UNICEF’s largest global purchase of Therapeutic Food for children in drought-stricken Ethiopia through donor support

Drought in Ethiopia
A mother feeds a her malnourished child a Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a high protein and high energy peanut-based paste, in Arsi zone, Oromia, Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, after two years of erratic rainfall and drought, one of the most powerful El Niño weather events for 50 years is wreaking havoc on lives and livelihoods. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

ADDIS ABABA, 22 April 2016 – Today, UNICEF thanked donors for their generous contributions and the Government for its strong leadership, which together have enabled a concerted response to the current El Niño driven drought in Ethiopia, particularly in treating children with severe malnutrition.

With support from donors, UNICEF has procured 543,631 cartons of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), which represents 22 per cent of the global order for 2015 and is one of the largest single purchases in UNICEF’s history. The donors include the Governments of Canada, Germany, Japan, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States and partners including ECHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To date in 2016, UNICEF procured in 2015 a further 73,344 cartons of RUTF out of a global procurement estimated at 565,623 cartons, which corresponds to 13 per cent of the global supply. In addition to RUTF, other supplies including therapeutic milk, routine drugs and hygiene and sanitation commodities have been procured as part of the drought response. To accommodate this large volume of supplies and enhance preparedness for the drought response, UNICEF rented a new warehouse in the Gerji area of Addis Ababa, earlier this year.

“On behalf of the Government of Ethiopia and UNICEF, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the humanitarian donors for their timely and generous financial contributions to purchase Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food that will save the lives of millions of children diagnosed with severe malnutrition,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “I would also like to especially thank the Ethiopian Customs Authority, the Ethiopian Food Medicine and Health Care Administration and Akakas Logistics, this enormous supply chain operation would not have been possible without their active support. By accelerating our joint nutrition interventions, we can transform the lives of millions of children to become healthy citizens and reach their full potential.”

Ethiopia is experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades due to El Niño weather condition which continues to wreak havoc on the lives of children and their families’ livelihoods. According to the latest Humanitarian Requirement Document issued this year, 6 million children are at risk from hunger, disease and lack of water. Malnutrition rates have greatly increased – 450,000 children are expected to be treated for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) this year.

Inauguration of new UNICEF warehouse
Inauguration of new UNICEF warehouse (L-R) Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Dr Kebede Worku, State Minister of the Federal Ministry of Health, and Ms. Emma William, Deputy Head, DFID Ethiopia ©UNICEf Ethiopia/2016/Tsegaye

As part of the joint drought response coordinated by the Government, UNICEF is leading the Nutrition, Water Sanitation Hygiene, Education (together with Save the Children) clusters and the Child Protection sub-cluster. Together with other partners, UNICEF implements life-saving humanitarian responses including procurement and supply of therapeutic food and milk, drugs, other medical supplies, plus water/sanitation and education and child protection supplies.

UNICEF also supports the treatment of severely malnourished children through the community-based management of acute malnutrition, with training, quality assurance and coordination with other partners. Regular nutrition screening helps ensure that malnutrition in children is diagnosed and treated early, thereby reducing cases of severe acute malnutrition and life-threatening complications.

The supply of RUTF procured by UNICEF to date to respond to the current emergency is worth US$28 million including freight and in-country distribution. With the continued effort of the Government and support from humanitarian actors, 350,451 children were treated for severe acute malnutrition in 2015.

KOICA and UNICEF’s partnership for the health of Ethiopia’s Mothers and Children

KOICA Country Director, Doh Young Ah and UNICEF representative to Ethiopia, Gillian Mellsop
KOICA Country Director, Doh Young Ah and UNICEF representative to Ethiopia, Gillian Mellsop sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together in a Maternal and Child Health (MCH) care project. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) announces US$ 9 million support to UNICEF for “Community Based Newborn Care” today in the UNICEF Ethiopia office. This financial support will be implemented in five zones of SNNP, Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz regions of Ethiopia.

The agreement was signed by KOICA Country Director, Doh Young Ah and UNICEF representative to Ethiopia, Gillian Mellsop.

KOICA’s support aims to strengthen Ethiopian government’s efforts to improve maternal and newborn health in hard to reach areas building mainly on the Health Extension Program and the Primary Health Care platform. Over 150,000 pregnant women and their newborns will benefit from this generous support per year, reaching over 300,000 mother-baby pairs in the coming years.

In collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, Regional Health Bureaus, the Ethiopia Midwifery and Paediatric associations, NGOs, donors and academic institutions, the programme aims to scale up maternal and newborn care in 5 zones covering a total population of 4 million between 2015 and 2018. This programme will contribute to the national scaling up of evidence based high impact interventions to improve maternal and newborn health at community and health facilities levels.

The combination of innovative, evidence-based strategies and the government’s long legacy of leadership on maternal, newborn and child survival is yielding impressive results. Ethiopia achieved MDG 4 three years ahead of schedule by cutting under-five mortality from 205 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 68 per 1,000 in 2012. Ethiopia’s progress illustrates that countries can achieve dramatic declines in child mortality, despite constrained resources.

See photos here