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.

Promotion of Dietary Diversity for the Healthy Growth and Development of Children

By Esete Yeshitla

Sekota, AMHARA, 21 June 2017- Meet Netsanet, a strong and independent 25-year-old mother who is very self-assured; reminiscent of her name, which means ‘freedom’.

When we visit Netsanet in her house, it is a typical morning for her. First, she waters her home garden: cabbage, carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables. The seeds were provided by FAO with funding from the European Union through the woreda (district) agriculture office as a support for her family to have balanced meals. Her next task is feeding her chickens, from which she uses eggs for cooking and as a source of income. She sells eggs on Thursdays at the nearby Hamusit market. She then starts preparing breakfast. She takes fresh vegetables from her garden; a couple of eggs, milk, mixed grains and starts to cook the meal for her daughter.

Netsanet, preparing food as per lessons learned from health extension workers
Netsanet, preparing food as per lessons learned from health extension workers, at the woreda health post. Sekota woreda , Hamusit kebele ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Nahom Tesfaye

Netsanet has two daughters, Mekdes age 5 and in kindergarten; and Tsige age 2. Netsanet explains the difference between her two pregnancies, birth and the girls’ first two years of life. “I had my first child at home, as we did not have awareness. I was lucky that I did not face any complications when I had her. If something bad had happened, I would have regretted it,” says Netsanet.

Back then, even when health extension workers insisted that women give birth at the health centre, it was embarrassing for most women. Netsanet explains, “Nowadays, even the wife of a priest gives birth at the health centre. We lost many of our sisters due to high blood loss during birth. I am grateful for the awareness we are getting now.”

Twice a month, they participate in awareness training at the health post, as part of a UNICEF-supported, European Union-funded programme called EU-SHARE. They also receive education on how to prepare balanced meals for young children under two years old, something Netsanet did not know how with her first child. She says, “I was younger, I only breastfed Mekdes when I had spare time as I was busy with house chores.” For her second daughter, she breastfeeds her 8-10 times per day. Netsanet says, “It makes my child strong and at the same time, it serves as protection against unwanted pregnancy.”

Netsanet has witnessed the results. “My first child was fragile and got sick regularly. I used to spend most of my time at the hospital or pharmacy. She was malnourished and at one point, I thought I would lose her. Thank God she was better after she started taking the [ready-to-use therapeutic foods] that was provided by the health post.”

Netsanet put into practice the education given to her about healthy nutrition with Tsige. She started to feed her food when she was six months old. She says, “We did not know that we can feed different vegetables to our babies.”

Netsanet and her husband have three plots of land allotted by the Government, which they use for harvesting crops. Netsanet says, “We do not sell what we produce. We use it for our consumption.”  In addition to selling eggs, Netsanet buys lambs, raises them and sells the sheep. She also buys grains from retailers and sells it for extra money. Netsanet adds, “So the money I get, I use it to buy other stuff.”

This is not the only work Netsanet has. She is also a member of the health development army (HDA), a strategic network the Government has galvanised to reach rural communities. As part of the Government’s intervention, health extension workers train women from the community to become HDA members and drive health-related behaviour change, including breastfeeding and child feeding practices, within their communities. Netsanet is a leader of five teams that each consist of five women- a ‘network’. Netsanet and five additional network leaders are supervised by a health extension worker.

Netsanet, feeding her tow year daughter porridge made of balance nutritional ingredients based on lessons from the wereda health post.
Netsanet, feeding her two-year-old daughter porridge made of balance nutritional ingredients based on lessons from the woreda health post; Sekota woreda, Hamusit kebele ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Nahom Tesfaye

Mothers meet to discuss twice a month. They meet at the health post to demonstrate how to make food for children. They bring whatever food stuff they can find at home such as eggs, flour and milk, then they cook and feed their children.

The Government of Ethiopia has placed malnutrition high on both the political and the development agenda over the past decade. As a result, bold actions have been taken in health and other nutrition-related sectors, putting in place policies, programmes and large-scale interventions to significantly reduce malnutrition among the most vulnerable groups: young children and pregnant and lactating women.

The EU- SHARE project addresses gaps in implementation of the National Nutrition Programme while strengthening nutrition outcomes of major health, food security and livelihoods Government programmes. The primary focus is on the first 1, 000 days of a child’s life, in order to accelerate the decline in stunting.

