Ethiopia: Vital events registration launched

By Nikodimos Alemayehu and Marie Angeline Aquino

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia. August 2016 – Ethiopia launched throughout the country on 4 August 2016 a permanent, compulsory and universal registration and certification of vital events such as birth, death, marriage and divorce.

Vital events registration kicks off in Ethiopia
(L-R) Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia , H.E Ms Elsa Tesfaye, Director General of Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA), H.E Dr Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and H.E Mr Getachew Ambaye, Attorney General holds a symbolic certificate for birth registration. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

The inauguration ceremony took place in the presence of the Ethiopian President Dr Mulatu Teshome, UNICEF Representative Gillian Mellsop as well as representatives of other ministries and development partners.

“The Government of Ethiopia has given great emphasis to vital events registration across the country by putting the appropriate policies in place, establishing a system up to the lowest administrative level and deploying massive resources in this endeavor,” said Teshome at the ceremony. “I am confident that, with the collaboration and commitment of all stakeholders, we will succeed in the operationalization of the system, just like we have succeeded in other development sectors in the country.”

Mellsop underscored in her address the importance of the registry in protecting children and combatting child trafficking.

‘’With no proof of age and identity, Ethiopian children become a more attractive ‘commodity’ to a child trafficker, and will not even have the minimal protection that a birth certificate provides against early marriage, child labour, or detention and prosecution of the child as an adult.”

Ethiopia ranks among the lowest in sub-Saharan countries on birth registration with less than 10 per cent of children under the age of 5 with their births registered.

The issue is especially urgent because 48 per cent of the 92 million-strong population is under the age of 18 – 90 per cent of whom are unregistered. The Government has committed itself to reaching at least 50 per cent of children with registration and certification services over the next two years.

UNICEF’s support to Ethiopia’s national civil registration is based on a recognition that birth registration is an important element of ensuring the rights and protection of children.

For children, being registered at birth is key to other rights such as access to basic social services, protection, nationality and later the full rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. Moreover, not only is vital events registration essential for compiling statistics that are required to develop policies and implement social services, it is also, as Mellsop points out, “a pre-requisite in measuring equity; for monitoring trends such as child mortality, maternal health and gender equality.”

Inaugural ceremony of National Vital Events Registration in SNNPR capital Hawassa
One-month child Samrawit at a birth registration centre in Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR) capital Hawassa August 6, 2016. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

UNICEF has supported the Government in putting in place a decentralized registration and certification system, which is informed by a legislative framework promulgated in August 2012.

UNICEF is a catalyst in creating this new system with support that includes the reform of the legislative framework, the development of a national strategy and its implementation across the country.

An important element of the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) system is its interoperability with the health sector. On this aspect, UNICEF has worked in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Health in its efforts to formalize the interoperability, culminating in the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two ministries.

The important of involving the Health Ministry is because it already has its own well organized and decentralized network stretching across the country. This arrangement allows the health facilities found in nearly every community to manage notifications of births and deaths.

The actual registration and certification of all vital events started on 6 August 2016 at the lowest administrative level of the kebele (sub-district).

With Ethiopia’s new conventional vital events registration system in place, there are better opportunities for accelerating vital events registration in Ethiopia, and realizing one of the fundamental rights of children – the right to be registered upon birth.

UNICEF and religious leaders commit to improve the lives of children and women in Ethiopia

By Hanna Woldemeskel

MoU between UNICEF and major religious institutions for the wellbeing of children and women in Ethiopia
Haji Alfadil Ali Mustafa, General Secretary of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Counsel Signs Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UNICEF and major religious institutions for the wellbeing of children and women in Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Sewunet

Addis Ababa, 2 August 2016 – Ethiopia’s Leaders of major religious institutions signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UNICEF marking their joint commitment for sustained promotion of the rights and wellbeing of children, adolescents and women through strategic behaviour and social change interventions. Fourteen signatories signed the MoU, including five major religious denominations along with their respective development offices and four umbrella institutions.

Religion is at the heart of people’s value and identity and religious leaders enormously influence moral values and socialization of children in all aspects of life. Religious institutions reach out to vulnerable and disadvantaged children and families, through their inherent values of humanity and extensive structure reaching up to the family and individual levels.

