Girls’ Club Rescues Girls from Child Marriage in Rural Ethiopia

By Martha Tadesse

ZIGEM WOREDA, AMHARA REGION, 06 OCTOBER 2017 – “I went to the police station when my parents told me that I am getting married,” says Mestawet Mekuria,14, a 7th grader in Ayti Primary School, Amhara region, northern Ethiopia. She is also among 20 girl students who have been rescued from getting married in the school.

“I had learned about child marriage and its consequences in our school’s girls’ club. I told my parents that I do not want to get married. But they refused, and that is when I ran to the police station.”

Mestawet went to the police assuming that her parents will only be warned seriously. But it was much more than that. Her parents were arrested and imprisoned for two weeks for violating the law.

“I was sad when they were arrested but they refused to listen to me.”

International Day of the Girl Child 2017- Child Marriage
Mestawet Mekurya, 14, 7th grade student at Ayti Primary School, Zigem, Amhara region. © UNICEF Ethiopia /2017/Tadesse

Child marriage, a formal marriage or informal union before age 18, is prevalent across all regions of Ethiopia. According to the 2011 Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey (EDHS), Amhara region has the second highest rate of child marriage, 56 per cent, next to Benishangul-Gumuz region which has 58.

Although, Mestawet’s parents were angry for what happened to them, later they made peace with her through a mediation which was led by village elders. “My parents now understand about child marriage and its consequences. They are no longer angry with me,” says Mestawet.

Child marriage often perpetuates an intergenerational cycle of poverty. When girls get married at early age, their prospects for a healthy and successful life will be at stake. Evidence shows that girls who marry early are less likely to finish school and more likely to be victims of domestic violence and abuse. In addition, young teenage girls are more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s.

Girls’ clubs making a big impact

Strengthening girls’ club as part of the accelerated effort to end child marriage in  Zigem woreda, Amhara region was initiated in 2015 by the Bureau of Women and Children Affairs (BoWCA) through support from UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage.

The ending child marriage programme focuses on enhancing the capacity of girls through providing life skill training, information about their rights and available services as well as enhancing the responsiveness of schools and legal services. It also targets families and communities to change their attitude towards ending the practice and show support to alternative life options for girls such as their education.

International Day of the Girl Child 2017- Child Marriage
“Because we have been part of the girls club, we have rescued a girl from marrying this man her family knew” (Left to right) Mekdes Degnew, Ayehush Abera and Tigist Seyoum, 14 © UNICEF Ethiopia /2017/Tadesse

Girls’ clubs are established with the aim of preventing and mitigating school based and community based barriers to girls’ education. The clubs are making a difference in reducing child marriage by empowering girls through life skills trainings. The clubs particularly focus on engaging girls between 5th-8th grades as these represent the age group most commonly affected by child marriage.

According to Abebe Adamu, one of the trainers from Bureau of Women and Children Affairs, 106 girls were rescued from getting married in 2016 and 55 girls last year. “The community is currently aware that child marriage is harmful,” he says. “Students are also more aware of their rights to reject any marriage proposal coming to them against their will.”

Wubayehu Tilahun, girls’ club coordinator and a teacher at Ayti Primary School is pleased with the girls’ club performance. “Seeing my students continue their education gives me a great pleasure. Here in Ayti, we have rescued 20 girls from marriage in the past two years, and we will continue to be fighting against this harmful practice.”

Even though girls’ clubs are currently promoting change in schools where they are active, there are still many challenges.  “Budget constraints hinders the effort to expand the exemplary role that the clubs are making in schools and communities,” says Abebe. “We have many primary schools that do not have such a functional structure like Ayti and we need more support,” he added.

Nationally, the Government of Ethiopia has made a commitment to end child marriage by 2025 through enhanced coordination, budget allocation, accountability mechanism and availability of data. The establishment of a National Alliance to End Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is another significant stride in the effort to end child marriage as it has been key in coordinating interventions.

UNICEF supports the Government’s effort by strengthening the coordination mechanisms at different levels. Additionally, UNICEF is supporting the implementation of a multi-sectoral programmes in six regions: Amhara, Afar, Somali, Oromia, Gambella and Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples region. The programme includes social mobilization to change attitudes and strengthen collective community action to end the practice. It also focuses on improving enforcement of the existing legal frameworks.

