A child’s example demonstrates the need for integrating educational services for refugees and host communities in western Ethiopia.

By Amanda Westfall

On 21 December 2017, eight-year-old Ethiopian Sefadin Yisak speaks about his friend on the hill, Adam, a nine-year-old, South Sudanese refugee boy. When boundaries, legal restrictions and cultural differences can divide communities, it is the children who remind us of the great importance of social integration.

Children truly know no borders. To Sefadin Yisak, an Ethiopian student at Tsore Arumela Ethiopian Primary School, Adam, a South Sudanese refugee who attends primary school within the neighbouring refugee settlement, is just his good friend. Sefadin doesn’t see the differences in history, culture or in the quality of educational services. He only sees the South Sudanese refugee boy as his good friend that he met at the river over the summer. They meet and play in the water with other neighbourhood kids when they don’t have school or other chores to do.

“To Sefadin, Adam (a South Sudanese refugee) is just his good friend. He doesn’t see the differences in history, culture or educational services.”

But from an adult’s perspective, it is evident that educational services have not been equal between refugees and their host-Ethiopian communities. With the host primary school only a 15-minute walk from the refugee settlement, one can truly notice the differences.

In addition to their struggle to survive and flee from conflict, the South Sudanese refugees experience lack of quality education due to unskilled teachers, overcrowded class sizes and exclusion from the national educational system and the services it provides. On the other hand, some refugee settlements have in some cases benefited from other services, including better-constructed classrooms, play equipment and materials for teaching, while the host communities often experience a lack of funding to improve classroom infrastructure and educational materials.

Thus, these inequalities in educational provisions can create social barriers that could potentially build unnecessary tension between communities. In reality, there are more similarities between the communities than differences, such as language, food, family customs, and a passion for education.

When South Sudanese people residing in Ethiopia for multiple years (some over 20 years, some less than one year), and children from both communities – like Sefadin and Adam – show us the importance of integration, it is crucial to support this clear demand.

Sefadin says that his favourite school subject is mathematics because his 2nd grade teacher, Ahmed Mustefa, is very helpful. Ahmed explains the importance of integration with the refugee communities. He noted that the communities never lived in conflict, but that the lack of integrated services has limited the amount of authentic social interaction with the refugee community who live just a short walk away. He adds, “We are all human beings and when we live together it is better for socialization.”

“We are all human beings and when we live together it is better for socialization”

Education for Refugee and Host Community Children Benishangu-Gumuz, Ethiopia
Children at Sefadin’s host-community primary school play on equipment provided with the support of UNICEF. The refugee settlement is visible in the top left corner, where schools also enjoy the same play equipment provided with UNICEF’s support. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Martha Tadesse

Institutions recognize the need

Institutions have started recognizing the need, and in response have begun providing services that support integration. With the support of the United States Government (US-BPRM), UNICEF has been working with partners – the Ministry of Education, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, UNHCR, and Save the Children – to bring equitable and efficient educational services that spark social cohesion for both communities.

Refugee and Ethiopian teachers join the same training programme

Ahmed’s teacher training programme is a prime example.  In his region of Benishangul-Gumuz, 149 refugee teachers and 225 host-community teachers have all taken part in the new UNICEF-developed teacher training flagship programme, Assessment for Learning. This new approach shows teachers how to implement continuous assessment techniques to better understand the learning gaps of children and respond accordingly.

It is the first of its kind – where refugee and national teachers learn the same skills at the same time. Ahmed and other teachers from both communities stayed in the same dorms for the 10-day course, learned from each other, and now feel more part of each other’s communities. Before this training, refugee and national teachers never interacted professionally. They were trained with different programmes, and in most cases, it was the refugee teachers who missed out on professional development and teacher enhancement opportunities. Now, with more equality in refugee and host-community teachers’ knowledge and skills, Ethiopian students, like Sefadin, and refugee students, like Adam, both benefit from teachers who were trained in the same teacher training programme.

Integration through sport and play

What’s most exciting about the integrated response is the development of sport and play activities. Both communities now enjoy new play equipment and learning and play materials such as balls, toys, puzzles, counting blocks, and others. Teachers are trained on the “Connect, Reflect, Apply” approach, to develop useful life skills in children. Both Sefadin and Adam now have new equipment to play and are learning the same life skills, in addition to enjoying the benefits of new solar-powered TV’s that display educational programmes.

More efforts are necessary for sustained integration

Education for Refugee and Host Community Children Benishangu-Gumuz, Ethiopia
Sefadin and his 2nd Grade teacher, Mr. Ahmed Mustefa © UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Martha Tadesse

While some refugee settlements in Ethiopia have experienced integration, in terms of students attending the same school, teacher training integration, or social cohesion through extra-curricular activities, many communities still lack support for equitable integration.