Evidence shows that if investments are made to build capacity and engage religious institutions, they can create major impact for behaviour and social norm change. For example, in the Somali region, religious leaders massively contributed to stop the 2013 polio outbreak, by informing and encouraging their communities to regularly immunize their children. Religious institutions declaring against harmful traditional practices and their active engagement has a huge impact in accelerating Ethiopia’s commitment towards eliminating the female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage by 2025.  In Amhara region, for example when priests teach against child marriage, when they refuse to bless such unions, communities are receptive and young girls are given the opportunity to pursue their education and their dreams.

Although religious institutions have been working with UNICEF in the past, their unique opportunity for influencing positive behaviour and social norms was not fully maximized. The core purpose of the MoU, as stated by Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, during the signing ceremony is “to build on existing commitments for the wellbeing of children and women in Ethiopia through sustained and long-term behaviour and social change actions with full engagement of the development and spiritual wings and umbrella institutions.” Gillian stressed, “This partnership will accelerate our efforts to alleviate chronic challenges in communities by addressing them at the core – in people’s minds and attitudes”

In their statements, all the signatory religious leaders avowed their commitment to what they called ‘Historic Consensus’  and outlined their respective faith values that create favourable grounds to promote the rights and wellbeing of children and women.

Dr. Abba Hailemariam Melese, the Deputy General Manager of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church Patriarchate remarked “…towards this cause the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church is ready to engage over half a million clergies and religious fathers with the joint leadership of our spiritual and development wings.” Similarly, Haji Al – Fadil Ali Mustafa, General Secretary of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council remarked that developmental partners have become wiser by involving and engaging religious organizations and leaders to work for a common goal.

Reverend Dr. Wakseyoum, Idosa, President of Ethiopian Evangelical Mekane Yesus Church tells the story of a girl he met a week ago who had dropped her studies from eighth grade and came to Addis Ababa fleeing forced marriage, when her relatives insisted that she returns to her village, she refused and opted to go and work in one of the Middle East countries as a house maid. “This story is one of many stories in our communities, and this is why a united effort is needed to reach to the grass roots in order to alleviate the pain that is still fresh and deserve our urgent response.”

In addition to the five major religious denominations of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC), Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC) Ethiopian Catholic Church (ECC), Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) and Ethiopian Kale Hiwot Church (EKHC) and their respective development wings, four umbrella institutions including; Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia (IRCE),Ethiopian Interfaith Forum for Development Dialogue and Action (EIFDDA),Evangelical Churches Fellowship of Ethiopia (ECFE), and  Consortium of Evangelical Churches of Ethiopia Development Association (CECEDA) forwarded a statement affirming their commitment.

Vital events registration kicks off in Ethiopia

Vital events registration kicks off in Ethiopia
(L-R) Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia , H.E Ms Elsa Tesfaye, Director General of Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA), H.E Dr Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and H.E Mr Getachew Ambaye, Attorney General holds a symbolic certificate for birth registration.

Birth, death, marriage and divorce registration and certification will cover all regional states and city administrations through interventions that conform to international standards and national legislations 

ADDIS ABABA, 04 August 2016 – Today, the Government of Ethiopia announces a permanent, compulsory and universal registration and certification of vital events such as birth, death, marriage and divorce throughout the country.

H.E Dr Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE), launched the inauguration of the event with other senior government officials and development partners including H.E Ms Elsa Tesfaye, Director General of Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA), H.E Mr Getachew Ambaye, Attorney General, Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, regional vital registration agencies, vital events registration national council members, development partners, the media and other invited guests. 

At the inaugural ceremony, President of the FDRE, Dr Mulatu Teshome said, “The Government of Ethiopia has given great emphasis to vital events registration across the country by putting the appropriate policies in place, establishing a system up to the lowest administrative level and deploying massive resources in this endeavour. I am confident that, with the collaboration and commitment of all stakeholders, we will succeed in the operationalization of the system, just like we have succeeded in other development sectors in the country.”

In the past, the absence of a legal framework for a national vital events registration and vital statistics system has resulted in uncoordinated practices of producing civil status evidence. For instance, birth, death and marriage certificates were issued by hospitals, churches and municipalities in an un-systematic and fragmented manner. In response to the situation, the Government of Ethiopia in 2012 adopted a comprehensive law governing the institutional and operational framework of vital events registration. This includes the registration of birth, death, marriage, divorce and complimentary notations of birth such as adoption, acknowledgment and judicial declaration of paternity.

Since the enactment of the federal law on vital events registration, the Government of Ethiopia has made great progress by establishing the Federal Vital Events Registration Agency, including a board of management and a national council. Government’s regional and city administrations also enacted regional vital events registration laws; established regional agencies and a board of management; adopted a costed national strategy; achieved national consensus to integrate vital events registration services into the health system and established administrative structures for managing and delivering registration services. 