Sekota is the woredas targeted by the project and has received support with an aim to enhance quality and uptake of nutrition services being delivered to the community. This is done through building the technical capacity of health workers, improving availability of nutrition supplies and sensitizing community members towards proper infant and young child feeding practices.

These interventions have a significant impact in the overall reduction of child malnutrition, especially through contributing to the improvement of nutrition and dietary diversification practices for adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and children younger than five, just like Netsanet and her girls.

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.

Integrated Nutrition Services for Better Nutrition Outcomes 

By Nardos Birru

BOLOSO SORE, SOUTHERN NATIONS, NATIONALITIES AND PEOPLE’S REGION, 26 January 2017 – It was a sunny afternoon at the Chamahinbecho health post and the trees planted by health extension workers 10 years ago provided much needed shade in the compound. A group of mothers were sitting under the trees discussing how to best feed their toddlers and among them was Beyenech.

UNICEF Ethiopia 2017 03-1610
Beyenech (middle), waiting for the porridge to feed her baby at a cooking demonstration session at Chamahinbecho health post, Boloso Sore woreda, SNNPR ©UNICEF/2017/Pudlowski

The cheery Beyenech, a mother of three, came to the health post to get her 1-year-old son weighed as part of the growth monitoring and promotion session that they attend on a monthly basis.

“I bring my son here every month and the health extension worker measures his weight and gives me advice,” says Beyenech. “She teaches us how to prepare meals for our children using different foods. I can see that my child is growing healthy and am glad to hear that [confirmed by] the health extension worker.”

Beyenech is among the many mothers in Chamahinbecho kebele (sub-district) who are benefiting from a project supported by the European Union called EU-SHARE. The project aims to contribute to improved nutritional status of children under five, adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women through strengthening nutrition outcomes of Government health, food security and livelihood programmes. The strategy involves integration of the multi-sector interventions at the household level to create synergetic effects that will maximize programme results.

Nutrition services for adolescents

UNICEF Ethiopia 2017 04-1056
Adolescent deworming service. Chamahinbecho health post, Boloso Sore woreda, SNNPR ©UNICEF/2017/Pudlowski

It is not only Beyenech’s son who is benefiting from the nutrition services at the health post; her 15-year-old daughter has participated in the deworming campaign organized for adolescent students in the kebele. Beyenech speaks of her daughter, “Wubalem received a deworming tablet from the adolescent deworming campaign at her school last year. She also told me about the nutrition and hygiene practices that she heard from group discussion sessions during the campaign.”

Deworming of intestinal worms and schistosomiasis is an important service for young students, as both ailments affect the health and education of children and adolescents. A student with worms will be too sick or tired to attend school or will have difficulty concentrating in school. If left untreated over time, they may face stunting or malnutrition due to anaemia, as well as impaired cognitive development.

The Government-led programme, which is supported by EU-SHARE, contributes to the health and nutrition status of adolescents while improving school attendance rates. EU-SHARE project supports the programme through procurement of deworming tablets, provision of information, education and communication as well as behavioural change communication materials that are helpful to create awareness and initiate discussion on nutritional requirements during adolescence. The programme also includes technical support to health workers who carry out the deworming campaigns. Students like Wubalem have a better chance to succeed with their education due to initiatives like these.

Improving dietary diversity through backyard gardening

EU-SHARE also includes nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions which is implemented by FAO as part of the Government’s commitment to integrate nutrition into the agriculture sector. Promotion of backyard gardening is among the initiatives being implemented in the kebele.

After meeting the eligibility criteria targeting vulnerable families, Beyenech has been selected among the 1,960 beneficiaries targeted for seed supplementation led by the woreda agriculture office. She received vegetable seeds and began growing carrots, cabbage and tomato in her backyard garden. Beyenech explained, “I started preparing a porridge mixed with vegetables from my garden, using what I learned from the cooking demonstrations at the health post. I also prepare roasted vegetables along with shiro wot [chickpea stew] for the rest of my children.”

UNICEF Ethiopia 2017 03-1876 (2)
Beyenech, a mother of three, showing her backyard garden. Chamahinbecho kebele, Boloso Sore woreda, SNNPR. ©UNICEF/2017/Pudlowski

Beyenech aspires for her children to have a better future. She wants them to be top students and become teachers or doctors so they have the knowledge and skills to impact the next generation in the community.

