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:

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.


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.

Emergency Efforts Lend to Sustainable Water Sources

By Rebecca Beauregard

FEDIS, OROMIA, 31 May 2017 – “Our daily routines have changed. We used to give water to our animals every other day, now they drink daily. I used to bath the children once per week, now I have no idea how many times a day they wash because they always come use the tap on their own,” says Saada Umer, pointing to her 4-year-old, Anissey, who is near the tap.

Sustainable WASH interventions
26-year-old mother of four, Saada Umer caries 2-year-old Sumaya on her back while tending to the livestock.  Saada and her husband are farmers living at the edge of Boku town, Fedis woreda (district) in Oromia region. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Rebecca Beauregard

Saada, 26-years-old, is one resident who benefits from the new water supply system in Fedis woreda (district). She and her husband are farmers and have four children, ranging from 2 to 9 years old. Rather than filling 20 litre jerry cans daily at a water point a few kilometres away, she fetches it from her front yard where the tap flows anytime. The impact is literally life-changing.

Ethiopia has faced devastating drought conditions for the past two years now, affecting different areas of the country in different seasons and creating rippling effects in health, education, the economy and development initiatives.

In times of crises, emergency action is required and often takes priority over development initiatives, understandably, to save lives and curb any potential disease outbreaks. However, one emergency action by UNICEF, with funding from the German Development Bank (KfW) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), supported the Government of Ethiopia to address both the drought-related emergency water shortage affecting 8,600 people while also contributing to a more resilient and long-term supply of water.

In Boko town, the drought had taken its toll at the same time that the town’s water supply system had run its 25-year design course, leaving thousands without access to clean and regular water. In times like these, those who can afford pay for expensive water brought in by vendors and those who cannot afford, take from ponds and rivers.

UNICEF Ethiopia purchased a pump and generator to supplement the drilling of a new borehole the regional and zonal water office initiated, providing further construction support to complete the project. The emergency-funded project enabled the water office to make functioning a 122 metre borehole which, as of February, supplies fresh, clean water by keeping two town reservoirs filled. In addition, it supplies 24-hour water taps in about 800 households in Boko, with water points at the edge of town providing safe water for surrounding rural villages. The borehole also supplies a water-trucking point nearby, where currently four trucks carrying two 5,000 litre water tanks are filled daily and supplied to the nearby Midega Tola woreda, which is lacking a water system while grappling with drought.

The effect of having household water has led to the creation of a town utility office, which records the water meters and collects payment for its use. Setting up this regular system has not only created more demand for household taps, it ensures steady water supply and a regular income to employ plumbers and maintenance crews for water system maintenance.

Hikma Mesfin is a 25-year-old Water Attendant at one of the town’s new water points. Her job is to open the point each morning, collect ETB 25 cents (US$.01) per jerry can from the users throughout the day, manage the site and close up each evening. Her salary is paid by the utility office, another regular income supported by the system.

Sustainable WASH interventions - Oromia
Hikma Mesfin, 25-years-old,  Water Attendant, Boku town, Fedis woreda, Oromia region. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Rebecca Beauregard

“I was happy to get this job. It was difficult when it first opened, because people thought it was like the old water pumps, thinking the water could stop flowing at any time and fighting each other to be first in line. Now they understand it flows every day and they can be at ease. Everyone will get their water.”

While emergency times call for emergency measures, UNICEF and the Government of Ethiopia collaborate to ensure the most sustainable solutions possible are implemented where it is most needed. As the effects of protracted drought continue to wreak havoc on lives across the country, UNICEF calls on the support of international donors to fund projects such as deep borehole drilling which build resilience in communities and offer long-term solutions for challenges facing communities across the country.

New EU funding will provide essential nutrition treatment for 130,000 children under the age of five in Ethiopia

03 May 2017, ADDIS ABABA – The European Union (EU) has given €3 million in humanitarian funds to support UNICEF’s emergency interventions in Ethiopia. The new grant will provide life-saving nutrition treatment for severely malnourished children living in drought-affected areas of the country.

In Ethiopia, below-average rainfall has worsened the situation in Somali, Afar, and parts of Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s (SNNP) regions, already severely affected by protracted drought. Access to water, sanitation and health services in these areas is critically low. In addition, livestock deaths have further reduced communities’ capacity to cope, resulting in food and nutrition insecurity. An estimated 303,000 children under the age of five are at risk of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2017.