Ms Elsa Tesfaye, Director General of Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA), said “To realize the multiple benefits of vital registration, all actors involved in the registration process, including the federal, regional, city administrators, key government stakeholders and development partners, should ensure the continuity of the system.” 

Mr Getachew Ambaye, Attorney General stated that, “The conception of modernizing the registration of vital events in Ethiopia has become a reality. From federal up to city level administration, we have finalized the preparation to start registration and certification nationwide. Now, we need to focus on the coordination and the implementation of the service through a systematic coordination to ensure the sustainability of the system.”

Vital events registration is an important pre-requisite for measuring equity, monitoring trends and, evaluating impact and outcomes of broader development programmes, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“UNICEF is very pleased to be supporting the establishment of a fully functional civil and birth registration system in Ethiopia- to count every child, and in the process, to make every child count.  We look forward to the impact of the registration and certification of vital events, such as birth and marriage on the protection and wellbeing of Ethiopian children and the general population,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. 

In addition, vital events registration is essential for compiling statistics that are required to develop policies and implement services. The demographic data generated from such a system is critical for government planning and decision making. This is particularly important in areas such as child mortality, maternal health and gender equality.

Currently, all regional states and city administrations have finalized the preparations and established offices down to the lowest administrative level.‘Kebele’ general managers are acting as civil status registrars and over 94 per cent of ‘kebele’ general managers have received training regarding the fundamentals, rules, and regulations of vital events registration. In addition, the required registry and certificates are printed and distributed.

In order to undertake the registration process smoothly, various actors from government, UN and other stakeholders are playing key roles, but the community has the primary role to play by registering vital events within the prescribed time (birth within 90 days; marriage, divorce and death within 30 days).

Vital events registration will start on Saturday, 06 August 2016, across the country.

Majority of men and women oppose Female Genital Mutilation in countries where practice persists – UNICEF figures

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NEW YORK 14 JULY 2016 – Approximately two-thirds of men, women, boys and girls in countries where female genital mutilation is common say they want the practice to end – according to UNICEF data. In countries with available data, 67 per cent of girls and women and 63 per cent of boys and men oppose the continuation of the practice in their communities.

“Although female genital mutilation is associated with gender discrimination, our findings show that the majority of boys and men are actually against it,” said Francesca Moneti, UNICEF Senior Child Protection Specialist. “Unfortunately, individuals’ desire to end female genital mutilation is often hidden, and many women and men still believe the practice is needed in order for them to be accepted in their communities.”

Data show that in some countries men oppose FGM more strongly than women. In Guinea – the country with the second highest prevalence in the world – 38 per cent of men and boys are against the continuation of FGM, compared to 21 per cent of women and girls.  The same pattern is seen in Sierra Leone, where 40 per cent of boys and men want the practice to end, compared to 23 per cent of girls and women.

The most striking difference between men and women’s perceptions regarding FGM is also in Guinea, where 46 per cent of men and boys say FGM has no benefit, compared with just 10 per cent of women and girls.  The findings also show that in just over half the 15 countries with available data, at least 1 in 3 girls and women say FGM has no benefits.  The proportion is very similar among boys and men in all but two of the 12 countries with data.

In addition to a large majority of people opposing the harmful practice where it is concentrated, there is evidence of growing momentum and commitment to end FGM.

In 2015, both Gambia and Nigeria adopted national legislation criminalising FGM.  More than 1,900 communities, covering an estimated population of 5 million people, in the 16 countries where data exist, made public declarations to abandon FGM.  The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015 include a target calling for the elimination of all harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage by 2030.  

UNICEF’s research also reveals a possible link between a mother’s education and the likelihood that her daughter will be cut.  Among the 28 countries with available data, around 1 in 5 daughters of women with no education have undergone FGM, compared to 1 in 9 daughters with mothers that have at least a secondary education.

At least 200 million girls and women alive today in 30 countries around the world have undergone FGM – a range of procedures that can cause extreme physical and psychological pain, prolonged bleeding, HIV, infertility and death.

“Data can play an important role in exposing the true opinions of communities on female genital mutilation,” said Moneti. “When individuals become aware that others do not support the practice it becomes easier for them to stop FGM. More work is needed with young people, men and women, entire communities and religious and political leaders, to highlight these findings, and the harmful effects of FGM, to further accelerate the movement to end the practice.”

