Eritrean refugee women and their Ethiopian hosts in the Afar region of Ethiopia ensure children attend school

By Amanda Westfall

Afar region, Ethiopia-On 21 September, in Asayita Woreda, Afar Region, Ethiopia, female community leaders who missed the opportunity for education when they were young, are now ensuring their children don’t follow that same path. Through the UNICEF-introduced and UK-Aid funded Accelerated Readiness Programme, children from both refugee and host communities in Afar Region, Ethiopia are participating in the summer programme to help prepare for primary school.

Zahara Halo, 28, a mother of three from Afar Region, Ethiopia, has never been to school. She was married, had a child at 13, and spent the latter half of her childhood raising her children and performing household chores expected of Afaari women: collecting water, cooking, building huts, tending cattle, and raising children.

Rokiya Mohammed, 35, is an Afaari woman from the Afar region of Eritrea. She also has never enjoyed the benefits of education, having spent much of her life doing household chores and caring for her seven children.
Approximately 13 years ago, Rokiya fled Eritrea to Ethiopia during the war between the two countries. She arrived with other Eritreans to Asayita Woreda where she has integrated into the host Ethiopian community and has received support ever since.

Zahar and Rokiya, although from two different countries, have many things in common. Both have learned to live in harsh desert climates, both are from pastoralist cultures, and both never had the opportunity for school. However, both are determined to change that pattern for their children.

They are part of the community’s Women’s Self Help Group, where they work to change the conditions for women and children in the community. Among other group activities, such as adult literacy classes and providing loans for small business, they are the delegated community leaders who ensure their children go to school.

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Eritrean refugee girls, Aysa, Musa, and Lali, attend UNICEF’s ASR programme at Sembile Primary School along with their fellow refugee and host community classmates. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Tadesse

When these women heard that the new Accelerated School Readiness (ASR) programme was coming to Afar, they were determined to help. As Zahara explains:
“As the group leader (of the Women’s Group) we have difficulties in finding group members who can read and write, and we suffer a lot from this. That is why I am inspired to put my child in school. I do not want him to suffer as I have.”

Accelerated School Readiness(ASR) 

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Eritrean Refugee and Ethiopian host community children participating in ASR at Sembile Primary School © UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Tadesse

ASR was designed for vulnerable children who never had early learning opportunities (like private or public pre-school) but are of age to begin primary school. It was developed through proven research on the importance of play-based activities (i.e. story-telling, art activities, literacy games) to help develop early literacy and communications skills. ASR gets children excited for school, ready for school, and keeps them in school.

In Ethiopia primary school dropout rates remain unfortunately high, with the highest rates found in Grade 1 (at 18 per cent), which is strongly linked to a lack of quality pre-primary opportunities. ASR is an innovative response to this challenge. In 2015, UNICEF introduced the initiative in rural areas of Ethiopia. Because it is relatively inexpensive (approximately US$13 per child), quick (two months over the summer), and effective, it has become a popular option for disadvantaged areas.

In 2016, ASR was offered to refugees and their host communities in an integrated and equitable approach. When they heard the news that ASR would be coming to refugees and host communities in Afar Region, the Women’s Group was ready and excited to support.

ASR is only possible through female community leaders

In Asayita Woreda, children are anywhere and everywhere – in condensed urban areas and expansive rural communities. In the vast deserts of the Afar Region where the climate is harsh and transportation services are minimal, it can be a major challenge to get children to school – a feat that is only possible by the determined female leaders of the community.

In less than one week, these women helped mobilize 258 children from urban and rural areas of Asayita Woreda, an area that spans almost 1,700 square kilometers.

Zahara explains how they were able to accomplish this: “We go from door-to-door and provide school materials for low income children … thereby giving the parents incentives to send children to school.”

Another Women’s Group member, Zahara Ali adds, “I know all of the mothers. I go knock on doors and say that you better send your children to school. I check up on each of them.”

Equal opportunities for refugees and host community children

Some Eritrean refugees, like Rokiya, have integrated into the local town, but some have decided to stay in the refugee camp just a few kilometers away. When Rokiya heard that ASR is also happening in the camp she was extremely grateful. “We are so happy our brothers and sisters also get this programme. We are grateful to see our children have equal opportunities like the host communities.”

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Zahara and her six-year-old son Zuruson
© UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Tadesse

Because of determined women like Zahara and Rokiya, positive change is possible for the next generation in Asayita Woreda. As Women’s Group member Misre Ali explains, “We are in the darkness. We never had a chance to be educated and we don’t want this for our children. We want them to know many things.”

Since the introduction of ASR in Ethiopia, UNICEF has directly supported over 45,000 children in addition to the thousands more the Government has helped through their ASR interventions. As a result, hundreds of thousands of children have enjoyed its benefits in becoming well prepared for primary school.