To further strengthen and accelerate efforts to end child marriage and other harmful traditional practices and to bring about the necessary societal shifts in communities, UNICEF has also established strategic partnership with major faith based and civil society organizations.

“Child marriage is a harmful practice, and I want girls to continue with their education like me,” says Mestawet. “I have seen my classmates quit school because they are married. I always tell my friends in my village about child marriage, and I will continue to do so to others”.

Mestawet wants to become either a doctor or a teacher. It might be years before she realizes her dreams but in the meantime, she keeps protecting girls in her village, including her own younger sister, from getting married early.

Researchers in Action for African children

Researchers from around the continent are gathered this week in Addis Ababa to Put Children First!

In Africa, two billion babies will be born between today and 2050, translating into more than 60 million new lives every year. By 2055, the continent of Africa will be home to 1 billion children, nearly 40 per cent of the number of children worldwide.  Therefore, as noted in the conference by UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Ms Leila Pakkala, nowhere in the world are children more central to a continent’s future than in Africa and “children must be put first”.

Putting Children First: Identifying Solutions and Taking Action to Tackle Child Poverty and  Inequality in Africa
Policy makers, practitioners and researchers discussing better ways in identifying solutions for fighting child poverty and inequality in Africa. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Meklit Mersha

The international conference with the theme: Putting Children First-Identifying Solutions and Taking Action to Tackle Child Poverty and Inequality in Africa has been promoted by the End Child Poverty Global Coalition and organized at national level by the Ethiopian Centre for Child Research (ECCR) with UNICEF Ethiopia’s support. The Centre is currently establishing partnerships and research collaborations with potential researchers and research institutes nationally and globally.

At the conference, the Ethiopian Minister of Women and Children’s affairs stated, “Because of the Government and its development partners’ efforts, national poverty rates have seen a significant reduction over the past decade in Ethiopia, decreasing from 39 per cent in 2003 to 29 per cent in 2011. However, the decrease in poverty over the past few years has not matched the rate of economic growth, suggesting that economic growth has partly failed to benefit the most vulnerable sectors of society. Women and children are one of the least benefited and vulnerable sections in the society”.

ECCR will share an analysis on the dynamics of multi-dimensional poverty among children in Ethiopia which was also jointly presented with UNICEF Ethiopia at the Child Poverty Conference for MENA in Rabat and at the 6th International Society for Child Indicators in Canada.

Using an adaptation of the Multiple Overlapping Deprivations Approach, it has been showed that share of children who are deprived in two or more poverty dimensions, such as lack of appropriate or access to health and education services or poor quality of housing declined from 82 per cent to 35 per cent between 2002 and 2013. In the meantime, the percentage of children non-deprived increased from 18 per cent in 2002 to 65 per cent in 2013.

For researchers and other professionals in various fields, children should be the top-most priority as we all look for pathways to unlock poverty and inequality in the continent. The ongoing conference would be a great opportunity for practitioners and policy makers from Africa to contribute to the overall debate on child poverty-towards contributing to address child poverty in all its dimensions while promoting evidence generation.

Funding shortfalls threaten education for children living in conflict and disaster zones

PRESS RELEASE 

UNICEF has received only 12 per cent of the funds it needs this year to send children affected by emergencies to school

ADDIS ABABA/HAMBURG, Germany/NEW YORK, 11 July 2017 – Funding shortfalls are threatening education for millions of children caught up in conflicts or disasters, UNICEF said today ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg.

Of the $932 million needed this year for its education programmes in emergency countries, UNICEF has so far received recorded voluntary contributions of less than $115 million. The funds are necessary to give 9.2 million children affected by humanitarian crises access to formal and non-formal basic education.

“Without education, children grow up without the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to the peace and the development of their countries and economies, aggravating an already desperate situation for millions of children,” said Muzoon Almellehan, UNICEF’s latest – and youngest – Goodwill Ambassador, speaking from Hamburg, Germany, where she is representing UNICEF at the G20 Summit. “For the millions of children growing up in war zones, the threats are even more daunting: Not going to school leaves children vulnerable to early marriage, child labour and recruitment by armed forces.”

Funding gaps for UNICEF education programmes in some of the world’s hot spots vary from 36 per cent in Iraq, to 64 per cent in Syria, 74 per cent in Yemen and 78 per cent in the Central African Republic.