UNICEF and UNFPA co-lead the largest global programme to encourage elimination of FGM. It currently supports efforts in 17 countries – working at every level, from national to communities.

Note to editors: Ethiopia specific information

In Ethiopia, despite a steady reduction in FGM/C nationally over the past decade, still 23 per cent (nearly one out of four) girls between the ages of 0 to 14 undergo this practice (Welfare Monitoring Survey (WMS) 2011). According to the same source, FGM/C is practiced across all regions in Ethiopia with varying degree with the prevalence in Amhara (47 per cent), Benshangul-Gumuz (24 per cent) and Tigray (22 per cent), Oromia (17 per cent) and Harari (14 per cent). The regions with the highest prevalence rate are Somali (70 per cent) and Afar (60 per cent). The impact of FGM/C in these two regions is severe as the two regions practice the worst form of FGM/C which involves total elimination of the external female genitalia and stitching, just leaving a small opening for urination. 

The Government of Ethiopia has taken strategic and programmatic measures to eliminate FGM/C. Some of the key actions include; endorsement of the National Strategy and Action Plan on Harmful Traditional Practices against Women and Children and communication strategy for social norm change and establishment of the National Alliance to End Child Marriage and FGM/C. Moreover, the Government has shown a ground-breaking commitment to end FGM/C and child marriage by the year 2025 at the London Girls’ Summit and reinforced by setting a target to reduce the practice to 0.5 per cent by 2020 in the Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP II). 

UNICEF is supporting the Government of Ethiopia in developing a roadmap which defines the long term strategic and programme interventions and the role of different actors, strengthening the National Alliance through supporting the establishment of functional secretariat, enriching the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) module to include better data and organization of consensus building sessions with religious leaders in collaboration with UNFPA and other Alliance members.

UNICEF and UNFPA have been working hand in hand for many years in Ethiopia for the abandonment of FGM/C. One of the exemplary programs that can be sited is the joint programme on accelerating the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Afar Region. The program has a social mobilization component which includes; training of community dialogue facilitators, facilitated community dialogue, working with religious and clan leaders, youth dialogue targeting in and out of school girls and a care component which involves tracking cases of complications with linkage to health facilities. Also, improving enforcement of the law through increasing legal literacy, strengthening special units in the law enforcement bodies for better reporting and management of cases. The programme has recorded pronounced success in facilitating declaration of abandonment of the practice in 6 districts in Afar Region, and eventually expanding to other districts in Afar and other regions.

 

Return, recovery and reunification of the abducted children in Gambella

By Wossen Mulatu

Nyatayin Both, 25, Kuanyluaalthoan kebele, Lare woreda, Gambella Region.
25-year-old Nyatayin with her one year old daughter Nyakoch Gatdet at a temporary shelter for returned children in Gambella. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

GAMBELLA, Ethiopia, 25 May 2016 – When the attack on the village came, 25-year-old Nyatayin Both held tightly to two of her children, but the raiders still managed to kidnap the two others amidst the panic and commotion.

“I wish I’d had four hands to hold them and save all of my four children,” she recalled, describing the horrific day in mid-April in Ethiopia’s Gambella region when she lost her 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.

In a raid of unprecedented scale, some 200 people were killed and 146 children were taken by raiders from neighboring South Sudan, widely described as Murle tribesmen. The Ethiopian military and the local Gambella Government have been negotiating for their slow release ever since.

For Nyatayin, it meant a miracle to see the return of her 9-year-old daughter Nyamuoch.

“At first it was just rumors that some of the children had returned, but later we were told by local officials to come and identify our children,” she said. “I was hoping to see mine, when I spotted my daughter among the many children standing in a circle, I was thrilled and praised the Lord and thanked the government for taking action.”

It was a joy tempered by the fact that her other son was still out there and of course the death of so many relatives that day, including her husband. So far 91 children have been recovered.

UNICEF is working closely with the Government of Ethiopia and partners on a response plan which includes reintegration, psychological support, basic health care and nutrition services as well as providing tents and clothing for each child.

Currently, the children are being cared for at a two-storey guest house of the Gambella Regional Government, where Sarah Nyauony Deng is supervising their care.

“When they arrive here, most of them were so silent and isolated themselves, but after some time, they start to socialize with others, play together and become cheerful,” she said. “Most of them also have injuries on their legs from the long walks.”

