20 November 2017, United Nations Conference Centre, Addis Ababa: Today, Ethiopia joined the global World Children’s Day celebrations by giving children high profile roles to become champions of their rights. In line with the event’s theme ‘For children, By children’ child parliamentarians took over the roles of the Ministers of: Women and Children’s Affairs; Health; Education; Water, Irrigation and Electricity; Labour and Social Affairs; and Urban Works and Construction. In addition, children took over the roles of the Attorney General and UNICEF Representative. In their new roles as ‘shadow Ministers’, children shared their ideas on issues that affect their lives.
At the event, which was truly owned by children, some of the key recommendations proposed by children include:
Accelerate efforts to end harmful traditional practices, including child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
Provide clean water and sanitation services for all children across the country, no matter where they live
Build more hospitals that are focused on child health and ensure health professionals treat children with care and love
Involve children in child justice
Ensure quality education for all children through skilled teachers, including pre-primary education
Ensure that girls stay in school and finish their education
Provide more playgrounds and safe spaces, especially in urban and peri-urban settings
Include children’s voices when adults and local authorities discuss issues that affect children’s lives.
Child parliamentarians from different regions also had an opportunity to discuss issues relevant to children in Ethiopia with shadow Ministers and dignitaries through a Q&A session.
In her opening remarks, H.E Ms Demitu Hambisa, Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, stated that this year’s World Children’s Day is a day of action for children by children. She highlighted that decision makers need to ensure that children’s voices are heard and reflected in decisions that affect their lives.
Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, emphasising the need for the participation of children said, “Meaningful participation of children is not only a fundamental right – and enshrined as such in the Convention on the Rights of the Child – but is also key to ensuring that decisions made by adults are relevant to the actual needs of children.”
In addition, UNICEF Ethiopia launched its publication ‘Hulem Lehisanat- Always for children’ depicting its 65 years history serving children and women in Ethiopia.
The event highlighted the importance of including children’s voices by providing children with an opportunity to share their own solutions on how to keep every child in Ethiopia healthy, well-nourished, in school and protected.
Addis Ababa, 15 November 2017 – Today, Ethiopia celebrated World Toilet Day by holding a half-day workshop with the theme “Safe Disposal of Child Faeces.”
At the workshop, the national ‘Baby WASH’ strategy, which focuses on hygiene of children under three years, was endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Health. The strategy includes safe disposal of child faeces, providing protective environments through play mats and similar measures as well as prevention of soil transmitted helminths. The strategy will be implemented alongside regular safe sanitation and hygiene practices which are already being promoted by health extension workers.
In his statement, H.E Dr Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health said, “In Ethiopia, there is a common misconception that children’s faeces are not harmful while evidence shows otherwise. The current sanitation and hygiene promotion efforts, at times, overlook safe disposal of children’s faeces. In addition, most toilets are not designed keeping children’s special needs in mind.Hence, I am proud to endorse the Baby WASH manual today which was developed by the Federal Ministry of Health with the support of UNICEF and other partners in order to ensure a healthy environment for children’s growth and development especially those under three years of age.”
Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia on her part said, “UNICEF is pleased to support the Ministry of Health in preparing these excellent guidelines on Baby WASH. We know that a contaminated environment harms infants and young children and puts them at risk of increased child mortality and stunting. Together, we have to ensure that parents and guardians, teachers and community leaders are aware of the importance of Baby WASH.”
According to the Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) baseline survey on Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene carried out in eight regions of Ethiopia, there is a general misconception about child faeces disposal. The survey showed that a lack of knowledge on the health risk related to child faeces is a key factor behind poor hygiene practices in faeces disposal. According to the survey, only half (49 per cent) of women knew that child faeces are dangerous to health. Misconception is higher among rural pastoralist women where only 39 per cent said child faeces are dangerous as compared with 50 per cent among rural non-pastoralist women and 54 per cent of women in urban areas.
A strong early childhood foundation, which includes a safe and hygienic environment coupled with adequate nutrition as well as nurturing parenting and stimulation for optimal brain development, is critical to ensure toddlers can develop to their full potential. This will facilitate a smooth transition to primary school and a better chance of successfully completing basic education. Therefore, investing in early childhood development through improved hygiene practices and environments is one of the most critical and cost‑effective ways to improve a child’s future health, education and productivity.