Pursuing educational opportunities has been cited as one of the push factors leading families and children to flee their homes, often at great risk to their lives. A survey of refugee and migrant children in Italy revealed that 38 per cent of them headed to Europe to gain access to learning opportunities. A similar survey in Greece showed that one in three parents or caretakers said that seeking education for their children was the main reason they left their countries for Europe.

For children who have experienced the trauma of war and displacement, education can be life-saving. “When I fled Syria in 2013, I was terrified I would never be able to return to school. But when I arrived in Jordan and realized there was a school in the camp, I was relieved and hopeful,” said Muzoon. “School gives children like me a lifeline and the chance of a peaceful and positive future.”

As an education activist and Syrian refugee, Muzoon joins forces with UNICEF to speak out on behalf of the millions of children who have been uprooted by conflict and are missing out on school.

“I urge world leaders to invest in the futures of children living in emergencies — and by doing so invest in the future of our world,” Muzoon said.

Note to editors:

Information on Ethiopia:

In Ethiopia, the education system remains vulnerable to natural disasters and manmade emergencies despite the significant advancements in expanded access to general education for children and young people. The past two years of successive drought have forced many students to drop-out of school and have lessened the quality of education, with hundreds of schools closing and families, including students and teachers, moving in search of water. At the end of the 2016/17 academic year, over 200 primary schools remain closed.

UNICEF Ethiopia works closely with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education to ensure equity and access for all children to education in the country. Interventions include the planning and coordination of education emergency responses and supporting the Ministry of Education to ensure that assistance to schools across the most drought-affected regions is efficiently targeted. UNICEF also assists regional education bureaus with the provision of primary school teaching and learning materials, water and sanitation services to schools, as well as support to offset the additional costs schools are bearing to stay open during drought. Furthermore, communities hosting displaced families and their children have been provided with temporary learning facilities.

In 2017, an estimated 2.7 million children require support to continue their education, including nearly 100,000 internally displaced children. In addition, an estimated 369,038 refugee children require further support to enable access to educational facilities.

As of early July, the funding gap for the education sector’s 2017 commitment remains at 57 per cent, with only US$5 million of the required US$11.6 million available to ensure children in emergency-affected areas stay in school.

#######

Key facts:

More than 25 million children between 6 and 15 years old, or 22 per cent of children in that age group, are missing out on school in conflict zones across 22 countries, according to a recent UNICEF analysis.

Across the globe, nearly 50 million children have been uprooted – 28 million of them driven from their homes by conflicts not of their making, and millions more migrating in the hope of finding a better, safer life. Refugee children and adolescents are five times more likely to be out of school than their non-refugee peers.

Lack of access to education is particularly high among children on the move, with half of the world’s child refugees not able to start or resume their learning.

In 2016, just 3.6 per cent of global humanitarian funding was spent on education. $8.5 billion is needed annually to close this gap. Available funds are often short-term and unpredictable, resulting in high levels of disruption for children and their education.

During the first World Humanitarian Summit held in May 2016, UNICEF and partners launched the Education Cannot Wait fund aimed at addressing the funding gap to 13.6 million children with educational support over five years, and 75 million children by 2030.

In 2016, a total of 11.7 million children in humanitarian situations were reached by UNICEF with educational support.

#######

 See the global press release here.

 

 

UNICEF Signs Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2010 Work Plans with Government

By Metasebia Solomon

ADDIS ABABA, 30 June 2017- UNICEF Ethiopia signed the Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2010 annual work plans with the Federal and Regional Government under the umbrella of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF 2016-2020).  The signing ceremony, held at the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance and Economic Commission’s office, was attended by Heads of United Nations agencies including UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF and the implementing Federal and Regional Government offices as signatories of the annual work plans.

Mr Admasu Nebebe, State Minister for Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation, speaking after signing the work plans, said “Implementation of the signed work plans will contribute to the achievement of Ethiopia’s current Growth and Transformation Plan [GTP II]. The results and activities are linked to the Government’s priorities at all levels.” UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Officer-in-Charge, Ms. Shalini Bahuguna, applauded the Government of Ethiopia’s leadership in implementing the annual work plans, saying “A recent review conducted by UNICEF’s global team has identified the annual work planning process of Ethiopia as a model for other country offices, demonstrating principle of alignment with government policy and ownership by stakeholders.”