Ethiopia inaugurates model water supply and waste management project

26 May 2018, WUKRO, Tigray region – Today marks another major milestone in the Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector in Ethiopia with the inauguration of a model water supply, sanitation and waste management system in Wukro Town, Tigray Region. Part of the One WASH Plus programme, the system integrates innovative and resilient solutions to provide WASH services to 73,000 people, including 35,000 children under the age of 15, residing in the town and its satellite villages.

Attending the inauguration were His Excellency Dr. Negash Wagasho, State Minister of Water Irrigation and Electricity, Dr Christian Rogg, Head of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) in Ethiopia, Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia, officials from the Tigray Regional Government and Wukro Town administration officials.

“Ethiopia’s rapid urbanization and population growth has resulted in increased water stress,” said Dr. Negash Wagasho. “The development of adequate, resilient, sustainable and inclusive WASH services is therefore a must to ensure sustainable development of rapidly growing towns. Thus, what we are seeing today is what can be achieved when we put our concerted efforts together.”

“The UK is the largest bilateral donor in the Ethiopian WASH sector and we are proud to fund the excellent work taking place in Wukro, which is supplying vital water and sanitation services to the town and its surroundings,” said Dr Rogg. “I hope the progress in Wukro can serve as an example to be emulated on a national scale.”

UNICEF Representative Gillian Mellsop said the project was one of the greatest achievements of the One WaSH Plus programme and stands as a testament to the tremendous good that can be achieved when everyone pools their resources together towards one common purpose.

“Investments of this nature, both in Wukro and elsewhere in Ethiopia, are not just improving access to essential services but are changing entire lives,” said Dr. Samuel Godfrey, Chief of WASH at UNICEF. “Women and girls no longer have to walk long distances and spend many hours fetching water. Girls can go to school and attend to their schoolwork while mothers have enough time to spend with their children and engage in other productive activities. For communities, a safe and clean environment means fewer disease outbreaks.”

The Wukro project involved expanding the capacity of the town’s existing system to supply water to the town and five satellite villages, integrating it with a “full chain” system for managing liquid sludge and waste (from containment to recycling), improving water and sanitation in institutions such as schools and health facilities, and establishing a business model for managing the facility comprising the local administration and private operators. The low-cost technology deployed in treating domestic liquid waste in selected social housing developments in the town was sourced through a partnership with the Government of Brazil.

The One WASH Plus programme, fully funded by DFID, is implemented by UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, regional sector bureaus, and the Water Resource Development Fund. The programme also works with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Urban Development and Construction, and respective Sector Regional Bureaus, as well as town administrations and town water supply and sewerage utilities.

The programme, which began in 2013, will benefit 250,000 people in eight small towns and surrounding rural villages in Amhara, Oromia, Somali and Tigray regions with a total investment of some US $36 million by targeting communities living in towns and in peri-urban areas. Models such as the one in Wukro, some large and others medium sized, are now a key component of the One WaSH programme across more than 1,000 towns in the four regions in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s rapid urbanization and urban development has resulted in increased water stress and high potential for disease outbreaks. The development of adequate, resilient, sustainable and inclusive WASH services is therefore a must to ensure sustainable development of the rapidly growing towns to meet the targets set in the SDGs.

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.

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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.

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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.

Severe Water Shortage No More

 Project Taps into Existing Groundwater to Bring Sustainable Water to Community

By Ayuko Matsuhashi

SHINILE, SOMALI, 17 January 2017 – Munasib Omer, Chief of Bisle kebele (sub-district) in Shinile woreda (district), tells how excited the community is about the ongoing drilling work of a borehole in the kebele. “Thank you! Thank you to those who are providing the water to this kebele.”

Harshim Town Fafan Zone Somali region
Chief of Bisle kebele, Munasib Omer Maydhane, explains how Bisle has not had sustainable water while standing in front of an abandoned reservoir. ©UNICEF/2017/Tsegaye

He continues, “Since I was born, there has been no sustainable water supply in this community. We are entirely dependent on rainfall and travel 15 km one way to get water from a dried river bed. Here, we can use our hands to dig through the sand and find some water. But in the last 10 years, we have suffered from water shortage. NGOs and the government have been providing water through trucking but this is not enough and not predictable as the road condition is so difficult for trucks to access. Our primary problem has been always water.” He points to the road from which the UNICEF car arrived. “As you may have seen, there are many empty houses [along the way]. People left because of the water shortage.”

A mother of four children, 32-year-old Fadumo Ali talks about how difficult it is to raise children without a secure water source. “Sometimes there is no water to give to our children. We cannot wash them.”

