Canada partners with UNICEF to improve reproductive health and nutrition among adolescent girls in Ethiopia

8 March 2018, ADDIS ABABA – On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the Government of Canada is pleased to provide CDN$ 14.8 million (US$ 12 million) to UNICEF Ethiopia to improve the reproductive health and nutritional status of adolescent girls. The initiative will reach over four million girls in districts with high food insecurity and a high prevalence of child marriage. It will be implemented between 2018 and 2022.

“As part of our feminist approach, Canada is committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in order to empower women and adolescent girls in Ethiopia and around the world,” says Ivan Roberts, Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Canada in Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, 25 per cent of the population is made up of adolescents (aged 10 to 19 years), of which 11 million are girls.  Adolescent girls experience numerous barriers that hinder them from fully realizing their potential. A significant portion of these barriers is related to their sexual and reproductive health and to their nutrition.

Canada’s contribution will help girls access adolescent-friendly sexual and reproductive health services and nutrition facilities by training health workers to clearly understand the physiological and psychological needs of adolescent girls. This initiative will also leverage gender clubs in schools to provide life skills and sexual and reproductive health knowledge to young people. In addition, adolescent-friendly spaces will be created to ensure out-of-school children freely discuss nutrition and sexual and reproductive health issues and practices including family planning.

To improve personal hygiene, the programme will support the local production and supply of sanitary pads, education of girls on pre- and post menstruation, improve sanitary facilities through upgrading and rehabilitation, provide spaces in schools for menstruating girls to rest, enhance counselling and peer-to-peer support, and promote informal discussions among girls on issues that concern them.

“We appreciate the timely support from the Government of Canada which will allow us to address the challenges that Ethiopian adolescent girls face today,” says Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia. “We believe that this contribution will help adolescent girls break out of discriminatory social and gender norms that hamper their education and hinder their ability to meaningfully contribute to their nation’s development.”

UNICEF will use its strong monitoring and evaluation tools to ensure the success of this programme and invest in regular compilation of health and nutrition data to better understand trends and uptake of services by adolescent girls.

25 million child marriages prevented in last decade due to accelerated progress, according to new UNICEF estimates

 Improving trend in child marriage driven largely by significant reductions in South Asia, but problem persists with over 150 million girls likely to marry by 2030

 NEW YORK/ADDIS ABABA, 6 March 2018 – The prevalence of child marriage is decreasing globally with several countries seeing significant reductions in recent years, UNICEF said today. Overall, the proportion of women who were married as children decreased by 15 per cent in the last decade, from 1 in 4 to approximately 1 in 5.

South Asia has witnessed the largest decline in child marriage worldwide in the last 10 years, as a girl’s risk of marrying before her 18th birthday has dropped by more than a third, from nearly 50 per cent to 30 per cent, in large part due to progress in India. Increasing rates of girls’ education, proactive government investments in adolescent girls, and strong public messaging around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes are among the reasons for the shift.

“When a girl is forced to marry as a child, she faces immediate and lifelong consequences. Her odds of finishing school decrease while her odds of being abused by her husband and suffering complications during pregnancy increase. There are also huge societal consequences and higher risk of intergenerational cycles of poverty,” said Anju Malhotra, UNICEF’s Principal Gender Advisor. “Given the life-altering impact child marriage has on a young girl’s life, any reduction is welcome news, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

According to new data from UNICEF, the total number of girls married in childhood is now estimated at 12 million a year. The new figures point to an accumulated global reduction of 25 million fewer marriages than would have been anticipated under global levels 10 years ago. However, to end the practice by 2030 – the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals – progress must be significantly accelerated. Without further acceleration, more than 150 million additional girls will marry before their 18th birthday by 2030.

Worldwide, an estimated 650 million women alive today were married as children. While South Asia has led the way on reducing child marriage over the last decade, the global burden of child marriage is shifting to sub-Saharan Africa, where rates of progress need to be scaled up dramatically to offset population growth. Of the most recently married child brides, close to 1 in 3 are now in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to 1 in 5 a decade ago.