Nyamuoch Gatdet, 9 years, 1st grade student, Kuanyluaalthoan kebele, Lare woreda, Gambella region.
Nyamuoch Gatdet, 9 years, was one of the 146 children who were abducted from their communities in the Gambella Region ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

Flashbacks from the forest
Nyamuoch recalls that terrible day she was taken from her village that began at dawn with the sound of shots.

“I was still asleep and suddenly I heard gunfire and ran out of the house. I was filled with fear and anxiety,” she said. “I started running along with many other children and adults but they caught most of us and took us to a forest. Where I was, most of the abducted children were strangers except a boy I recognized from my village.”

Nyamuoch said they were constantly talking to them but none of the children understood a word. “I think they were trying to teach us their language,” she said. “I am so happy to be back to my family. My mother and I cried for a long time with happiness and now she is with me again, I am not scared anymore.”

Reintegration

Working with the president’s office and the Bureau of Women and Children Affairs, UNICEF has drawn upon a detailed action plan for child protection, including identification, documentation, psycho-social first aid and family assessments to facilitate appropriate rehabilitation services during reunification of the children.

Children in Gambella at the Presidential Guest House
Children in Gambella Presidential Guest House after their recovery from abduction ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Tesfaye

“Currently, we are doing a needs assessment to mobilize resources for the abducted children and their families. Some of the children have lost one or both parents, some their cattle and some their huts as it was burned by the Murle,” said Ocher Ocher Obang of the Bureau of Women and Children’s Affairs in Gambella.

In addition, many in the affected communities are afraid to return to their remote villages for fear of renewed attacks by the Murle.

With the return of the rains, the displaced families need land to till, shelter to live in, as well as additional clothing and health care.

As the Ethiopian and South Sudanese governments strengthen their efforts to recover the remaining abducted children, UNICEF calls for the children’s swift and unconditional return to their families.

“I thought they would lock us in the forest forever,” said Nyamuoch. “When I grow up, I only want to do good things for humanity by becoming a teacher or a doctor – I will never forget this incident.”

 

Children do not start wars… We know that

By Sacha Westerbeek

The theme for this year’s Day of the African Child – Conflict & Crisis: Protecting Children’s Rights – is a pertinent one.

Visit to UNICEF supported Itang Special Woreda (District)
South Sudan refugee children play at a child – friendly space at Tierkidi camp in Gambela region of Ethiopia 9 June 2016 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

Conflict, fragility and insecurity are among the most significant development challenges of our time. Globally, more than 230 million children live in places fraught with conflict, fragility and instability.

UNICEF estimates that nearly 90 million children under the age of 7 have spent their entire lives in conflict zones. Children living in conflict are often exposed to extreme trauma, putting them at risk of living in a state of toxic stress, a condition that inhibits brain cell connections – with significant life-long consequences to their cognitive, social and physical development. In addition to the immediate physical threats that children in crises face, they are also at risk of deep-rooted emotional scars.

Conflict robs children of their safety, family and friends, play and routine. Yet these are all elements of childhood that give children the best possible chance of developing fully and learning effectively, enabling them to contribute to their economies and societies, and building strong and safe communities when they reach adulthood.

As in all humanitarian crises, children continue to bear the brunt of the impact. It is estimated that three out of 10 African children are living in conflict-affected areas.

Children do not start wars…. We know that. –  Yet they are most vulnerable to their deadly effects. Armed conflict kills and maims children, disrupts their education, denies them access to essential health services, increases poverty, malnutrition and disease. Conflict can also separate children from their parents, or force them to flee their homes, witness atrocities or even perpetrate war crimes themselves.

Children are always among the first affected by conflict, whether directly or indirectly. Armed conflict affects their lives in many ways, and even if they are not killed or injured, they can be orphaned, abducted, raped and left with deep emotional scars and trauma from direct exposure to violence or from dislocation, poverty, or the loss of loved ones.

In addition to conflicts, Africa faces a huge burden of natural disasters and disease outbreaks – like Ebola, which have an equally heavy impact on children’s lives. Climate change is increasingly recognised as one of the biggest threats to children globally and in Africa. For example, the El Nino weather phenomenon, felt strongly here in Ethiopia, is exacerbating flooding and droughts, and worsening food crises across the Continent.

Last year, UNICEF responded to 141 humanitarian situations of varying scale in sub-Saharan Africa. We are working with governments, partners and communities to ensure that children’s rights are protected even in the most difficult of situations.