UNICEF’s implementing partner, Hydro, began drilling a borehole in November 2016 at a location 1.5 km outside the Bisle community, which has a population of 11,000 people. This crucial drilling work is made possible by the DFID emergency fund. While it is difficult to find water by drilling in lowland areas due to the nature of the hydrogeological complexity in the Somali region, water was found at a depth of 210 meters and the drilling was completed at depth of 299 meters. According to a pump test, the borehole is providing more than 30 litres per second. The post-drilling construction is planned to be completed by March 2017. This news has brought hope for a better future to the Bisle community.

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People from Bisle kebele play with the water during a successful pump test of the borehole. ©UNICEF/2017/Godfrey

Fadumo is now looking forward to the day that she will no longer need to worry about water. She will have a few extra hours per day once the borehole is functional as she will not travel in search of water. “When I have regular water and more time, I want to do more about sanitation and hygiene for my children. I will clean my children more often.”

Through the generous contribution of donors, UNICEF will continue to support regional water bureaus across the Somali region to implement similar sustainable interventions that will support children and their families.

 

 

 

Government of Ethiopia and Humanitarian Partners Release 2017 Humanitarian Response Planning Document

ADDIS ABABA, 11 January 2016 – The Government of Ethiopia has released the Joint Government and Partners’ Humanitarian Document, an initial humanitarian response planning document for 2017 while the comprehensive Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) is being finalized. Based on the early warning data and modelling undertaken by partners such as UNICEF, the document reflects the joint humanitarian response planning and provides a shared understanding of the crisis, including the most pressing humanitarian needs.

While Ethiopia battles residual needs from the El Niño-induced drought, below average rains in the southern and eastern parts of the country caused by the negative Indian Ocean Dipole, another climatic phenomena, have led to new symptoms of drought. It is anticipated that 5.6 million people will need emergency food assistance in 2017, in addition to those still suffering from effects of El Niño. Ongoing assessments for the HRD will provide total figures of those in need for 2017.

In 2016, international donors contributed US$894 million toward the humanitarian response efforts and from that figure, UNICEF raised US$108.7 million to support the Government of Ethiopia and partners to reach around seven million people with access to health and nutrition care, education, safe water, sanitation and hygiene services, and protection support. At least 73 per cent of those reached were children.

The total anticipated financial requirements for the 2017 HRD is US$1.1 billion, of which, the UNICEF Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) appeal for Ethiopia is US$110.5 million. This includes US$13.6 million to respond to the new influx of South Sudanese refugees in the Gambella region. While the funding will be critical to UNICEF’s ability to respond to immediate needs, it will also be used to take appropriate actions to strengthen preparedness, improve early warning systems and reduce vulnerability, contributing to more resilient communities.

Immediate responses have already taken shape from regional governments allocating funds to water trucking and fodder provision in the south and south eastern regions, those most affected by the below average rainfall. In 2016 and years prior, UNICEF has supported such emergency interventions, in addition to child health and nutrition, sustainable water and sanitation, quality education for boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence and exploitation. UNICEF Ethiopia looks forward to continuing this support with the Government of Ethiopia and partners in 2017, for every child and their family.

Giving a village in the Amhara region its own water supply transforms lives

By Ayuko Matsuhashi

WOIRU DIKALA, Amhara region, 7 August 2016 – The women of Woiru Dikala kebele (sub-district) used to spend much of their day searching for water, a mission that grew even more difficult as drought ravaged Ethiopia’s Amhara Region over the past year.

Women and children often walked for more than six hours to get the water their community needed, searching for scarce rivers and ponds among the dry, rugged gorges of Raya Kobo woreda (district).

Local women at Raya Kobo woreda, Woiru Dikala Kebele -Amhara National Regional State enjoys the newly inaugurated water supply.
Women in Woiru Dikala kebele spend much of their time looking for water.   Now they can easily access clean water thanks to the multi-village water supply system built with UNICEF’s support.  ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

This area, near the borders of Tigray and Afar regions, is full of migrants from these parts of the country also searching for water for their family and herds and fleeing the recurrent droughts.

So it was with great rejoicing that the people of Woiru Dikala welcomed a joint UNICEF and DFID project introducing a multi-village water supply system drawn from a deep well with a total of eight water points around the village – including one for the primary school.

Comments we received from community members included “We can avoid the risks of abuse of women and children as they travel to collect water from the gorges including at night time,” and “Our children and even adults have been frequently affected by diarrheal diseases and intestinal parasites. We feel happy that our life will be changed.”

The new water system will help 5,000 people over the next 20 years, including the 2,100 living in Woiru Dikala kebele.

The El Niño-driven drought has hit much of the country over the past year, but eastern Amhara has been especially hard hit, with over 1.5 million people suffering from a critical shortage of water.