 

UNICEF signs Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2010 Work Plans with government
Ato Admasu Nebebe, State Minister for Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation shakes hands with Ms Shalini Bahuguna, UNICEF representative to Ethiopia, O.i.C after signing the Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Work Plan. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Zerihun Sewunet

The work plans were prepared under the logic that the accomplishment of activities will contribute to the achievement of UNICEF’s and UNDAF’s intermediate and higher level results, which are in support of GTP II.  A consultative process was followed during the preparation of the work plans at the Regional and Federal level.  This year, UNICEF Ethiopia signed 143 work plans with more than 140 Regional and Federal Government implementing partners. The work plans cover fifteen programme areas including:

  • Health
  • Nutrition
  • Education
  • Early Warning and Disaster Preparedness
  • Water Supply
  • Sanitation and Hygiene
  • Child Friendly Social Welfare
  • Social Protection
  • Adolescents and HIV/AIDS
  • Violence against Children
  • Ending Child Marriage and FGM
  • Birth Registration
  • Justice for Children
  • Child Rights
  • Public Finance for Children
  • Evidence and Coordination

The total budget equals US$ 74,867,075.  Implementation of the work plans will start on the 1st of July 2017 and will close on the 30th of June 2018, following the Ethiopian Fiscal Year.

Reaching Pastoralist Families with Primary Education in Drought-affected Areas

By Rebecca Beauregard

DASENECH, SOUTHERN NATIONS, NATIONALITIES AND PEOPLE’S, 6 April 2017 – A primary school located in the midst of pastoralist territory is no simple feat. Mobility is the central theme of pastoralism, or livestock-rearing livelihoods and pastoralists make up nearly 20 per cent of Ethiopia’s 94.3 million population. In the deep south along the border with South Sudan and Kenya, agro-pastoralism is commonly practiced. They are semi-mobile as they tend to large herds of animals and grow crops. While historically, pastoralists are one of the most isolated and vulnerable groups, more and more are receiving the opportunity to attend school.

The Naikia Primary School offers grades 1 through 4 within the walls of the two-building, single-story school. It is located in the remote Dasenech woreda (district) in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s (SNNP) region. The school is a centrepiece amongst the four villages which comprise the Naikia kebele (sub-district) and serves 193 children from the 1,695 nearby residents.

Until 2005, there was no school in the kebele. The Government of Ethiopia began implementing pastoralist education strategies at that time and Naikia kebele was one of the locations where an Alternative Basic Education Centre (ABEC) was constructed, with support from UNICEF. The ABEC provided flexible, simplified lessons based on the national curriculum, designed specifically to extend the reach of education to pastoralist families.

The community readily accepted the change, and in 2009, the ABEC was upgraded to a primary school, designed to also support a distant ABEC further in the woreda. Over the years, UNICEF has provided teacher training, furniture and educational materials to the school.

Donors visit UNICEF interventions in South Omo
11-year-old Allegn Arsena eats his portion of haricot beans and cracked wheat with his friend, Kayo Siliye during school feeding time, which takes place just after morning classes. School feeding programmes are known to keep children in school, particularly during times of drought when food and water are scarce. The programme is implemented by the Government of Ethiopia with support from the World Food Programme. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/ Rebecca Beauregard

Allegn Arsena, 11 years old, is one of the fortunate students to have attended all four years and speaks Amharic well because of his education. I was curious upon first meeting him if he had ever had to drop out for some time, to look after animals or help his family. Upon asking him, he admitted, “Yes,” He paused before going on to tell me he had once been sick and missed an entire three days of school. Otherwise, he has been in attendance every day and even stays after class finishes to continue reading and studying. In fact, with little else to do, it seems most students and teachers and even community members stay around the school once classes are over, with the students carrying on their studies while others connect and talk. Conversation quickly turns to the current drought and how it is affecting everyone.

The South Omo zone is one of the few in SNNP region, along with parts of Oromia and Somali regions, which has been affected by recurring drought. After suffering through the weather phenomenon El Niño in 2015 and 2016, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) has caused failure of vital seasonal rains yet again. Dasanech is already underdeveloped and the IOD drought has intensified the dire situation.

“Sometimes I am late in the morning because there is no water available at the school and each of us has to fetch water to provide for the school feeding,” says one student. Her comment is amplified by resounding noise from the crowd of students, a motion I take to mean they have all experienced being tardy for the same reason.

