Ethiopia celebrates UNICEF’s 70th Anniversary

By Gillian Mellsop

UNICEF’s 70th anniversary in Ethiopia was a moment to amplify children’s issues with partners and staff to reflect back on key results, accomplishments and challenges while re-affirming UNICEF’s commitment to continue being a leading advocate for every child.

At a ceremony, moderated by UNICEF’s National Ambassador, Hannah Godefa, Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs and State Minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation along with celebrities and children launched a photo exhibition that depicts UNICEF’s presence in the country since the early 1950s.

Marking the occasion, UNICEF Ethiopia staff released 70 blue balloons wishing for every child, everywhere, hope.

70 years of relentless work in the world’s toughest places to bring life-saving aid and long-term support to children whose lives and futures are endangered by conflict, crises, poverty, inequality and discrimination.

UNICEF was established in 1946 by the United Nations to safeguard the lives of children struggling to survive in the aftermath of World War II – and in doing so, to help rebuild destroyed societies and restore hope for a better future.

UNICEF was officially established in Ethiopia in 1952. However, UNICEF provided relief efforts to Ethiopians affected by war and drought as early as 1950.

UNICEF’s global 70th anniversary event, Radisson Blu Hotel, Addis Ababa
H.E Admasu Nebebe, State Minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation, Artist Tsedenia Gebremarkos, and Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia visit a photo exhibition during the commemoration of UNICEF’s 70th anniversary event in Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Tesfaye

Over the last six decades, UNICEF has established close relations with the Government, bilateral donors, development partners and civil society in Ethiopia. Together with its partners, UNICEF has supported children and women both within humanitarian response and preparedness contexts as well as through contributing to long-term development agendas, including strengthening national systems.

However, without courageous and committed people working to reach the most vulnerable children, and without government partners, donors, fearless advocates and supporters from around the world, we would never have achieved the immense progress for children which we have seen in recent decades.

With the collaboration and support of partners, the number of children dying before their fifth birthday has more than halved in the past 25 years. Hundreds of millions of children have been lifted out of poverty. Globally, out-of-school rates among primary-school-aged children have reduced by more than 40 per cent between 1990 and 2014.

Ethiopia’s progress for children is no less impressive. Together we:

  • achieved the reduction of under-five mortality by two thirds between 1990 and 2012 – meeting the target of Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4);
  • we met the MDG 7c by halving the number of people without access to safe water since 1990 – now 57 per cent of the population use safe drinking water;
  • reduced neonatal mortality from 37 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010 to 27 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014;
  • reduced the proportion of stunted children from 58 per cent in 2000 to 38 per cent in 2016;
  • more recently, we were able since mid-July 2015 to successfully respond to the El-Niño driven drought emergency, treating more than 480,000 children for malnutrition.

But, despite the impressive progress, many children are still being left behind. Globally, children are vulnerable because of their gender, race, religion, ethnic group or disability; because they live in poverty or in hard-to-reach communities; or simply because they are children. We must recommit ourselves to the goal of seeing all children treated fairly and living free from oppression.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly three-quarters – 393 million – of the children living in countries affected by emergencies, followed by the Middle East and North Africa where another 12 per cent of these children reside. In northeastern Nigeria, nearly 1.8 million people are displaced, almost 1 million of them are children. Next door, in South Sudan, 59 per cent of primary-aged children are out of school and 1 in 3 schools are closed in conflict-affected areas. In Ethiopia, this year alone, an estimated 420,000 children were expected to require treatment for severe acute malnutrition due to the El-Niño driven drought. These figures are stark reminders of why UNICEF was established, as the organization marks 70 years of work for the most vulnerable children.

From the ashes of war in the 1940s to the global migrant and refugee crisis today, and from providing relief assistance to drought-affected people to supporting the establishment of national systems such as birth registration, UNICEF has consistently protected and advocated for children at risk to make each child count.

Seventy years on, we are working harder than ever to give a fair chance for every child. We look ahead, with hope and determination, to a better future for all the world’s children.

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.

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

UN @70- UNICEF @63 in Ethiopia

UNICEF EPI Communication Specialist Shalini Rozario with a todler at the Polio NIDs campaign lainch in Jijiga
UNICEF was created in 1946, and began its operation in Ethiopia in 1952. UNICEF Ethiopia’s Country Office is located within the UN-Economic Commission for Africa compound in the capital city, Addis Ababa. The Country Office is supported by zonal offices present in Assosa, Bahirdar, Dollo Ado, Gambella, Gode, Hawassa, Jijjiga, Kabri Dahar, Mekelle, Oromia and Semera.UNICEF Ethiopia employs approximately 400 highly-qualified and experienced staff, both international and national professionals.

