Ethiopia: Ending newborn deaths

This is a re-blog from

By Haile Gebrselassie, Save the Children Child Ambassador, two-time Olympic Champion and four-time World Champion.

Credit: Jiro Ose/Save the Children

Credit: Jiro Ose/Save the Children

Ethiopia, my country, is the cradle of humanity. The first stone tools were found here and Lucy, a 3 million year old skeleton and the first Homo sapiens, was found in the village of Hadar, on the southern edge of the Afar triangle.

Our history is ancient and continuous. We are fiercely proud of the fact that we are the only African nation never to have been colonised. But like every nation our history is chequered and we have suffered.

In 1983, when I was ten years old, the first flames of hunger were flickering throughout Ethiopia. It was that year my mother died due to birth related complications. In those days, in my village, this was not very unusual.

My mother died following birth complications. The women of the village tried to help, but when I think back I realise that none of them really knew what they were doing.

In so many ways, we have made progress in saving the lives of mothers and their newborns since then. Today, the number of children dying before their fifth birthday has been halved since 1990.

The number of women who die in childbirth has declined by almost a third – that’s millions of kids who get to grow up with a mother and millions more getting a chance at life.

What we have achieved so far must be celebrated. The actions of our governments over the last fifteen years have brought about the greatest leap in children’s wellbeing survival in history. This change has been brought about by bold political leadership at the highest levels.

But even today, half of all women giving birth in sub-Saharan Africa give birth without any skilled help. Globally, 2 million women also give birth completely alone.  A direct result of this lack of skilled health workers, as Save the Children has shown in a new report today, a million newborn babies die on their first day of life. A single baby’s death is one death too many.

The good news is that we know what needs to change: ensuring every birth is supported by quality trained health care workers who have the expertise to help premature babies survive, deal with birth complications and prevent newborn infections can, with some wider steps, help prevent as many as two-thirds of these newborn deaths.

Every country in the world must ensure that all mothers-to-be have access to a midwife with life-saving medicines and equipment.

Africa is finally a continent on the rise – and children are the key to our continuing success. I want them to grow up to be the doctors, lawyers, teachers and even athletes that they are meant to be. The race for survival is a marathon, not a sprint. We are in this for the long haul. Like long distance running, this will take endurance, commitment and conviction. We have seen the incredible results when we put our minds to it.

The prize for these children is much greater than an Olympic medal. They get a fair chance at life, regardless of how poor their parents are, where they live or whether they are a boy or a girl. This is a race that we can win.


UNICEF calls for US$2.2 billion to help 59 million children in emergencies, including Ethiopia

Largest emergency appeal on record, almost 40 per cent for Syria and region

Somali children concentrate on their learning at a school supported by UNICEF and operated by Save the Children in Kobe refugee camp in Ethiopia. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose

GENEVA/ADDIS ABABA, 21 February 2014 – UNICEF appealed today for almost US$2.2 billion to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance in 2014 to 85 million people, including 59 million children, who face conflict, natural disasters and other complex emergencies in 50 countries.

“I have just returned from South Sudan, the latest large-scale conflict to disrupt the lives of millions of innocent children. Over 400,000 children and their families have been displaced by the conflict, and over 3.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The rainy season is coming and we need to preposition supplies and reinforce essential services, for which we need urgent funding to prevent a catastrophe,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes.

“The children of South Sudan join millions of others affected by conflict in the Central African Republic and Syria. But while today’s headlines focus on these complex, under-funded crises, many other desperate situations also require immediate funding and urgent humanitarian assistance. These include Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia and Yemen, and other countries reflected in UNICEF’s appeal,” Chaiban said.

UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children 2014 appeal highlights the daily challenges faced by children in humanitarian crises, the support required to help them survive and thrive, and the results that are possible even in the most difficult circumstances.

For Syria and the sub-region, UNICEF is appealing for US$835 million to deliver life-saving assistance including immunization, water and sanitation, education, and protection; and to support the social cohesion and peace-building skills needed to build a more sustainable future.

“Children are always the most vulnerable group in emergencies, facing a high risk of violence, exploitation, disease and neglect,” Chaiban said. “But when support is made available, we can change the lives of children for the better. With its partners, UNICEF is working to address a diverse range of humanitarian situations including malnutrition in the Sahel; lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation in Yemen; cholera in Haiti; increased attacks on children in Afghanistan; and drought in Angola.”

In Ethiopia, to support children affected by humanitarian crisis and accelerate efforts to break the vicious cycle of drought, hunger and poverty, UNICEF is appealing for US$31,126,000 million by working closely with Government and partners. The fund is allotted to treat 238,700 children aged 6 to 59 months affected by severe acute malnutrition, provide water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene for 1,200,000 people and offer formal and informal education to 90,000 children. This year’s appeal will build on the past gains made towards strengthening the resilience of communities in Ethiopia and save the lives of children. The 40 per cent decrease in requirements from 2013 reflects a projected improvement in the food security and nutritional situation in 2014.

See the press release here. 

Commiting to Children is Commiting to The Future – Angélique Kidjo

While visiting UNICEF Ethiopia in November, Angélique Kidjo UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador,  asked the public to join her and UNICEF and commit to ensure that children have adequate food, shelter and clean water; every boy and girl has access to education and primary health care and  protect children from all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

She said: Committing to children, is committing to the Future!

UNICEF Brings to Spotlight the Rights of Children at the 8th Ethiopian International Film Festival

UNICEF panellists discuss with Audience  at the 8th Ethiopian International Film Festival
Addis Ababa, 28 November 2013- To celebrate Universal Children’s Day – the anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child -UNICEF Ethiopia participated in the 8th Ethiopian International Film festival, to promulgate children’s rights to the public using public announcements, documentaries and photos as a channel.