“Such type of nutrition interventions that consider integration as a cornerstone by addressing the different aspects of nutrition are a key weapon to combat the problem of malnutrition in a sustainable manner,” said Israel Mulualem, the nutrition focal person in Boloso Sore woreda health office.

The four-year EU-Share programme has been operational since 2015 and continues to support children, mothers and their families in seventeen woredas located in SNNP, Oromia and Amhara regions. Together with the Government of Ethiopia and donors such as the European Union, UNICEF is able to support existing initiatives of Government programmes so that children such as Wubalem, Setot and Teketel may have a bright future.

New EU funding will provide essential nutrition treatment for 130,000 children under the age of five in Ethiopia

03 May 2017, ADDIS ABABA – The European Union (EU) has given €3 million in humanitarian funds to support UNICEF’s emergency interventions in Ethiopia. The new grant will provide life-saving nutrition treatment for severely malnourished children living in drought-affected areas of the country.

In Ethiopia, below-average rainfall has worsened the situation in Somali, Afar, and parts of Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s (SNNP) regions, already severely affected by protracted drought. Access to water, sanitation and health services in these areas is critically low. In addition, livestock deaths have further reduced communities’ capacity to cope, resulting in food and nutrition insecurity. An estimated 303,000 children under the age of five are at risk of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2017.

A boy is being treated for a severe malnutrition at a UNICEF supported stabilization centre“We are grateful for EU’s continuous and generous assistance for life-saving interventions addressing malnutrition at this critical time,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “We believe that the funding will significantly improve the health condition of children affected by the current drought and reduce the long term impact of malnutrition including life-long cognitive impairments.”

The EU humanitarian funding will support UNICEF to reduce child mortality and morbidity associated with SAM. In order to reach vulnerable children in remote areas, UNICEF will support the Government to expand existing healthcare services and provide treatment supplies – including ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF), therapeutic milk, and medicines. The intervention will also aim at mobilizing communities’ awareness on preventing malnutrition.

“As devastating drought hits pastoral communities in the south and south-east of Ethiopia, bringing in its wake Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) , food and water shortages, the EU is scaling up funding to provide children with vital nutrition care,” said Ségolène de Beco, Ethiopia Head of Office for EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). “Infants and young children are extremely vulnerable to a combination of malnutrition and diseases. To avoid unnecessary deaths and suffering, we need to respond to the needs of these children in time with appropriate treatment and care.”

The concerted efforts of UNICEF with the EU, the Government of Ethiopia and other partners, will relieve the suffering of children while continuing to build long term resilience and strengthening the Government’s capacity to respond to future nutrition emergencies.

The Government of Japan gives US$ 2 million to UNICEF for drought affected populations in Somali Region

06 April 2017, ADDIS ABABA – The Government of Japan announced a US$2 million grant to UNICEF to assist water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), nutrition and prevention of acute watery diarrhoea in drought affected populations in the Somali region. The WASH sector will be taking the lion’s share with US$1,500,000 and the rest US$500,000 will be utilized by nutrition programme within an implementation period of six months. This assistance is provided as a swift response to the joint call for support by Deputy Prime Minister Mr Demeke Mekonnen and United Nations Secretary-General Mr Antonio Guterres at UNECA on 29 January 2017 on the occasion of the High Level Forum on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia.

The funding from the Japan Government aims to improve access to safe and reliable water to 115,000 women, men, boys and girls through drilling of new boreholes, rehabilitating non-functional water points and providing non-food items for distribution. In addition, 9,000 children with severe acute malnutrition will receive adequate treatment and 31,488 mothers and caregivers will be trained on adequate infant and young child feeding practices during emergency. The funding will also help prevent and control water-borne diseases, particularly the transmission of acute watery diarrhoea among affected and at-risk populations by securing access to safe water.

Ambassador of Japan to Ethiopia, Mr Shinichi Saida said, “We sincerely hope that Japan’s urgent humanitarian assistance for the drought response will reach the most vulnerable people as swiftly as possible and have a quick impact on the affected communities. Japan appreciates the WASH sector emergency response and its delivery promoted by Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity in Ethiopia and UNICEF Ethiopia.”

