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.
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.
“I used to believe 12 years ago that FGM/C is a mandatory requirement in our religion Islam. I was doing what every mother did back then.”
Mille, Afar, 23 January 2018 – “My labor took two nights and a day. I was in so much pain. It was a very painful experience and most of all, I was a child myself.” says Kedija Mohammod, a mother of three children (ages 12, 8 and 5).
Kedija learned about the harmful effects of FGM/C through community conversations supported by the UNICEF-UNFPA Joint Programme, in partnership with Bureau of Women and Children Affairs (BoWCA), to accelerate the abandonment of FGM/C in the Afar region.
FGM/C or locally known as KetnterKeltti, the removal of some or all of the external female genitalia, is a highly prevalent traditional practice in Ethiopia that has a multi-dimensional impact on the lives of girls and women.
According to Ethiopia and Demographic Health Survey (EDHS) 2016, FGM/C rate in Afar is 91 per cent for ages of 15-49, placing it among the highest prevalent regions in the country next to Somali. Moreover, the region practices Type III infibulation, which is the most severe form of FGM/C characterized by the total elimination of the external female genitalia and stitching, leaving a small opening for urination.
“No one should go through what we Afar women have gone through. I can’t even explain the pain.”
The UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme, which was launched in November 2008, promotes community-led discussions on harmful practices like FGM/C in which communities are empowered to progress toward collective abandonment.
The programme targets 9 districts (3 in zone 1 and 6 in zone 3) in the Afar region, each having multiple sub-districts. A total of 60 trainers were trained for married and unmarried adolescent girls from these districts and they are trained on harmful practices and menstrual hygiene in order to lead various discussion groups in their communities. These married and unmarried adolescent girls’ clubs aim to facilitate sustained awareness.
Zahara Mohammod, one of the trainers in Mille Woreda, testifies that the programme has brought a huge difference in the community. She says, “People used to think that FGM/C is required by the Quran, but the programme has raised awareness among the community on the lack of direct link between the practice and religion. People are now listening and most have changed their stance. Women used to give birth in their houses, and we have lost many due to prolonged labor. But now, the Barbra May Maternity Hospital is a few minutes away from our village, so women go to the hospital for delivery and treatment. This is happening because of community conversations and girls’ club discussions in our villages.”
Kedija, an FGM/C survivor herself, regrets having made her daughter go through the same procedure. She says, “I used to think 12 years ago that FGM/C is mandatory and a requirement in my religion Islam. I was doing what every mother did back then.”
However, Kedija is now teaching her community and sharing her experience. “ I have been working with the community for two years now and the change motivates me to do even more. People used to mock me at first because FGM/C is considered as a religious practice, but many have changed their attitude and are thankful for our discussions now. I have never thought FGM/C could have consequences like mental and emotional damage until I had my first intercourse with my husband. No one should go through what we Afar women have gone through. I can’t even explain the pain.”
While talking about her daughter, Kedija says, “I have shared my experience with my daughter. She is aware of the consequences. My daughter is now in grade 7. I will not marry her off to anyone out of her will. She will get married when she finishes her education. I hope she will marry an educated man who can take care of her and take her to the hospital during her labor.”
According to Seada Moahmmod, at BoWCA, these discussions have been increasing awareness and openly challenging community perspectives towards FGM/C. She says, “The community’s awareness has improved a lot, and people discuss openly about the practice. They used to think that exposing stories would lead them to discrimination, but cases are now exposed to local enforcement bodies. Many households have already rejected FGM/C. It is quite a success.”
While positive outcomes have certainly been observed in the districts, Zahra Humed, Head BoWCA of the region, says, “The outcome of the programme has been very rewarding and the behavioral change we have attained is wonderful. However, we still need to continue working until all districts abandon the practice once and for all. ”
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.
Gashamo Woreda, Somali REGION, 6 September 2017 – What if you are told that the water you would have daily for drinking, cooking and bathing is rain-dependent and dries up into a muddy puddle during eight out of the 12 months of the year?
For the lucky ones, life without water is unthinkable. Sadly enough, this still remains a daily life reality in arid and semi-arid areas in Ethiopia.
A shortage of water in Somali region has been devastating due to the ongoing multi-year drought. While climate resilient water source development is a key to mitigate negative impacts of the drought, the majority of the population in Somali region is still dependent on seasonal water harvesting ponds. Farah Abdulahi is a 34 year old single mother of four who has become an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) in Gashamo IDP site from a village which is 15km away. “I came here because I have lost all of my 150 goats and sheep since the onset of the drought,” Farah said. Several hydro-geological complications and costly investments have prevented the WASH sector from actively investing in drilling a deep borehole in the region whereas surface water sources are highly vulnerable to drought and put people at a greater risk. “I used to fetch water from birkas*. But they all dried up because there had been no rain,” Farah describes her life in the previous village before she was displaced. “Thanks to the humanitarian aid providing water at this IDP site, we are barely surviving.”
Ahmed Hussein Brerale, 57 years old, is one of the community elders in Haji Dereye kebele (sub-district) near Gashamo town. As a long time resident of Haji Dereye, he has witnessed the dreadful decrease of water in the area and says, “There is no borehole in this area. We heard that the nearest borehole is 78km away and is the only potable water source in this large woreda (district). What we have here is only seasonal water sources like birkas. As the last two rain seasons failed, the available volume of water in birkas has significantly decreased. We are worried.”