The purpose of UNICEF’s work is to support the realisation of the rights of every child, especially the most disadvantaged children – victims of war, disasters, extreme poverty, all forms of violence and exploitation. UNICEF is uniquely positioned to perform this role, given its comparative advantages. These include: an explicit mandate based on the widely ratified Convention on the Rights of the Child; proven capacity in multiple sectors; a strong field presence; and a mandate that embraces both long-term development and humanitarian response.

A key principle underpinning UNICEF’s work is equity, whereby all children have an opportunity to survive, develop and reach their full potential, without discrimination, bias or favouritism. A child growing up in Gambella Region, for example, should have the same opportunities to receive a quality education and access health and protection services as a child growing up in Addis Ababa.

There is increasing evidence that a focus on the most disadvantaged and excluded children, families and communities not only accelerates progress towards fulfilment of the rights of all children and reduces disparities but also brings about social and economic growth. In all of its work, UNICEF takes a life-cycle based approach to child development, which recognises key stages in a child’s life as it grows into adulthood, and designs and implements holistic and integrated approaches to health, education and social protection that are appropriate to each of the key life stages.

Important results to which UNICEF Ethiopia, in cooperation with other partners, has contributed include: achievement in reducing under-five mortality by two thirds between 1990 and 2012- the required reduction for meeting the target of Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4)-three years ahead of schedule; meeting MDG 7c by halving the number of people without access to safe water since 1990 – 57 per cent of the population now using safe drinking water; a reduction in neonatal mortality from 37 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010 to 27 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014;a reduction in the proportion of stunted children from 58 per cent in 2000 to 40 per cent in 2014; adoption of the National Social Protection Policy and a commitment by the Government of Ethiopia to end Harmful Traditional Practices by 2025 and establishment of Vital Events Registration structures at national level.

Through the Growth and Transformation plan of the Government of Ethiopia, UNICEF as part of the United Nations Country Team will contribute to four pillars of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF): a) the Resilient, Sustainable, and Green Economy, b) Basic Social Services, c) Governance, Participation and Capacity Development and d) Equality and Empowerment, with the goal of supporting the second Growth and Transformation Plan to progressively realize children’s rights within the framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international commitments.

UNICEF Appoints Thomas “Tommy T” Gobena as its National Ambassador to Ethiopia

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14 October, 2015, Addis Ababa: Today, UNICEF appointed Thomas Gobena (commonly known as Tommy T) as its National Ambassador to Ethiopia at a signing ceremony held in its premises. The ceremony was attended by Ms. Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge, UNICEF Ethiopia, members of the media and UNICEF staff. A U.S. Citizen with Ethiopian descent, Tommy moved to Washington D.C. at the age of sixteen, and is a bassist for Gogol Bordello- a Gypsy punk band – since 2006. Tommy T. has been an advocate for UNICEF’s work since 2014 and is keen on empowering youth. Thus, he has participated in a Public Service Announcement (PSA) on HIV/AIDS awareness entitled “your life; your decision” produced by UNICEF in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and UNAIDS, which has been appreciated by the public.

Speaking of his new title as an Ambassador, Tommy said, “I hope I will be an Ambassador who will awaken hope, inspire action, and nurture kindness and respect to all. I hope with all my heart that my modest contribution will be inspiring to as many youth as possible because inspiration  fuels hope.” Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge, UNICEF Ethiopia on her part said, “Tommy’s ambassadorship has come at a time when UNICEF Ethiopia is seeking to engage with a wide range of the diaspora groups to get their understanding and support for children’s issues in Ethiopia. Reaching out to this group is critical as they can relay information fast to their communities and have also a strong awareness raising capacity.”

Tommy T deliberating a speech at the ambassadorship signing ceremonyTommy has visited several youth and sport for development programmes in Addis, Oromia and SNNP regions and has encouraged young people to peruse their dreams. Recently, he had the opportunity to visit a water well drilling UNICEF-supported programme in Dobi kebele (sub-district), 84 km North from Samara in the Afar Region and interacted with beneficiaries.

Globally, Tommy has participated in the UNICEF-led #IMAGINE project, which aims to draw attention to the challenges children face around the world, by allowing people to record their own version of “Imagine”, John Lennon’s iconic song. In addition, Tommy attended the #Imagine launching event together with world renowned celebrities and UNICEF goodwill ambassadors including Katy Perry, Angélique Kidjo and others while celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC@25). See link: http://bit.ly/1jYtjBf

Currently, Tommy is setting up an entertainment company in Ethiopia and is keen to engage further with the public using music to get positive messaging across to the general population in Ethiopia and abroad.

Tommy is following in the footsteps of Aster Awoke, Abelone Melesse and Hannah Godefa as UNICEF National Ambassadors by demonstrating an outstanding commitment and dedication in promoting the rights of women and children’s issues over time.

