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.

Child Birth Registration Sets Hope for Protecting Children’s Basic Rights

By Esete Yeshitla

MECHA, AMHARA, 09 June 2017 – Mulugeta Yetayew and his wife Yezena Adane, both in their early 40s, warmly welcome us inside their rustic one-room cottage which serves as a bedroom and family room for them and their eight children, as well as a grain storage.

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Mulugeta Yetayew, 43 and his wife Yezena Adane 40, pictured here with two of their eight children and a neighbour’s son, live in Mecha woreda, Amhara region. Only four-month-old Sindu Mulugeta has a birth certificate. ©UNICEF/2017/Michael Tsegaye

Mulugeta barely remembers the birth dates of his children. It is only baby Sindu Mulugeta, four months old, who was registered within 90 days of her birth. However, Mulugeta is able to tell his children’s ages. “My firstborn is 24, then 23, the third is 20, then 18, then 16, then comes 15, the next 13, then 4. The last is Sindu, she was born in February.” When Mulugeta and Yezena were growing up, there was no registration or certification of birth. Mulugeta and Yezena did not know the importance of recording their children’s age and consequently, their children did not receive basic immunizations at the appropriate time. Sending children to school at an early age is also not a common occurrence, in Mecha. Children were expected to help with household work or herd cattle. Receiving a modern education was considered a luxury, as supporting the family was far more important. It was also common for 14 or 15-year-old girls to be married.

With grief on his face, Mulugeta continued, “My firstborn did not get a proper education. He is now a daily labourer in the desert of Benishangul-Gumuz region.” Thankfully, it is different for his other children. Even though most of them started school at a later age, Mulugeta is determined to ensure his children receive an education.

Mulugeta is grateful for the sensitization conducted in Bachema kebele (sub-district). Awareness raising, social mobilization and demand creation for registration and certification services are interventions implemented by the Government to encourage birth registration and registration of other vital events.

UNICEF Ethiopia has supported the Government’s initiative through technical and financial contributions, as well as regular follow up and monitoring of implementation. “Even religious leaders are advising us to get our children get registered,” Mulugeta says before continuing, “Now everyone is neke,” which is slang in Amharic meaning, ‘people are conscious’.  Mulugeta continued, “We are going to make Semegne start school when she is seven. I hope that my children will be educated and have better jobs.”

Birth Registration in Amhara
Memeher Yitbarek Shegaw, an Orthodox priest in Merhawi city, West Gojam zone of Amhara region ©UNICEF/2017/Michael Tsegaye

As part of the community intervention, religious leaders and social structures are utilized to convey messages. Memeher Yitbarek Shegaw is a priest of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith in Merhawi city. Yitbarek explains, “In the orthodox church tradition there is a registration for birth and death. However, the city’s mayor invited us for discussion and convinced us that even if registration in the church is customary, the need to be registered according to the law is important and beneficiary for a child.”

Training was also provided to kebele leaders and religious leaders. Yitbarek says, “When parents come to us for christening, we encourage parents to get their children get registered.”

To improve the coverage of birth registration, UNICEF is supporting the Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA) and the Regional Health Bureau to integrate birth registration into maternal and new born health services. This integration alerts kebele registration centres when births happen in health facilities.

Systematic registration of vital events such as birth, death, marriage and divorce is new; previously registration only occurred upon request. Based on a 2014 Government law, VERA was created and training ensued for different Government bodies.

According to VERA, between August 2016 and May 2017, only 94,008 out of 669,008 births in Amhara, were registered. Furthermore, out of the total registered, 62 per cent are current (registered within 90 days of birth), 18 per cent are late (registered after 90 days but within one year) and 20 per cent are backlog (registered after one year from occurrence of birth).

The vital events registration programme is a key component of the Government’s efforts to support children and their rights. A birth certificate is fundamental to the realization of a number of rights and practical needs, including access to healthcare and immunizations, supporting timely school registration, enforcing laws related to child labour and securing a child’s right to a nationality, among others. With the nationwide VERA in place, Ethiopia will soon see all its children with a birth certificate, providing them one further step towards a better future.

Markets and Menstruation

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Women sell local products in Wukro market, Tigray region. ©UNICEF/2016/Carazo

By Blanca Carazo

WUKRO, TIGRAY, 6 December 2016 – It was Monday morning when we came across the bustling market in Wukro. Tomatoes, onions and cereals are weighed and sold by women sitting on the ground, many of them wearing traditional white shawls.

Crossing through the market stalls, we entered a small office, which operates as a factory and shop as well. Helen Hailu’s open smile welcomed us to this all-in-one space where she and two other women have launched an innovative and ecological business: they produce and sell reusable sanitary pads.

In Ethiopia, as in most countries, menstruation remains a taboo topic, often causing girls and women to be excluded from school and other activities. In Wukro town, this is changing. An integrated water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) intervention being implemented by UNICEF, through its partner, World Vision, is raising awareness about menstrual hygiene among teachers, girls and boys in schools. The programme also promotes businesses such as Helen’s, to ensure that adequate and affordable products are available in the local market.