A boy is being treated for a severe malnutrition at a UNICEF supported stabilization centre“We are grateful for EU’s continuous and generous assistance for life-saving interventions addressing malnutrition at this critical time,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “We believe that the funding will significantly improve the health condition of children affected by the current drought and reduce the long term impact of malnutrition including life-long cognitive impairments.”

The EU humanitarian funding will support UNICEF to reduce child mortality and morbidity associated with SAM. In order to reach vulnerable children in remote areas, UNICEF will support the Government to expand existing healthcare services and provide treatment supplies – including ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF), therapeutic milk, and medicines. The intervention will also aim at mobilizing communities’ awareness on preventing malnutrition.

“As devastating drought hits pastoral communities in the south and south-east of Ethiopia, bringing in its wake Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) , food and water shortages, the EU is scaling up funding to provide children with vital nutrition care,” said Ségolène de Beco, Ethiopia Head of Office for EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). “Infants and young children are extremely vulnerable to a combination of malnutrition and diseases. To avoid unnecessary deaths and suffering, we need to respond to the needs of these children in time with appropriate treatment and care.”

The concerted efforts of UNICEF with the EU, the Government of Ethiopia and other partners, will relieve the suffering of children while continuing to build long term resilience and strengthening the Government’s capacity to respond to future nutrition emergencies.

Menstrual Hygiene Management Programme Kicked off with a Training of Trainers in Oromia and Somali Regions

By Kalkidan Gugsa

OROMIA and SOMALI, February 2017 – Poor menstrual hygiene management (MHM) negatively impacts the education, health and empowerment of girls and women, as well as the environment. The impacts are compounded during emergencies, such as the protracted drought crises across Ethiopia. What fuels these negative effects of managing menstruation are cultural taboos and other societal barriers.

Girls across Ethiopia face social, cultural and economic barriers related to menstruation which not only prevents their right to dignity, but often prevents their right to education due to inadequate menstrual hygiene education, insufficient WASH facilities and poor access to sanitary materials.

With support from the Netherlands Government, UNICEF Ethiopia, in partnership with regional health and education bureaus (RHB, REB), is implementing an MHM programme to break the silence and bring change in beliefs and attitudes towards menstruation. The programme aims to support girls and women across the country to overcome the barriers that prohibit them from managing menstruation with dignity.

Why MHM?

Menstrual hygiene management is a complex and sensitive issue that requires a contextualized, multi-sectoral approach to adequately support girls and women across Ethiopia. A package of services that leads to improved MHM includes private, minimum-standard toilets, handwashing stations and adequate waste disposal in addition to allowing the safe space for discussion to increase awareness amongst men, boys and girls utilizing social and behavioural change communication (SBCC) methods. In addition, improvements in the supply chain for sanitary pad production complements the community- and school-based efforts in MHM.

In collaboration with UNICEF, the Ethiopia Ministry of Health developed a national MHM guide based on the package of services, which is designed to address the topic across the contexts of schools, communities and workplaces as well as in emergencies.

By working with both the RHB and the REB, and supporting the development of a sanitary supply chain, improved MHM facilities and services will keep girls in school where they can reach their full potential.

MHM social and behaviour change communication materials in Amharic and Oromiffa languages
MHM social and behaviour change communication materials in Amharic and Oromiffa languages

On 15 February 2017, UNICEF kicked off the community- and school-focused MHM training of trainers (ToT) workshops for a total of 120 staff of the RHB and the REB in Oromia and Somali regions. These were the first of such trainings made possible by support from the Netherlands Government.

The TOT workshop established coordination between the education and health sectors and equipped focal persons with global, national and regional menstruation facts. It also introduced participants to the MHM package of services: SBCC activities concerning menstruation, establishing safe spaces to enable girls to receive peer support, counselling and emergency kits as well as improved WASH facilities and sanitary pad production.

Throughout the training, participants highlighted the lack of discussion on this important topic, with one male participant explaining, “In our societies, the lack of information about menstrual hygiene creates a culture of taboos and misinformation about menstruation and therefore potential health problems. Now we know what to do from this training and how to react.”

The regional and woreda (district) focal persons who participated in the ToT, in turn will cascade the training to health extension workers (HEWs), school management committees and school club coordinators (teachers). The trained HEWs and teachers will then facilitate activities for the Health Development Army and the WASH, gender and girls’ club members in their respective areas.