Throughout the event UNICEF is showing public service announcement on different topics affecting children’s rights to the public. International and local celebrities like the world famous Argentinian  football player Leo Messi, actor Liam Neeson, singers Angelique Kidjo, Katy Perry, Lenny Kravits, Aster Aweke, The Ethiopia Wallia team and  the young advocator for children Hanna Godefa were seen joining UNICEF and taking up the issues of violence against children, barriers of education and HIV/AIDS.

For its premier UNICEF presented yesterday a short documentary: Overcoming Barriers: Famia and Rasso’s Journey in Pursuit of Education at the Italian Cultural Institute. It is a story of two adolescent girls in rural kebele of Djudjuma, near Dire Dawa who faced forced marriage and other economic and social obstacles to continue their studies. “This ground breaking documentary has given us a perspective from the adolescents themselves, their true stories and their realities that they go through in life,” said Mr Ibrahim Sesay, Child Protection Specialist of UNICEF Ethiopia.  “It’s a call to joint action for all stakeholders – government, media, religious groups, community based organizations, development partners and children – to strengthen the current collaborative partnerships to end child marriage.” The documentary is based on the Situation Analysis study on Investment in Boys and Girls conducted by UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Women Children and Youth Affairs and Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in 2012.

8th Ethiopian international film festival screeningThe premier was attended by the media, film industry community and teachers who discussed on the role of different stakeholders in protecting children and enabling them achieve their dreams after the screening. “The protection of children from all forms of violence is a fundamental right and we have to ensure that all children, everywhere and at all times are not victim of child marriage and such platforms should provoke conversations that will enhance change in behaviour starting at the family and community levels,” Mr Sesay added. “We need to join forces to get a zero sum game for the abandonment of harmful traditional practices that marginalise as well as violate children’s right, especially the girl child.”

The 8th Ethiopian film festival is being held from 25 November to 2 December 2013 in Addis Ababa. The festival is screening both national and international film producers in a week long programme encompassing International Organizations, embassies, NGOs, civil societies and other interest groups to premier their productions and draw a wide range of discussions on issues relevant to their field.

UNICEF reports progress in averting Mother To Child HIV transmission

Rapid HIV test

Great progress has been made to prevent mother-to-child (MTC) transmission of HIV, a lentivirus that causes the lethal disease AIDS with no cures at present, with more than 850,000 infants being saved from the virus infection between 2005 and 2012, said a UN report.

The new 2013 Stocktaking Report on Children and AIDS, released Friday by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ahead of Sunday’s World AIDS Day, showed that some 260,000 children were newly infected with HIV last year, compared to 540,000 in 2005.

“These days, even if a pregnant woman is living with HIV, it doesn’t mean her baby must have the same fate, and it doesn’t mean she can’t lead a healthy life,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

According to UN figures, some of the most remarkable successes were in high HIV burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

New infections among infants declined between 2009 and 2012 by 76 percent in Ghana, 58 percent in Namibia, 55 percent in Zimbabwe, 52 percent in Malawi and Botswana, and 50 percent in Zambia and Ethiopia. Read more

New HIV infections among infants declined between 2009 and 2012 by 50 per cent in Ethiopia!

HIV Tetsing

Today, on 29 November 2013, UNICEF releases the ‘Children and AIDS: Sixth Stocktaking Report’, the first report of its kind since 2010. The 6th Stocktaking Report on Children and AIDS provides the latest figures, based on 2012 country data, on both the first decade (Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and pediatric AIDS) and the second decade (adolescents 10-19 years) of life – all in one place. Many of the figures that appear in the second decade are new, since most publications provide data on ‘young people’ (15- 24 years) only, rather than adolescents (10-19 years).

Some of the most remarkable successes were in high HIV burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The report shows that new infections among infants declined between 2009 and 2012 by 50 per cent in Ethiopia!

Country progress in reducing new HIV infections among children aged 0–14 in the 21 Global Plan priority countries in Africa, 2009–2012On page 10 of the report ( you will find the graph which indicates that Ethiopia is one of the seven countries (out of the 22 priority countries of the Global Plan) highlighted as having halved new HIV infections among children aged 0 – 14. In Ethiopia, this major decline is mainly observed in the first year of a child’s life because of successful prevention of mother to child transmission interventions.

See the press release here


See recent pictures related to HIV/AIDS here

Bringing to Spotlight the Rights of Children at the 8th Ethiopian Film Festival

What: UNICEF screens short documentary followed by media roundtable on Children’s rights
When: Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 4:00PM- 6:00PM
Who: Panelist from UNICEF Ethiopia
Mr Ibrahim Sesay – Child Protection Specialist
Ms. Tabeyin Gedlu –Gender and Development Specialist, Focal Person on
Harmful Traditional Practices
Ms. Hiwot Gebeyehu – Gender and Child Rights Officer
Where: Addis Ababa, Italian Cultural Institute
Background: The 8th edition of the Ethiopian International Film Festival is being held from 25 November to 2 December 2013 in Addis Ababa. The festival is expected to screen both national and international film producers in a week long programme encompassing International Organizations, embassies, NGOs, civil societies and other interest groups to premier their productions and draw a wide range of discussions on issues relevant to their field.

The film festival comes at a time when UNICEF Ethiopia is celebrating Universal Children’s Day – the anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This year UNICEF urges a much stronger light be shone on the millions of children in every country and at every level of society who are victims of violence and abuse that continue to go unnoticed and under-reported. The 8th Ethiopian film Festival is a great opportunity to promulgate children’s rights and protection issues to the public using documentaries and other film genres as a channel.