New data also point to the possibility of progress on the African continent. In Ethiopia – once among the top five countries for child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa – the prevalence has dropped by a third in the last 10 years.

“Each and every child marriage prevented gives another girl the chance to fulfill her potential,” said Malhotra. “But given the world has pledged to end child marriage by 2030, we’re going to have to collectively redouble efforts to prevent millions of girls from having their childhoods stolen through this devastating practice.”

World is failing newborn babies, says UNICEF

Babies from the best places to be born up to 50 times less likely to die in the first month of life

NEW YORK, ADDIS ABABA, 20 February 2018 – Global deaths of newborn babies remain alarmingly high, particularly among the world’s poorest countries, UNICEF said today in a new report on newborn mortality. Babies born in Japan, Iceland and Singapore have the best chance at survival, while newborns in Pakistan, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan face the worst odds.

“While we have more than halved the number of deaths among children under the age of five in the last quarter century, we have not made similar progress in ending deaths among children less than one month old,” said Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director. “Given that the majority of these deaths are preventable, clearly, we are failing the world’s poorest babies.”

Globally, in low-income countries, the average newborn mortality rate is 27 deaths per 1,000 births, the report says. In high-income countries, that rate is 3 deaths per 1,000. Newborns from the riskiest places to give birth are up to 50 times more likely to die than those from the safest places.

The report also notes that 8 of the 10 most dangerous places to be born are in sub-Saharan Africa, where pregnant women are much less likely to receive assistance during delivery due to poverty, conflict and weak institutions. If every country brought its newborn mortality rate down to the high-income average by 2030, 16 million lives could be saved.

Unequal shots at life[1]

Highest newborn mortality rates Lowest newborn mortality rates
1. Pakistan: 1 in 22 1. Japan: 1 in 1,111
2. Central African Republic: 1 in 24 2. Iceland: 1 in 1,000
3. Afghanistan: 1 in 25 3. Singapore: 1 in 909
4. Somalia: 1 in 26 4. Finland: 1 in 833
5. Lesotho: 1 in 26 5. Estonia: 1 in 769
6. Guinea-Bissau: 1 in 26 5. Slovenia: 1 in 769
7. South Sudan: 1 in 26 7. Cyprus: 1 in 714
8. Côte d’Ivoire: 1 in 27 8. Belarus: 1 in 667
9. Mali: 1 in 28 8. Luxembourg: 1 in 667
10. Chad: 1 in 28 8. Norway: 1 in 667
  8. Republic of Korea: 1 in 667

More than 80 per cent of newborn deaths are due to prematurity, complications during birth or infections such as pneumonia and sepsis, the report says. These deaths can be prevented with access to well-trained midwives, along with proven solutions like clean water, disinfectants, breastfeeding within the first hour, skin-to-skin contact and good nutrition. However, a shortage of well-trained health workers and midwives means that thousands don’t receive the life-saving support they need to survive. For example, while in Norway there are 218 doctors, nurses and midwives to serve 10,000 people, that ratio is 1 per 10,000 in Somalia.

This month, UNICEF is launching Every Child ALIVE, a global campaign to demand and deliver solutions on behalf of the world’s newborns. Through the campaign, UNICEF is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, health care providers, donors, the private sector, families and businesses to keep every child alive by:

  • Recruiting, training, retaining and managing sufficient numbers of doctors, nurses and midwives with expertise in maternal and newborn care;
  • Guaranteeing clean, functional health facilities equipped with water, soap and electricity, within the reach of every mother and baby;
  • Making it a priority to provide every mother and baby with the life-saving drugs and equipment needed for a healthy start in life; and
  • Empowering adolescent girls, mothers and families to demand and receive quality care.

“Every year, 2.6 million newborns around the world do not survive their first month of life. One million of them die the day they are born,” said Ms. Fore. “We know we can save the vast majority of these babies with affordable, quality health care solutions for every mother and every newborn. Just a few small steps from all of us can help ensure the first small steps of each of these young lives.”