Ethiopia to run united to create the future we want

United Nations banner for UN at 70
United Nations banner for UN at 70 at the launching of Great Ethiopia Run’s Plan International Ethiopia children races and Running for a Cause campaign, Addis Ababa Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

The UN turns 70 this year. The UN agencies in Ethiopia are preparing for the historic moment to celebrate the achievements of the organisation while recommitting itself to support the country in tackling problems associated with, poverty, education, health, children, refugees, conflict prevention and climate change. As part of the celebration the UN is partnering with the Great Ethiopian Run to stage an annual run with a theme “Unite to create the future we want” in which 40,000 people are expected to participate. The annual running carnival is Africa’s biggest 10km race and it continues to attract more people around the world each year. Representing the UN, George Okutho, United Nations Resident Coordinator (a.i.) speaking today at the launching of Plan International Ethiopia children races and Running for a Cause campaign said, “sport is a vehicle for development and we view our partnership as an important means of getting our message across to a wider audience and hence, encouraging positive change in Ethiopia.”

A girl stands in the crowd wearing 2015 GER childrens race t-shirt
A girl stands in the crowd wearing 2015 GER children’s race t-shirt at the launching of Great Ethiopia Run’s Plan International Ethiopia children races and Running for a Cause campaign, Addis Ababa Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

This year’s children race theme is “I Am A Girl Child Do Not Make Me A Child Mother.” In Ethiopia, one in every five girls and is prevalent across all the regions. In Amhara nearly half of the girls are married before the age of 18.

As announced in June this year Haile Gebreselassie, the legendary long-distance track and road running athlete, will lead 40,000 participants as his last local race at the 15th edition of the Great Ethiopian Run taking place on Sunday 22 November 2015.

“I am running my last race here in Ethiopia and I would like to be a champion for ending a child marriage. In rural areas, the problem is still highly persistent.” Relating to his own life, Haile said, “My mother had me when she was 14 and this has to stop.”

The UN in Ethiopia supports the Great Ethiopian Run annually not only to promote important social messages but also to raise funds to charities. Under the annual official fundraising campaign “Running for a Cause”, the UN and Great Ethiopian Run target to raise 1.4 million birr this year. The fund will be used for social protection and welfare programmes run by local charities that are selected by the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs. The UN also worked with the Great Ethiopian Run to organise regional races in the regional capitals to promote the MDG goals and will continue to promote the new post MDG, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Including high officials from partners, renowned personalities including, Chachi Tadesse, Seleshi Demissie (Gash Abera Molla) and Nibret Gelaw (Eke) stressed the importance of running for a cause and pledged to support the UN, the Great Ethiopian Run and partners in their humanitarian work.

Gonder and Samara to spearhead Girls’ Empowerment Races

Addis Ababa, Gonder, 17 September 2015 – UNICEF Ethiopia, in partnership with the Amhara Bureau of Women Children and Youth Affairs (BoWCYA), the Gonder City Administration Culture, Tourism and Sport Department and the Great Ethiopian Run, are organising a mass participation 5 km race in Gonder on Sunday 20 September 2015, and in Samara on 4 October 2015, to promote Girls’ Empowerment.

A total of 5,000 adults and 1,250 children are expected to participate in the running events, while over 10,000 thousand spectators are expected to attend the event and the messaging. Besides, two community outreach programmes are planned in both locations and expect to reach thousands. In addition, a photo and art exhibition and media roundtable discussion will take place on the eve of the race.

The twoPoster- Great Ethiopian Run in Gondar races will focus on themes relevant to each region. In Gonder, the focus will be on “Ending Child Marriage” while in Samara, the emphasis will be on “Ending Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting (FGM/C).”

In Ethiopia, one in every five girls is married before the age of 18 and this practice is prevalent across all the regions. In Amhara nearly half of the girls are married before the age of 18 (44.8 per cent, EGLDAM, 2008). Nearly 60 per cent of cases of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is practiced in the Afar Region.

“UNICEF strongly believes that by 2025, Ethiopia will no longer have cases of child marriage, but this will only happen if we all work together – the government, civil society, religious and community leaders, women, men, boys and the girls themselves,” said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia.

The event will be attended by high-level government dignitaries, representatives from the UN, NGOs, CSOs and members of the media. In addition, Abelone Melesse, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia, and renowned artists and sport personalities including Haregwoine Assefa and athlete Gebeyaneshe Ayele respectively (winner of the 15 km Dasani Road Race in Addis Ababa in June and winner of Millennium half marathon in Accra Ghana two weeks ago) will be attending the activities in Gonder to support the messaging around Girls’ Empowerment.