The Ministry of Health and UNICEF urge citizens, parents, teachers, health workers, policy makers and government officials to play their role in making sure that every child receives the benefits of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in their homes, communities, schools and health facilities.
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.
ITANG SPECIAL WOREDA (DISTRICT), GAMBELLA REGIONAL STATE, 6 October 2017-While it is commonly understood that water flowing in river streams is not clean and suitable for drinking nor cooking, in Itang town, Baro River was the only main source of water supply in which households depended for everyday domestic use. Consequently, as the Itang Town Water Supply Scheme was launched in October 2017, residents were delighted for the assured access to clean and reliable water supply.
The inauguration event of the Itang Town Water Supply Scheme was attended by his Excellency Senai Akwer, Vice President, Gambella Regional State, his Excellency, Thok Thoan, Head, Gambella Regional Bureau of Water and Resource Development. Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Ms Ginevra Letizia, Head of the Italian Cooperation Agency Office, members of the Woreda Administration, the residents of Itang town, and delegations from UNICEF and the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation in Ethiopia.
During the inauguration of the Itang Water Supply Scheme, UNICEF Representative, Gillian Mellsop expressed her gratitude both to the Gambella Regional and the Itang Special Woreda leaders, by recognizing their commitment during the implementation of the Itang Water Supply Scheme and the remarkable collaboration towards realizing key development milestones on access to clean water as put forward in the government development agenda. Ms. Mellsop said, “With the right investment, it is possible to provide a more reliable and resilient water service to rural communities; that reduces their vulnerability and also improves the quality of their lives – in this case, also contribute to peace building efforts by avoiding potential conflict over limited available resources.”
Conveying her gratitude for the financial contributions made by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, which made it possible for the building of the Itang Town Water Scheme, Ms Mellsop added, “I also thank our very generous donors, including the Italian Cooperation Agency, who are also here with us, whose support has made it possible for the building of the permanent water scheme that not only provides water for the town but also the large population of refugees that is hosted in three refugee camps Tierkidi, Kule and Nguenyiel found in this Woreda.”
Likewise, Ms Ginevra Letizia, the Director of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) conveyed her gratefulness to the Regional and Itang Woreda administration for their cooperation as well as the management to ensure the successful completion of the project. Insisting on the need to strengthen community structures hosting refugees, Ms Letizia said, “It is a pillar for the AICS humanitarian interventions to also target hosting communities since these are the ones sustaining the burden of welcoming refugees and an equitable access for both to basic services like water is a guarantee for peace and stability.”
The Itang water supply scheme will provide water for 11,319 and 10,000 individuals in Itang and Thurpham respectively. As part of the multi donor integrated water supply project, the project will provide safe water to a total of 205,703 refugees in three camps of Kule, Tierkidi and Nguenyiel refugee camps after the system upgrade.
To curtail the development – humanitarian funding challenges, UNICEF is responding to humanitarian needs in emergency contexts, while at the same time investing in government management systems to increase the self-reliant capacity of the communities. Being one of the emerging regional states and emergency affected regions in the country hosting a proportionally large population of refugees compared to the hosting population, UNICEF has prioritized Gambella. UNICEF provides support to increase sustainable community access to safe water supply by funding the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of water supply schemes both in refugee camps and host communities.
Besides, UNICEF is adopting new approaches to provide water to communities where water is scarce by conveying water from reliable ground water sources where it is available. Shifting from surface water sources to groundwater sources, the Itang Town Water Supply Scheme is composed of pressure main line collector pipes, storage tanks/reservoirs, a central collection tank, a booster station and an elevated water tank. In addition, the system includes the installation of electro-mechanical equipment such as pumps and generators to the host communities in Itang. 18 water kiosks including the pipe distribution system have been constructed to supply at least 20 litres of water for daily use by communities.
To ensure optimum water use, the Itang Town Water Supply System is being upgraded with the aim to meet the demand of an additional 85,000 refugees in the newly established Nguenyiel camp and surrounding communities. Through collaboration and additional financial support from the German / KfW funding, the project will supply and install pressure main pipes from Itang to the booster station, install additional storage tanks at the collection chamber and booster station, construct additional power houses, supply and install additional electro-mechanical equipment at Itang and the Thurpham pumping station, drill two additional boreholes and rehabilitate two additional boreholes.