About Ethiopia

 Ethiopia is the second largest country in Africa with a total population of 94 million, out of which 13 million are under five years of age. Despite making overall progress in child survival, deaths among newborn babies still remain high. At 29 deaths per 1,000 live births, newborn mortality accounts for 44 per cent of all under five deaths. The new UNICEF report indicates that in 2016 alone, 90,000 newborn babies died in Ethiopia, ranking the country among 10 high burden countries globally.

Recognizing the need to accelerate newborn survival, the Government has put newborn survival at the centre of the Health Sector Development Plan. It has developed the Newborn and Child Survival Strategy (2015-2020) to strengthen the capacity of the health system and the skills of health workers to deliver quality health care to every mother and newborn baby. This includes the provision of quality antenatal care, skilled delivery, essential newborn care, postnatal care and neonatal intensive care for sick neonates.

UNICEF’s support to the newborn care programme includes;

  • Antenatal care, delivery, postnatal care, child care;
  • Health posts, health centres, and tertiary level hospitals; and
  • Integrated management of neonatal and childhood illnesses, immunization, community-based neonatal care, newborn care corners, and neonatal intensive care units.

UNICEF will continue to support the Ministry of Health to expand the availability of essential newborn care in the 800 health centers across the country, establish Newborn Intensive Care Units (NICUs) in hospitals, and strengthen the link between community-based and facility-based maternal, newborn, and child health programmes.


UNICEF and UNFPA to speed up their efforts to end the violent practice of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)

Addis Ababa, 06 February 2018 As the world observes International Day of Zero Tolerance on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), UNICEF and UNFPA in Ethiopia commit to accelerate their joint efforts to end the violent practice of FGM/C.

Given the rising number of girls at risk, the two agencies believe that with increased investment and redoubled political commitment, with greater community engagement and more empowered women and girls, it is a race that can be won.

The Sustainable Development Goals recognize that female genital mutilation undermines progress towards a more equal, just, and prosperous world. They set an ambitious target of eliminating all such harmful practices against girls and women by 2030.  UNICEF and UNFPA globally devoted the theme of the year 2018 – “Ending Female Genital Mutilation is a political decision” – to engaging government bodies and policy makers to join efforts.

In Ethiopia, the Government expressed its commitment to ending FGM/C and child marriage by the year 2025 at the London Girls’ Summit in 2014 and committed itself to reducing the practice to 0.5 per cent by 2020 in the Growth and Transformation Plan. The Government has also taken key programmatic actions which include  endorsement of the National Strategy and Action Plan on Harmful Traditional Practices against Women and Children as well as establishment of the National Alliance to End Child Marriage and FGM/C. 

“To accelerate the elimination of the practice , we need to work at grassroots level, at scale and hand-in-hand with communities – boys and girls, women and men, and most importantly, traditional and religious leaders –  to reach the hearts and minds of millions of people,” said UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia Gillian Mellsop. “We also believe that it is important to address the health and psychological complications caused by FGM/C by providing the necessary health services to help survivors lead a healthy life,” she said.

“We have seen that rates of female genital mutilation can drop rapidly in places where the issue is taken on wholeheartedly by governments, by communities, by families. Where social norms are confronted, village by village. Where medical professionals come together to oppose the practice, where laws are enacted to make it a crime and where those laws are enforced. Where wider access to health, education and legal services ensure sustainable change. Where girls and women are protected and empowered to make their voices heard,” said Ms. Bettina Maas, UNFPA representative to Ethiopia.

The 2016 Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey shows a declining  trend in FGM/C from 74 per cent in 2005 to 65 per cent in 2015  in the age group 15-49 years, and from 62.1 per cent to 47 per cent  in the 15-19 year old age group. The survey also shows a more significant decrease in the younger age cohort compared to the older: prevalence is 75 per cent in the age group 35-49 years, 59 per cent in the 20-24 year age group, and 47 per cent in the age group 15-19 years. FGM/C prevention and care Afar

UNICEF and UNFPA have been working  together for many years in Ethiopia on programmes to end FGM/C. One such programme is in the Afar Region which has recently been expanded to the SNNP region. The programme has a social mobilization component which aims to increase community knowledge and change attitudes towards the practice through religious and clan leaders as well as youth and adolescent girls who convene community dialogues. Tailored messages through radio and television also reach a wider audience.