The shortage also has severe health implications. The kebele has seen an outbreak of the itching menace of scabies because the lack of water means poor sanitation and personal hygiene.

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Boys and girls in Woiru Dikala kebele can grow healthily as they have unrestrained access to clean water. They can also attend school more regularly without worrying about fetching water. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

The condition breeds in cramped, dirty conditions and can move quickly through a population causing a great deal of distress among children, who make up half the population of the kebele.

Poor water quality also led to an outbreak of Acute Watery Diarrhoea, which can be fatal for the young and infirm.

Regular access to clean water is key to combatting these diseases. There is no health facility in the kebele.

The inauguration of the new water supply for the area was attended by several regional officials as well as representatives of UNICEF.

“This water supply system provided from a deep well should support local resilience in times of climatic uncertainty,” said Jane Bevan, UNICEF’s manager for rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.

Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia visits and inaugurates the UNICEF/DIFID supported community emergency water supply scheme at Woiru Dikala Kebele, Raya Kobo woreda, Amhara region.
Attending the inauguration of the new water system were Ato Woldetnsae Mekonnen, head of the Water, Irrigation and Energy Department for North Wollo Zone, Jane Bevan, UNICEF’s Rural WASH Manager, Ato Ayenew Belay, head of Amhara’s Bureau of Finance, Ato Kedir Mustefa, administrator of Raya Kobo woreda, Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF representative to Ethiopia, Ato Yimer Habie, deputy head of Amhara’s Bureau of Water, Irrigation, and the Bureau of Energy. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

 

Baby WASH – the missing piece of the puzzle? 

By Samuel Godfrey

Mustapha and his one year old daughter Meia-Teza Wota Health Center Clinic
Mustapha and his one year old daughter Meia at Teza Wota Health Center ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2012/Getachew

The January 2016 Huffington Post article entitled Why are Indian kids smaller than Africa kids: hint its not race authored by Sanjay Wikesekera, UNICEF Global WASH Chief and Werner Shultink, UNICEF Global  Nutrition Chief, highlighted the link between child stunting[1] and lack of access to toilets. Children growing up in an environment where people are defecating in the open will result in kids crawling around on dirty floors, putting feacally contaminated material and objects in their mouths and ultimately will results in children having high rates of diarrhea which will result in their stunted physical and mental development.

To understand this better, UNICEF Ethiopia WASH team and John Hopkins University undertook a systematic review of more than 1000 peer reviewed academic articles with the aim of identifying interventions that health and WASH professionals can take or promote to reduce the contact of children with feacally contaminated material. The review identified strong evidence on the linkage between open defecation, stunting and early child development (See figure below from Ngure et al (2014).

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The review also notes good knowledge of how to do hygiene and sanitation promotion to safe disposal of adult feaces but limited evidence on safe disposal of baby feaces.

UNICEF Ethiopia is using the review to design specific Baby WASH interventions that can complement our current Infant Young Child Feeding programmes. Ethiopia has substantially reduced Open Defecation during the last 25 years. In 1990, an estimated 9 out of 10 people were “pooing” in the open and by 2015, this had reduced by 64 per cent to less than 1 in 3 people. However, despite this progress, almost half of children were recorded as ‘stunted’ or not achieving their full physical and mental growth by 2015. The literature suggests that Baby WASH, as we have termed it, may be one of the key “missing pieces” in reducing stunting. Baby WASH comprises of a ‘menu’ of physical and promotions activities which will reduce the exposure of the BABY to ingestion of feaces and ultimately reduce stunting and improve Early Childhood Development.

Watch this space for more details on field evidence on Baby WASH from UNICEF Ethiopia as we work closely with the Government of Ethiopia and development partners to expand this intervention throughout Ethiopia in our new Country Programme of Cooperation between 2016 and 2020. For the time being, UNICEF Ethiopia is using its own financial core resources. Interested development partners are welcome to join this groundbreaking initiative.

UNICEF Ethiopia is collaborating with the US based Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of International Health, Program in Global Disease Epidemiology and Control. A researcher from the school was an intern in the UNICEF Ethiopia WASH section in 2015 and has collaborated with the WASH section on producing a paper entitled Evidence on Interventions Targeted at Reducing Unsafe Disposal of Child Feaces: A Systematic Review.

UNICEF Ethiopia’s rural wash activities are supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Netherlands, the Government of Canada and the UNICEF National Committees from Germany, UK and New Zealand.

Dr. Samuel Godfrey is Chief of WASH for UNICEF Ethiopia, and has a PhD and MSc in Civil Engineering and Water and Waste Engineering.

[1] Stunting is a sign of ‘shortness’ and develops over a long period of time. In children and adults, it is measured through the height-for-age nutritional index. In Ethiopia approximately 40 per cent of children are stunted.