In order to provide access to potable water for children and women such as Farah and her children, UNICEF Ethiopia has started drilling a new borehole near Gashamo town in partnership with a private sector partner with financial support from the Government of Japan’s emergency grant aid for the Middle East and Africa region for emergencies since August 2017. The drilling site was carefully located by using hydro-geological data from satellites in close collaboration with the Somali Regional State Water Bureau. According to the satellite data, the estimated depth of finding an aquifer is at around 500-600 metres. So far one-fourth of the planned depth has been achieved. Since there is no alternative safe and reliable water source in the area, this new borehole is going to be an ‘oasis in the desert’. Although this drilling work is one of the UNICEF’s emergency projects, in a longer term the project will also bring a sustainable solution for the area which is high vulnerability to climate change. The borehole is expected to provide clean water directly to 11,000 – 25,000 people in Gashamo town with a potential to indirect beneficiaries who are passing by from surrounding areas in search of water.
“I heard about the new borehole drilling. I am looking forward to seeing clean water. That has been always my dream to have clean water nearby in my life,” says Farah with a smile on her face.
UNICEF will keep working together with the regional water bureau to ensure that people who have been living without reliable water sources get sustainable access to potable water without interruption.
*Birka – A traditional water harvesting pond which collects run-off water when it rains.
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Omar Abdi & World Food Programme Deputy Executive Director, Ramiro Armando De Oliveira Lopes Da Silva
Wednesday 17 May 2017, Nairobi
This past week we have met countless women and children in the Somali region of Ethiopia who have made astonishing efforts to combat the debilitating drought that is afflicting the area. We saw families displaying incredible strength and resourcefulness.
What we didn’t see was a humanitarian catastrophe like the ones that happened in generations past, because the progress made by these families mirrors that made by Ethiopia in response to food insecurity and drought over the last two decades. Ethiopia now has both the determination and the ability to help its people cope better with a disaster.
And yet as we saw firsthand, Ethiopia’s much celebrated development progress could be at risk in the wake of these successive droughts.
Over the last 20 years, the Government of Ethiopia and the international community joined efforts to improve conditions for millions and millions of Ethiopians. Today a concerted and urgent response is required if these families are to avoid a humanitarian crisis, a quarter of a century later.
In 2016, Ethiopia’s highlands were battered by drought amid the worst El Nino in generations, but managed to avoid a major catastrophe through a well-coordinated response, led by the Ethiopian Government with support from the international community. The country had only begun to recover when a new drought struck the country’s lowlands. The Somali region, which lies in the east of Ethiopia, has been the hardest hit by the effects of these recurrent droughts, with over 30 per cent of the region’s population now requiring food assistance.
The current rainy season in the lowlands appears to be failing as well. As a result, food insecurity throughout Ethiopia is forecast to rise sharply from the current 7.8 million people in the next few months. An estimated 303,000 children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition – the type that makes a child nine times more likely to die of diseases including acute water diarrhea and measles. An estimated 2.7 million children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers will be diagnosed with moderate acute malnutrition in drought areas; without urgent action, the condition of many of those children could deteriorate into severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition that is harder and more expensive to treat. It is likely that needs will further increase in the coming months, compounding the current problems.
UNICEF and WFP are committed to supporting the many people we met this week with a well-coordinated response. WFP has mounted a food and nutrition response of significant magnitude and, in partnership with the government, is currently supporting 6.4 million people out of the 7.8 million in need with emergency food assistance. The remaining 1.4 million people are receiving support from the Joint Emergency Operation (JEOP) – an NGO consortium. Moreover, WFP is also providing nutrition support to 1.3 million mothers and young children suffering from moderate acute malnutrition. WFP is also taking the lead in the provision of logistical support to government, UN and international NGO partners which is central to the response.
Across Ethiopia, UNICEF with partners has reached close to seven million people in the first quarter of 2017, with an emphasis on providing safe water and emergency nutrition support. Critically, government with support from UNICEF have just completed a national measles campaign targeting more than 22 million children across the country. And UNICEF is extending its education and child protection interventions that will reach hundreds of thousands of children, focusing on the provision of temporary learning and play spaces, working with communities to prevent and respond to family separation, at-risk migration, child marriage, and gender-based violence.
However, needs far outstrip available resources. Acute funding shortages are hampering our collective ability to act at scale. The international community and the Government of Ethiopia must increase funding urgently or the humanitarian success story of 2016 might be overshadowed just one year later by a story of acute crisis.
UNICEF requires $93.1 million to meet the drought-related needs of children and their families across the country in 2017, in terms of Nutrition, WASH, Health, Child Protection and Education in Emergencies. WFP currently has only enough food to last through June, and requires a further $430 million to meet the current emergency food and nutrition needs to the end of the year – and both WFP and UNICEF will require additional resources if the needs rise in the next few months as predicted.
Between 2000 and 2016, mortality rates among children under age 5 were cut by a remarkable 40 per cent in Ethiopia, and stunting rates were reduced dramatically from 58 per cent to 38 per cent. It is crucial that the gains made during the last 20 years are not reversed by the current drought.
In Ethiopia, below-average rainfall has worsened the situation in the Somali region, already severely affected by protracted drought. Access to water, sanitation and health services critically low and livestock deaths have further reduced communities’ capacity to cope, resulting in food and nutrition insecurity.
When drought strikes women and children suffer the most. Mothers have to travel long distance to find water and food and they often struggle to feed their children. In stories below, we are celebrating strong mothers who go extra mile to keep their children safe and their families together.