Communities have started to integrate, whether it be working for each other during harvesting season, inter-marriage, or making friendships while playing in the river. Even Sefadin’s family is now supporting Adam’s family with food provisions, like sorghum, maize and mango.

It is time to truly respond to the needs on the ground. Ahmed insisted that “we need more programmes like these for integration,” as he reflected on his new friendships he developed with refugee teachers from the training programme.  And young Sefadin adds that it would be “cool if Adam were in my class.”

When boundaries, cultural differences, and varying educational services can divide communities, it is the children – like Ethiopian Sefadin and South Sudanese Adam – who remind us of the great importance of social integration.

UNICEF continues to work with partners to implement programmes that spark integration of refugees and host communities in all five refugee-hosting regions of Ethiopia so that cross-cultural friendships, like that of Sefadin and Adam, can be supported with an equality in educational services.

The Government of Sweden grants US$ 2.5 million to UNICEF for emergency response

The Government of Sweden provides another US$2.5 million to UNICEF Ethiopia to support Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), health and nutrition programmes in the drought affected regions of Afar, Oromia Somali and Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s regions.


In Ethiopia, where 8.5 million people are currently in need of relief food assistance due to the recurrent drought emergency, 376,000 children are estimated to require treatment for severe acute malnutrition, 10.5 million people require access to safe drinking water and sanitation services and 1.9 million school-aged children need emergency school feeding and learning material assistance.

The contribution provided by the Government of Sweden will be used to construct and rehabilitate water supply schemes, procure Emergency Drug and Case Treatment Centre kits as well as obtain Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) supplies including ready to use therapeutic food (RUTF), tents and Stabilization Centre materials in the four regions highly affected by the drought emergency.

UNICEF is grateful to the Government of Sweden for its continued support for providing life-saving interventions during the current humanitarian situation which continues to affect mostly women and children.

In 2017, the Government of Sweden has contributed more than US$5 million to UNICEF-assisted humanitarian programmes in Ethiopia.

Sweden Signs an Agreement with UNICEF to Build an Integrated Safety Net System for the Most Vulnerable Women and Children in Ethiopia

The Government avails US$ 9.2 million contribution to implement the programme in five years

12 October 2017, ADDIS ABABA – The Government of Sweden provided US$9.2 million to UNICEF Ethiopia to support a national integrated safety net system for the most vulnerable women and children in both rural and urban parts of the country. The initial phase will provide direct cash support to 1,000 households in Amhara region and 1,000 households in Addis Ababa with the objective to scale up innovations for the 8 million Rural Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) beneficiaries and the envisaged 4.7 million urban poor who are going to benefit from the Urban PSNP. The programme will be implemented from 2017 to 2022.

The objective of this programme is to implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures which ensure increased access to a comprehensive package of social protection interventions and services to poor and vulnerable citizens coping with social and economic risks, vulnerabilities and deprivations. It also aims to strengthen the Government’s capacity to develop, implement, coordinate and monitor a national, child-sensitive social protection system in the country.

At the signing ceremony, H.E Mr Torbjörn Petterson, Ambassador of Sweden to Ethiopia said, “In spite of existing challenges, it is impressive to see strong government commitment, financially as well as technically, to support the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP). Partnering with UNICEF in this particular endeavour, gives us leverage in terms of significant experience with previously supported pilot programmes which helped inform the design of PSNP 4.”

The first joint pilot project supported by UNICEF in Tigray, which MoLSA implemented between 2012-2015 together with the Tigray Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs (BoLSA), was guided by a rigorous evidence generation plan and demonstrated the role of community care structures and social workers. As a result, community care structures and social workers have since become crucial components of the national social protection system – a major milestone towards establishing a countrywide social welfare workforce.

Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia and Mr Torbjörn Petterson, Ambassador of Sweden to Ethiopia signing the grant agreement. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Demissew Bizuwerk

“This timely contribution from SIDA will allow us to build on the rich experience of these successful pilot interventions. We are also expanding existing multi-sectoral linkages and will explore synergies between different public social protection measures, for example between PSNP and Community Based Health Insurance,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “We embrace this partnership with great enthusiasm since the outcome of the programme will extend beyond the pilot regions and further assist the Government of Ethiopia and UNICEF to develop a nationwide social protection system that is child sensitive and which prioritizes the most vulnerable and marginalized.”

Despite Ethiopia’s significant economic growth over the past decades, 32 per cent of Ethiopian children still live in poverty. Building an integrated and child sensitive social protection system, which focuses on those left behind, is a critical element in ensuring more inclusive development to the benefit of all children.