Helen and Meaza Gebregzabher proudly explained how they were chosen by a women’s association and trained by World Vision to produce reusable sanitary pads before receiving sewing machines and materials. They decided to call their business Raig, the Tigrigna word for ‘vision’.

Starting a business is always challenging, and this business is no exception. “It’s difficult right now to get money,” said Meaza, “some of the materials are bought in Addis Ababa and are expensive. We’re expecting you to raise awareness.” she added, kindly pressuring us, the visiting colleagues from UNICEF and World Vision. Perhaps business will pick up once the urban WASH water scheme is fully functional later this year, allowing easier access for women to clean the reusable pads. Also implemented by World Vision, the UNICEF-funded, Government of Ethiopia-designed programme will provide 100 per cent water coverage in Wukro and five satellite villages.

An agreement has been signed between Raig and seven schools to provide 600 pads, and they aim to also sell to local women. “They are for schools, but also for the people in the village,” said Helen.

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Meaza Gebregzeir shows the materials and the three-unit set they sell, while Helen Hailu sews a new product. ©UNICEF/2016/Carazo

I buy a packet of three reusable sanitary pads for 30 birr (US$1.30) and I’m offered a free sachet of detergent. “It’s a promotion.” explains Meaza. They have to compete with commercial one-time-use pads that are sold at 20 to 30 birr for a packet of ten.

Helen and Meaza’s raig is that girls and women in Wukro use their ecological, effective and handmade sanitary pads while they’re menstruating; with the added benefit of ensuring business for the women.

UNICEF’s raig is that all girls and women have the knowledge, environment and materials they need to have dignity and safety when menstruating. Promoting income-generating activities like this not only contributes to that aim, but it also offers sustainable opportunities for brave women like Helen and Meaza.

Nowhere to go – School Toilets

By Hiwot Ghiday and Raymond Kennedy

EAST BADEWACHO, SOUTHERN NATIONS, NATIONALITIES AND PEOPLE’S (SNNP) REGION, 13 February 2017 – Langano Primary School is located in the southern Ethiopian countryside around 17 km east of Shone town and has been open since [2004]. Until 2016, this bustling school of over 1,300 students had only one traditional latrine – shared by boys and girls alike.

Habtamu Pawlos
Habtamu Pawlos, 13-years-old, in front of the new boys’ latrine. ©UNICEF/2017/Ghiday

Habtamu Pawlos is 13-years-old and currently studying in grade eight – the highest level offered by Langano School. He explains, “Previously there was only one latrine at our school and since the number of students are many it was difficult to access when needed.” He thanks the donor for providing a block of four new latrines for each gender, complete with a handwashing facility and says it has solved the problem.

Habtamu is being gracious – while he knows that four boys’ toilets is an improvement on what they had before – it is still not many to share between over 700 male students at the school.

When there are not enough toilets to go around – it is not surprising that children resort to unsanitary practices. Estimates are that only 42 per cent of primary schools in the SNNP region are free from open defecation[1].

The lack of toilets in Langano Primary School caused particular problems for girls.

“Most of the time, the boys go first and we have to go back to class before we get to use the toilet,” Tsehay Moges, a 12-year-old girl who recently entered grade five explains. “Privacy was also a problem.”

Tsehay admits that the lack of toilets made it difficult for her to attend class and concentrate on her studies. She says students sometimes became sick from infections due to lack of access to proper toilets.

A recent UNICEF study found that over a quarter of girls surveyed missed school during their periods[2]. One key reason for this was the lack of private spaces to change their sanitary materials and clean properly. In many cases, girls told us that they would be teased or harassed by boys if they knew they were experiencing menses.

Private, separate toilets for girls will help Tsehay and her female classmates manage their periods with more dignity and will help reduce the number of girls absent from school.

latrine school
The previous one-stall latrine. ©UNICEF/2017/Ghiday

The contrast between the new latrine blocks and the old unimproved latrine is stark.

Shared by both boys and girls, this latrine provided little privacy and was very dirty. The uncovered latrine hole attracted swarms of flies which buzzed around the user, contributing to the spread of diseases including trachoma, which can cause blindness. Additionally, there was also no handwashing facility for the children to use. Traditional latrines may also easily collapse when it rains as they are built out of mud and sticks. This is a danger to users and also exposes the community to open defecation until they are replaced.

Through generous funding from SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, UNICEF is supporting the regional government in the SNNP region to ensure that school children can use safe, improved latrines with handwashing stations. This project is supporting 10 schools in total, and new toilets have been installed in six of them thus far.

While the population of students and teachers at Langano Primary School are fortunate to have a better sanitary environment, there is still work to be done elsewhere in Ethiopia. Even though has been significant progress in reducing open defecation, far too many children are using unsafe and unsanitary latrines – particularly in rural areas. The current coverage of improved latrines is estimated to be less than per cent in rural areas of Ethiopia[3]. There is a long way to go before all children in Ethiopia have proper access to safe and clean toilets at school.

[1] One WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) National Programme Draft Report 2016

[2] Menstrual Hygiene Management, Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Baseline Survey, 2017; Afar, Gambella, Oromia and SNNP regions of Ethiopia.

[3] Ethiopia Demographic Health Survey 2016

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.