UNICEF and UNFPA also work together to improve enforcement of the law through increasing legal literacy, strengthening special units in the law enforcement bodies, and supporting community level surveillance in tracking cases of FGM/C for better reporting and management of cases. The programme has facilitated the declaration of abandonment of the practice in 6 districts in Afar Region. 

Globally, the prevalence of FGM/C has declined by nearly a quarter since around 2000. In countries where UNFPA and UNICEF work jointly to end female genital mutilation, girls are one third less likely to undergo this harmful practice today than they were in 1997. More than 25 million people in some 18,000 communities across 15 countries have publicly disavowed the practice since 2008.

48,000 babies to be born on New Year’s Day in Eastern and Southern Africa

NAIROBI/JOHANNESBURG/ADDIS ABABA, 1 January 2018:  Approximately 48,000 babies will be born in the Eastern and Southern Africa region on New Year’s Day, UNICEF said today, as the UN Children’s Fund asked nations around the region to make sure more newborns survive their first days of life.

In 2016, an estimated 2,600 children around the world died within the first 24 hours, every day of the year. Across that same year, 136,000 newborns died in Ethiopia and The United Republic of Tanzania combined, placing them in fifth and ninth position, respectively, among the ten countries with the highest neonatal deaths in the world. Among those children, more than 80 per cent of all newborn deaths are due to preventable and treatable causes such as premature birth, complications during delivery, and infections like sepsis and pneumonia. 


“This New Year, UNICEF’s resolution is to help give every child more than an hour, more than a day, more than a month – more than survival,” said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF’s Regional Director in Eastern and Southern Africa. “We call on governments and partners to maintain and expand their efforts to save millions of children’s lives by providing proven, low-cost solutions.”

UNICEF says that babies born in Eastern and Southern Africa will account for 12 per cent of the estimated 386,000 babies to be born globally on New Year’s Day.  Almost 58 per cent of these births will take place in five countries within the region, with the largest number of births on New Year’s Day projected for Ethiopia:

  • Ethiopia 9,023
  • The United Republic of Tanzania 5,995
  • Uganda 4,953
  • Kenya 4,237
  • Angola 3,417

Over the past two decades, the world has seen unprecedented progress in child survival, halving the number of children worldwide who die before their fifth birthday to 5.6 million in 2016. But despite these advances, there has been slower progress for newborns. Babies dying in the first month account for 46 per cent of all deaths among children under five.

In 2016, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 38 per cent of all newborn deaths. Despite stark improvements in child survival within the continent, child mortality remains high and important challenges need to be met to accommodate the projected increase in births and prevent African countries with high fertility rates from falling further below international benchmarks for maternal, newborn and child care.

Chief among them is to vastly expand systems and interventions for maternal, newborn and child health. The scale of this challenge should not be underestimated. From 2015 to 2050, some 1.8 billion babies are projected to be born in Africa – 700 million more than were born in the preceding 35-year period (1980-2014). Ensuring that these births are attended by skilled professionals and that new mothers have adequate care and attention before, during and after childbirth represents an immense and unprecedented challenge.

Next month, UNICEF will launch Every Child Alive, a global campaign to demand and deliver affordable, quality health care solutions for every mother and newborn. These include a steady supply of clean water and electricity at health facilities, the presence of a skilled health attendant during birth, disinfecting the umbilical cord, breastfeeding within the first hour after birth, and skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child.

“We are now entering the era when all the world’s newborns should have the opportunity to see the 22nd Century,” Leila Pakkala. “Unfortunately, nearly half of the children born this year likely won’t. We can all do more.”

‘BABY WASH’ boosted at this year’s World Toilet Day in Ethiopia

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.

World Toilet Day 2017: 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. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Mulugeta Ayene

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.

World Toilet Day 2017: safe disposal of child faeces
Lack of knowledge on the health risk related to child faeces is a key factor behind poor hygiene practices in faeces disposal. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Mulugeta Ayene

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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