Each student provides a share of water every day, the parents provide firewood and the school provides cracked wheat and haricot beans, supported by the World Food Programme. The essential school feeding has a solid track record for keeping kids in school, particularly in drought-stricken areas; one factor enabling students to learn.

Not every child in the neighbourhood has the opportunity to learn, however. Interestingly, there are more females than males in the school, and once past grade four, there are far fewer females than males going on to attend grade five. The reasons why are simple to explain, yet hard to fathom. Pastoralism requires people to watch the livestock and parents often have to pick which children may attend school and which must tend to the animals. Often it’s a one-time, consistent decision.

“I have two boys of similar age. When they reached school age, I had to select one to go on that path and the other to watch animals. It was a hard choice but I had to make it,” explains Nassiya Tabahai, a mother living in Naikia.

Donors visit UNICEF interventions in South Omo
Nassiya Tabahai, a mother from the Naikia community, speaks about the struggle she faced when having to pick which son could go to school and which had to stay behind with the family’s livestock. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/ Rebecca Beauregard

To continue education past grade four, students must attend another school in the woreda capital about 26 km away. For cultural and safety reasons, most families are not comfortable to send their young daughters to live outside of the family home.

Facing limitations in many respects, the resilient community is proud of their 193 students and notes the importance of education. “A man who is not educated fights but an educated man has power and resolves conflict without fighting,” An elder gathered at the school explains.

UNICEF is committed to support the Government of Ethiopia’s pastoralist education strategies and to support those communities most affected by drought. Together with the Government and international donors, the progress witnessed at Naikia can continue and be replicated and expanded across pastoralist territory. For every child.

Drought Emergency Highlights Entire Families Not Receiving Primary Education

By Rebecca Beauregard

DANOT, SOMALI, 15 February 2017 – “A woman never tells her age,” says Sadeh Abdihayii with a smile, affirming that this taboo is common around the world. She then admits to be 40 years old. We continue, asking her how many of her children are in school. With eight children ranging from nine months to 20 years old, none of them, including Sadeh, have been to school. Ever.

Sadeh had hoped one of them could go to school, but circumstances did not allow. “It seems sensible to learn, but we have not been able to,” says Sadeh.

40-year-old Sadeh Abdihayii laughs when asked about her age
Sadeh Abdihayii, 40-years-old, laughs about her age with her eight children gathered around her. Neither Sadeh nor her children have ever been to school. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Nahom Tesfaye

Living through drought

Sometimes Sadeh’s family lives in the vicinity of an organized village or town, such as now just outside Qorile kebele (sub-district), yet often they can be far away from any organized services including healthcare and schools. This is the life of a pastoralist family.

Sadeh’s family is one of the over 800 families that have temporarily settled in Danot woreda (district), in the eastern horned-tip part of Ethiopia. The Government of Ethiopia (GoE) has set up these temporary sites to provide life-saving medical and nutrition services, water and food during this drought period for one of the most vulnerable communities in the country, livestock-raising pastoralists.

Drought has hit these lowland areas across the Horn of Africa many times over the years, but Sadeh has never experienced one that devastated her livestock to this extent. Due to the negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), a weather phenomenon, the December rains failed, making it 12 months since many villages in the area have experienced rain.

It is understandable why school has not been possible for many of these children, whether considering the current food and water shortages, or the nomadic patterns of their  life. The regular school system does not fit into this lifestyle and it is a reality that is not often at the forefront of parents’ worries. With little or no safety net, pastoralist mothers and fathers are concerned with water, food and grazing land.

The GoE however, in partnership with UNICEF, has developed alternative methods to reach children, even those in remote areas.

Adapting education to the pastoralist context

With support from UNICEF, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has developed a pastoralist education strategy which is implemented across Somali and Afar, as well as some parts of Oromia and Southern Nations and Nationalities and Peoples’ (SNNP), regions where pastoralists are prominent.

The core intervention is a school equivalence programme, adapted for children ages 7 to 14, where students learn the equivalent of the first four grades of primary school before transitioning into formal schools. This Alternative Basic Education (ABE), is based on the national education system but has altered facets wherever necessary to make it feasible for the pastoralist context. Such alterations include low-cost construction of schools as well as flexible locations and schedules to accommodate children who herd their families’ animals or move in certain seasons.