Similarly, UNICEF has led the development of the business plan for the entire water supply project by promoting cost recovery through user fees obtained for domestic uses of water for drinking, food preparation, washing, cleaning and miscellaneous domestic purposes and institutional uses. A study was conducted with residents of Itang and Thurpham analyzing the institutional capacity and willingness to pay for water supply and sanitation services. In the context of (i) what is being paid for water at the moment; (ii) consumers’ perception about the value of the effort they make to collect water; (iii) the maximum amount that consumers would be willing to pay for a water supply service and (iv) the affordable rate to be paid by the low-income section of the society to determine the bottom level of price for water.
Additionally, UNICEF is building the capacity of the Regional Water Bureau and Itang Special Woreda Water Office to improve the overall WASH sector coordination and institutional capacity building. UNICEF has supported the establishment of Itang Town Water Utility which will manage, operate and maintain the entire water supply project. In coordination with UNHCR and the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), the government agency with the mandate for water supply provision for refugees in the country, UNICEF is implementing the cost recovery model of public sector utility management for WASH services as a sustainable long-term solution to service provision to refugee populations. As part of this model ARRA plays a key role through membership on the water board which oversees the water utility to ensure accountability to refugee populations.
As UNICEF continues to advocate for a robust partnership with the Regional Government and donor support for different programmes in the region; it calls for a well-defined operation and maintenance system to improve efficiencies, reduce water losses, and increase the sustainability of services.
ADDIS ABABA, 9 OCTOBER 2017: In October 2017, UNICEF Ambassador Alyssa Milano sparked the viral campaign, “me too,” where she asked those who had been victims of sexual abuse to say #metoo via social media. With the goal to show the scale of the issue, the campaign shocked the world as millions of women, girls, men and boys participated.
In Ethiopia, Konjit, a 14-year-old eighth-grader who attends a junior-secondary school in Addis Ababa, is one of these brave girls who spoke out on sexual assault. Last year, one of her closest friends confided in Konjit and told her that their teacher had been sexually abusing her. Konjit, being a member of the school gender club knew what the teacher was doing was illegal. At her weekly club meetings, she was taught about the code-of-conduct which clearly states that those acts were punishable by school law. After discussing with her friend, Konjit decided to bring the case to the gender club to discuss what steps they needed to take to punish the teacher and stop the abuse from continuing.
The word began to spread to other classmates. More girls began speaking out to say, “me too.” They were first quiet for fear and shame, but once one girl bravely spoke out they too found the courage to tell their story.
As one can imagine, this was not the safest of times for the girls for fear that the teacher would find out and do more harm. “It was scary for us because if he saw us together he may know what we were up to. We were all so afraid of the teacher,” said Konjit.
However, this did not stop them. Konjit and other gender club members were determined to help their friends. In the end they found out that at least 9 girls were sexually abused by the same teacher, some at more severe levels than others. With support from the school’s Vice Director, Ms Netsanet Abebe, the gender club brought written statements from the victims as evidence to the school’s Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response Code of Conduct Committee who referenced the chapter that leads to severe types of misconduct. The committee unanimously made the decision to dismiss the teacher. The school also referred the case to the justice department for legal action where the teacher was then convicted in court and sent to jail for his actions.
If the incidents happened only a few years earlier, the teacher would have gotten away with his actions. However, two years ago UNICEF began supporting the Ethiopian Ministry of Education to develop a national code-of-conduct, build a system to report on gender-based violence and abuse, strengthen the capacity of gender clubs to put reporting channels in place, as well as incorporate men and boys into the clubs so that they can also play a central role in combatting gender-based violence.
Today, Konjit and her friends feel a strong sense of empowerment. Each of them took huge risks to tell their stories, but because they understood their legal rights they knew it was well worth it. The girls now know what to do to stop this from happening to other classmates. As one of the victims strongly puts it, “Now that the teacher is out, no one else would dare to do that to us. We feel stronger and more confident to take action!”
In a country like Ethiopia, where the prevalence of school-related sexual violence goes as high as 46 per cent it takes courageous girls to stand up and say, “Me too” and “enough is enough!”
 The name has been changed due to confidentiality issues.
 Ethiopian primary school stretches for 8 years, from grade 1 – 8. Grades 7 and 8 could also be known as ‘junior secondary school’. The official age of school entry is 7 years.
 Save the Children Denmark, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Women’s Affairs. (2008)
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.”
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.
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 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”.
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.