“Children are extremely vulnerable in emergencies, often living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions and at high risk of contracting diseases,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “This contribution is a tangible demonstration of Japan’s commitment to safeguard children’s future and enhance resilience building of communities affected by the recurrent drought.”

Bundesminister Dr. Gerd Müller visits Waaf Dhuug Temporary Settlement Site in Somali Region of Ethiopia
A child rests comfortably on his mother’s arms in Waaf Dhuug Temporary Resettlement Site ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Sewunet

Adding to an already dire situation, during the second half of 2016, a strong negative impact of Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) led to below-average rainfall in different parts of Ethiopia including the Somali region. As a result, the water level declined significantly with seasonal rivers, springs and ponds drying up earlier than normal and increasing frequency of non-functionality of water supply schemes due to over utilization.

UNICEF is currently involved in operations across all the drought affected regions and contributes to the ongoing drought response effort through water trucking, rehabilitation of non-functional water supply schemes, building water storage capacity at critical and good yielding boreholes, provision of therapeutic food supplies, screening of children and pregnant and lactating women for malnutrition and monitoring for the provision of quality nutrition services.

UNICEF’s drought response activities are guided by its Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action, which prioritize timely response in key lifesaving sectors, namely nutrition, health, water, sanitation, and hygiene.

German funds for the Horn of Africa drought response to increase from 100 million Euro to 300 million Euro

On 03 April 2017, UNICEF, WFP, and UN-OCHA went on a joint one-day field visit with the German Minister for Development Cooperation (BMZ) to Kebri Dahar and Waaf Duug Temporary Resettlement Site in Doolo Zone, Somali Region, Ethiopia. The Minister was accompanied by 16 German journalists, BMZ officials, German Embassy partners, GiZ and KfW. The Somali Regional President and key regional government counterparts have also joined the field visit. The visit was part of the German Minister’s visit to Ethiopia to discuss the Marshall Plan for Africa with Ethiopian Government and AU Officials. 

The Minister and his delegation visited the Urban WASH programme (borehole and water trucking) in Kebri Dahar town, as well as UNICEF’s emergency Health, Nutrition and WASH programmes in the Waaf Dhuug Resettlement Site for drought displaced people. More specifically, the Minister was able to see a Mobile Health and Nutrition Team operating with the German funded vehicles, a stabilization centre for severely malnourished children that utilizes German funded Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) and a water point. The Minister also visited WFP’s school feeding programme at the Waaf Dhuug primary school and a WFP food distribution.   

Bundesminister Dr. Gerd Müller visits Waaf Dhuug Temporary Settlement Site in Somali Region of Ethiopia
Bundesminister Dr. Gerd Müller visits a school for community and settlers at Waaf Dhuug Temporary Settlement Site in Somali Region of Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Zerihun Sewunet

Waaf Dhuug Temporary Resettlement Site (TRS) hosts 4,500 host community and 3,882 drought displaced people, of which more than 85 per cent are women and children from surrounding grassing areas. The site was established in January 2017 and is one of the 58 Temporary Resettlement Site established by the Somali Regional Government in response to the drought emergency. Majority of the pastoralist community have moved into the TRS due to extensive loss of livestock as a result of the drought. They have left their villages in search of water and health and nutrition services for themselves and their children. Discussing with the Minister, Kadar Kaydsane, 35 years old and a mother of 10  said, “We walked for five hours to get to Waaf Dhuug and we lost all our livestock on the way. We came here to find water and other services provided by the Government.” 

Bundesminister Dr. Gerd Müller visits Waaf Dhuug Temporary Settlement Site in Somali Region of Ethiopia
Bundesminister Dr. Gerd Müller discusses with the community at Waaf Dhuug Temporary Settlement Site in Somali Region of Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Zerihun Sewunet

The Minister and German development partners recognized the importance of investing in building resilience, for instance through funding water schemes and strengthening Government systems, such as the Health Extension Programme. The Minister further appreciated the German Government’s strong partnership with UNICEF and was impressed by the integrated drought emergency response at the resettlement site, but recognized that the challenges are very complex and the required funding remains significant. As a response to the dire need of the people affected by the drought, the Minister announced that German funds for the Horn of Africa drought response will be increased from 100 million Euro to 300 million Euro.