centre materials in the four regions highly affected by the drought emergency.

UNICEF is grateful to the Government of Sweden for its continued support for providing life-saving interventions during the current humanitarian situation which continues to affect mostly women and children.

In 2017, the Government of Sweden has contributed more than US$5 million to UNICEF-assisted humanitarian programmes in Ethiopia.