While ABE is the most commonly implemented strategy for inclusion of pastoralist children, reaching 276,777 students over a period of six years, the GoE encourages families to enrol their children in formal schools whenever possible. UNICEF supports this initiative by identifying and addressing barriers to children joining school. Such interventions range from rehabiliting WASH facilities at schools to ensure proper toilets and water is available, to constructing temporary learning spaces or formal schooling in addition to providing exercise books for families who cannot afford the expense. Additionally, the GoE implements a school feeding programme to encourage school attendance, currently in 252 schools across Somali region.

More than ever, these crucial interventions are  needed now , particularly as hundreds of ABE schools across Somali region are currently closed due to drought conditions.

‘Maybe somehow one day’

Halimo Bandais, 20-year-old mother of a toddler is the eldest daughter of Sadeh.
Halimo Bandais, 20-year-old mother of a toddler, is the eldest daughter of Sadeh. She has never been to school. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Tesfaye

Families gathered near Qorile, such as Sadeh’s, are encouraged  to enrol their children in the Qorile primary school, which is within walking distance, even if it may only be for short term. While the drought situation is dire, there is now an opportunity for thousands of children to attend school while their families are receiving temporary assistance to keep their livelihoods afloat.

Sadeh’s eldest child, Halimo Bandais, comments, “I thought about school sometimes. But I have always been looking after the animals and we are moving here and there. How could I? But some of us will, perhaps my child.” Perhaps he will attend school one day. For now, hundreds of school-age children such as the girls neighbouring Sadeh’s tent, Feysa and Isthel, may be able to finally start their education while in the temporary settlement sites with adequate funding.

UNICEF is committed to the right of every child to receive an education. With contributions from international donors, the GoE, along with UNICEF and other education partners can expand programmes such as ABE or temporary learning spaces to ensure children such as those temporarily settled in Qorile, have an opportunity to access education.

Borehole Rehabilitation Contributes to Children’s Education and Futures

By Ayuko Matsuhashi

MIESSO, SOMALI, 15 January 2017 – “When the borehole was broken for a year and a half, I used to go to the nearby river for water, which is 12 km away from here. I have five children but I only managed to get one or two jerry cans of water for my family. I was not able to clean or bathe my children regularly at that time. That was difficult,” says Fathiya Ali Aadan, a 32-year-old mother of five living in Miesso town.

 

Harshim Town Fafan Zone Somali region
Fathiya Ali Aadan, 32 year-old, enjoys an household water connection which comes from the rehabilitated borehole in her premise ©UNICEF/2017/Tsegaye

Miesso is a small, remote town in the same-named woreda (district) located about 150 km west of the administrative city, Dire Dawa. Out of five non-functional water supply systems in Miesso woreda, one borehole was rehabilitated in the town by the Regional Water Bureau (RWB) in December 2016 with assistance from UNICEF, from the generous support of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). The emergency water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) intervention benefits 3,500 households in the town as well as the school and health centre.

 

The Miesso woreda administration office reports that there are currently 86 non-functional boreholes in the woreda, a key intervention necessary to improve the water situation, which is only one part of the challenges facing families in the region. Since most of the region is prone to drought and pastoralist livelihoods critically depend on water, non-functionality of water schemes requires immediate response to save lives of people and their livestock. It also affects children’s opportunity to learn.

At Mulli School, which includes grades one through twelve, a 14-year-old, grade eight student Ibrahim Mohamed explains, “Before, we had to return back home to get water when there was no water at school. It was a big interruption of class.” The impact of water scarcity also causes some schools to close, such as last year after the failure of deyr rains (October-December). Additionally, pastoralist families may move in search of water, thus taking children and even teachers away from school.

“Now we can drink water, keep our clothes clean, wash our hands after using the bathroom and most importantly for me, there is no longer need to go back home to get water during class. Girls need water for menstrual hygiene at school as well,” says Hayat Yusuf Adan, a 13-year-old, grade eight student.

Thanks to the rehabilitated borehole, Hayat’s school managed to remain open. While water supply at school tends to be neglected during emergency, it is clear that water availability contributes to retaining children in school. UNICEF is committed to support the Government of Ethiopia and implementing partners to improve the WASH situation for schools and families across Somali region to protect the futures of children and the livelihoods of their families.