With the provision of access to an integrated social protection system in urban and rural areas, the programme aims to contribute to long-term poverty alleviation. In addition, the programme is expected to have a significant impact on the nutrition, health and education-related status of the target groups with a focus on adolescent girls. Furthermore, the proposed interventions will provide solid evidence to enable relevant government authorities to implement efficient and effective integrated social protection measures which will inform annual reviews of the social protection sector and future phases of national programmes such as the PSNP and the Urban PSNP.


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


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.



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.

Sustainable WASH interventions
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.

Sustainable WASH interventions - Oromia
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.

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.

Joint UNICEF and WFP OpED on humanitarian situation in Ethiopia

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Omar Abdi & World Food Programme Deputy Executive Director, Ramiro Armando De Oliveira Lopes Da Silva

Wednesday 17 May 2017, Nairobi

This past week we have met countless women and children in the Somali region of Ethiopia who have made astonishing efforts to combat the debilitating drought that is afflicting the area. We saw families displaying incredible strength and resourcefulness.

What we didn’t see was a humanitarian catastrophe like the ones that happened in generations past, because the progress made by these families mirrors that made by Ethiopia in response to food insecurity and drought over the last two decades. Ethiopia now has both the determination and the ability to help its people cope better with a disaster.

And yet as we saw firsthand, Ethiopia’s much celebrated development progress could be at risk in the wake of these successive droughts.

Over the last 20 years, the Government of Ethiopia and the international community joined efforts to improve conditions for millions and millions of Ethiopians. Today a concerted and urgent response is required if these families are to avoid a humanitarian crisis, a quarter of a century later.

In 2016, Ethiopia’s highlands were battered by drought amid the worst El Nino in generations, but managed to avoid a major catastrophe through a well-coordinated response, led by the Ethiopian Government with support from the international community. The country had only begun to recover when a new drought struck the country’s lowlands.  The Somali region, which lies in the east of Ethiopia, has been the hardest hit by the effects of these recurrent droughts, with over 30 per cent of the region’s population now requiring food assistance.

The current rainy season in the lowlands appears to be failing as well.  As a result, food insecurity throughout Ethiopia is forecast to rise sharply from the current 7.8 million people in the next few months. An estimated 303,000 children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition – the type that makes a child nine times more likely to die of diseases including acute water diarrhea and measles. An estimated 2.7 million children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers will be diagnosed with moderate acute malnutrition in drought areas; without urgent action, the condition of many of those children could deteriorate into severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition that is harder and more expensive to treat.  It is likely that needs will further increase in the coming months, compounding the current problems.

Sehan Smail brought her child, Saedia Alilahi, 2 to the warder district, Somali region OTP for check up. © UNICEF Ethiopia /2017/Martha Tadesse

UNICEF and WFP are committed to supporting the many people we met this week with a well-coordinated response. WFP has mounted a food and nutrition response of significant magnitude and, in partnership with the government, is currently supporting 6.4 million people out of the 7.8 million in need with emergency food assistance.  The remaining 1.4 million people are receiving support from the Joint Emergency Operation (JEOP) – an NGO consortium.  Moreover, WFP is also providing nutrition support to 1.3 million mothers and young children suffering from moderate acute malnutrition.  WFP is also taking the lead in the provision of logistical support to government, UN and international NGO partners which is central to the response.

Across Ethiopia, UNICEF with partners has reached close to seven million people in the first quarter of 2017, with an emphasis on providing safe water and emergency nutrition support. Critically, government with support from UNICEF have just completed a national measles campaign targeting more than 22 million children across the country. And UNICEF is extending its education and child protection interventions that will reach hundreds of thousands of children, focusing on the provision of temporary learning and play spaces, working with communities to prevent and respond to family separation, at-risk migration, child marriage, and gender-based violence.

However, needs far outstrip available resources. Acute funding shortages are hampering our collective ability to act at scale. The international community and the Government of Ethiopia must increase funding urgently or the humanitarian success story of 2016 might be overshadowed just one year later by a story of acute crisis.

UNICEF requires $93.1 million to meet the drought-related needs of children and their families across the country in 2017, in terms of Nutrition, WASH, Health, Child Protection and Education in Emergencies.   WFP currently has only enough food to last through June, and requires a further $430 million to meet the current emergency food and nutrition needs to the end of the year – and both WFP and UNICEF will require additional resources if the needs rise in the next few months as predicted.

Between 2000 and 2016, mortality rates among children under age 5 were cut by a remarkable 40 per cent in Ethiopia, and stunting rates were reduced dramatically from 58 per cent to 38 per cent. It is crucial that the gains made during the last 20 years are not reversed by the current drought.