The sanitary supply chain

The sanitary pad supply chain component of the programme establishes women’s groups to produce reusable sanitary pads and provides support to local manufacturers through partnerships to improve the production, packaging, distribution and use of sanitary pad products in target regions. On the manufacturing end, partner companies will engage in backward integration of the production of raw materials such as absorbents and liners. On the sales end, pharmaceutical and family planning outlets, such as pharmacies, drug stores and clinics, will be utilized at local and regional levels to bring the improved products to communities.

Additional MHM training and launch workshops are planned to kick off in March and April 2017 in Gambella, SNNP and Afar regions. Together with Government partners, UNICEF will support the positive change in the dynamics of MHM in Ethiopia and contribute to better futures of girls across the country.

EU Partnership Paves the Way for Better Nutrition for Children and Women in Ethiopia

By Nardos Birru

ADDIS ABABA, September 2016 – Ethiopia has experienced repeated droughts, particularly in the past few years, which have eroded rural livelihoods, causing increased food insecurity and malnutrition among vulnerable communities. The 2015/2016 El Niño-driven drought, for instance, left 9.7 million people in need of emergency food assistance.

In response to recurrent food insecurity, UNICEF has partnered with the European Union (EU) to contribute to building resilience of the most vulnerable groups, which includes children under five, as well as pregnant and lactating women. Resilience, or the ability of a community to withstand, adapt and quickly recover from shocks such as drought, is a cornerstone of the EU’s humanitarian and development assistance.

To this effect, the EU has provided €10 million to UNICEF-assisted programmes as part of its Supporting the Horn of Africa’s Resilience (SHARE) initiative through a project entitled Multi-Sectoral Interventions to Improve Nutrition Security & Resilience. The project is implemented in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in the drought-affected woredas (districts) of Amhara, Oromia Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNP) regions, benefiting 773,626 mothers and children.

As part of the community-based nutrition programme, Binti, a Health Extension Worker counsels a mother on best nutrition practices. ©UNICEF/2014/Nesbitt

How does SHARE work?

The project aims for communities to have access to quality nutrition services in their vicinity and a better understanding of the importance of proper infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices.

It covers a wide range of interventions including the promotion of exclusive breast feeding and adequate complementary feeding, vitamin A supplementation and deworming of children, as well as the promotion of hygiene and sanitation.

This is complemented by a series of nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions led by FAO in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture. This component helps build the capacity of women to improve the variation of their diet through livestock and poultry rearing, as well as backyard gardening. It also brings opportunities for women to collaborate as peer support groups to produce nutritionally valuable complementary foods such as cereal mixtures for sale. This stimulates the local economy by creating jobs and empowering women to ensure the healthy growth of their children.

An evidence-based approach

Launch of document entitled “Situation Analysis of the Nutrition Sector in Ethiopia” from 2000-2015
Left to right: H.E Chantal Hebberecht, Ambassador of the European Union; Birara Melese, National Nutrition Programme Team Coordinator; Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia; at the launch of the 2000-2015 “Situation Analysis of the Nutrition Sector in Ethiopia” in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ©UNICEF/2016/Tesfaye

One achievement of the project was an initiative to analyze and document the nutrition situation in the country from 2000 to 2015.  The report was launched in March 2016 and highlights critical gaps in terms of existing policies and programmes which need to be addressed urgently to accelerate nutrition results for women and children. Key findings of the situation analysis report include poor water supply and sanitation as high risk factors for child stunting, educating mothers as a key factor for improving nutrition, as well as the need to improve production diversity, nutrition knowledge and women’s empowerment to ensure that diverse and nutritious foods are available and accessible at all times.

The SHARE project also serves as a platform for multiple non-governmental organizations where they can exchange expertise and best practices to improve implementation and follow a harmonized approach in their respective intervention sites. This way, efforts are combined and the impact on the nutrition status of children and women will be maximized.

UNICEF would like to express its gratitude to the EU for the generous financial contribution to UNICEF-assisted programmes and looks forward to strengthening successful collaboration for children and women in Ethiopia. Thanks to EU support, over 225,000 children under five and over 50,000 mothers will have better access to improved nutrition services. This is in line with the efforts of the Government of Ethiopia to realize the Seqota Declaration to make undernutrition, in particular child undernutrition, history in Ethiopia.