UNICEF is also continuing to invest in disaster-risk reduction, early preparedness and efforts to strengthen the resilience of children and their communities so that the impact of any future crises can be reduced.

But of course, what we ultimately need is greater political will to end conflicts in Africa and to ensure that children’s rights are protected even during times of humanitarian crises.

In preparation for this year’s Day of the African Child, UNICEF used an innovative messaging tool called U-Report to ask children if they think their leaders are doing enough to end conflicts and crises in Africa. The top message was that children don’t think that their leaders were doing enough. We also surveyed the children who participated in the pre-session and They came up with some very smart suggestions on what political leaders – including the Chairperson of the African Union – can do to stop conflict and crises in Africa.

Today’s commemoration of the Day of the African Child is a critical step in galvanising political support for the protection of children’s rights during conflicts and crises, and for holding state and non-state actors accountable when rights are violated.

So we must listen carefully to what the children today tell us. About how conflicts and crises are affecting their lives and what needs to be done to ensure their rights are fully realised. We know they have the answers. It is then our duty to share these messages with the people in power and push for action to be taken.

Day of the African Child is celebrated at Jewi Refugee camp – Gambella, Ethiopia By the African Union, Government of Ethiopia, UN and NGO’s in the presence of refugee children and their families

African youth to African leaders: “You must do more to end conflicts in Africa”

Nyabon Guin (female) 3 years, Bilikum Kebele, Lare Woreda Gambella
Nyabon Guin, 3 is happy that she is back and reunified with her family in Gambella, Ethiopia after being abducted by armed men from the neighbouring South Sudan © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

GAMBELLA, Ethiopia/ DAKAR, Senegal/NAIROBI, Kenya, 16 June 2016 – African leaders are not doing enough to stop conflicts in Africa, said two-thirds of the nearly 86,000 youth surveyed in a recent mobile-based poll conducted in nine African countries.

Using a messaging tool called U-Report, the short survey was sent to 1.4 million mobile users in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Central African Republic, Senegal, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Guinea, from 18 May to 1 June 2016.

The U-Report users surveyed, who are typically between 15 and 30 years of age, were asked to provide their opinion on conflicts and crises in Africa through short multiple choice questions on their mobile phones.

The findings of the survey will be shared with African leaders on the Day of the African Child, which is marked every year on 16 June by the African Union.

“It is so crucial, and even urgent for the leaders to heed the voices of the youth, if we must silence the guns by 2020, as set in our Agenda 2063. This is flagship project to which the youth must also recognize their role and take their responsibility,” said the African Union Commission Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Key findings:

  • Asked whether African leaders are doing enough to stop conflicts and crises in Africa, two out of three respondents (70 per cent) believe that African leaders are not doing enough.
  • When asked why Africa is more prone to conflict than other regions, 56 per cent of respondents believe that ‘politicians fighting for power’ is the main reason while 19 per cent said ‘inequality’, 17 per cent said ‘poverty’ and 4 per cent said ‘access to food and water’.
  • What can leaders do to stop conflicts? Nearly a quarter of respondents (24 per cent) said a ‘strong economy’ while 20 per cent believe African countries needs to be more independent in their ‘foreign policy’, 19 per cent said investing in ‘good education’, 14 per cent said ‘talk to each other’, 10 per cent said ‘talk to other country’ and 9 per cent said ‘security’.

Humanitarian crises in Africa continue to spill over borders in recent years, with children and families increasingly on the move. More than 1.2 million people face insecurity in the Central African Republic due to a complex humanitarian and protection crisis that has spread to neighbouring countries.

Nearly 1.3 million children have been displaced by violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency across Cameroon, Chad, the Niger and Nigeria.

Two years into the conflict in South Sudan, nearly 2.4 million people have fled their homes, including 721,000 living as refugees. Burundi is facing a protection crisis that has driven some 265,000 people to flee across borders.

“The lives of millions of children and their families are disrupted, upended or destroyed by conflict every year in Africa,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “This survey speaks to every child’s right to be heard and gives African youth an opportunity to express their hopes for the future of their continent.”

U-Report is a social messaging tool available in 23 countries, including 15 African countries, allowing users to respond to polls, report issues and work as positive agents of change on behalf of people in their country. Once someone has joined U-Report, polls and alerts are sent via Direct Message and real-time responses are collected and mapped on a website, where results and ideas are shared back with the community.

For more information on U-Report: https://ureport.in/