Support from the EU successfully contributes to closure of polio outbreak in Ethiopia

Health Extension Worker administers Polio Vaccination
Addis Ababa, 12 August 2015 – Support from the European Commission’s European Union has successfully contributed to efforts to contain the spread of the wild polio virus in Ethiopia, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced today.

“Following a robust and aggressive response to the onset of the 2013 Horn of Africa polio outbreak in Ethiopia, the Ministry of Health, partners and frontline workers have worked hard to ensure millions of children have been vaccinated with the polio vaccine,” said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “As a result of the response, transmission of the polio virus has been successfully interrupted. This success is due to the tremendous support from the EU and other partners, which has ensured teams on the ground have had the adequate vaccines to immunise and ultimately, protect children against polio and stop the outbreak.”

A recent Horn of Africa polio outbreak assessment in June 2015 declared that the transmission of wild poliovirus in Ethiopia and Kenya has now been interrupted, with the last case of wild poliovirus in Ethiopia confirmed almost 19 months ago in January 2014. 11 August 2015 also marks the one-year anniversary of the last reported wild poliovirus case in neighbouring Somalia, and on the entire continent of Africa.

The generous €4 million financial contribution, for polio eradication in Horn of Africa, provided Ethiopia and South Sudan with funds for the procurement of the oral polio vaccine to respond to the Horn of Africa polio outbreak.

In Ethiopia, a total of 23,783,000 doses of bOPV were procured for four polio supplementary immunisation activities (SIAs), in vulnerable, polio high-risk regions such as Somali, Gambella, Benshangul-Gumuz, Afar, Dire Dawa, Harari; in other high-risk zones in the country and refugee camps. The campaigns also included one nation-wide campaign covering all regions which aimed to vaccinate every single child in the country under the age of five years – over 13 million children. This supplementary immunisation complemented routine immunisation and sought to interrupt circulation of the polio virus by immunising every child under five years of age with two drops of oral polio vaccine for every round, regardless of previous immunisation status.

The campaigns, which were carried out in some of Ethiopia’s remotest parts, reaching hard-to-reach mobile and pastoral populations, successfully targeted children who were either not immunised, or only partially protected, and boosted the immunity in those who have been immunised.

The EU support contributed to regional efforts to interrupt polio and significantly accelerate the global push to eliminate polio. The polio virus can be swiftly transmitted through water or food contaminated with human waste from an infected person. There is no treatment against polio and vaccination remains the vital key to providing life-long protection for children. The vaccine – which is just two drops in the mouth – is safe, effective and prevents paralysis. Children should be vaccinated several times to ensure they are protected for life.

Through the generous support of the EU and other polio donors and partners such as The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; Crown Prince Court, Abu Dhabi, UAE; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; National Philanthropic Trust; Slim Foundation; Rotary International; Swedish International Development Cooperation and others, successful closure of the outbreak in Ethiopia has been achieved. Continued collaboration is critical to sustain gains for polio, routine immunisation and child and family health in Ethiopia.

Translate commitments to invest in children into action, UNICEF urges leaders at Financing for Development Conference

Rahmat and her baby Ne'ema Abdu-Dessie Zurie Woreda
Rahmat and her baby Ne’ema Abdu-Dessie Zurie Woreda © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Tsegaye

NEW YORK/ADDIS ABABA, 15 July 2015 – At the close of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, UNICEF challenges the international community to turn its promises to invest in children and young people into concrete action that reduces inequities and provides every child with a fair chance in life.

UNICEF welcomes the Addis Ababa Conference’s recognition that investing in children and young people is “critical to achieving inclusive, equitable and sustainable development”. This represents a significant shift away from the perception of children as passive recipients of social spending towards viewing them as agents of future growth and development. 

UNICEF also supports the Conference’s acknowledgement of the “vital importance of promoting and protecting the rights of all children, and ensuring that no child is left behind,” believing that this provides a strong basis for final negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director UNICEF, makes a remark at the Child Protection: Sustaining Investments in Childhood side event
Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director UNICEF, makes a remark at the Child Protection: Sustaining Investments in Childhood side event at FFD3 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

“Here in Addis Ababa member states have agreed on a global roadmap for development finance that recognises in much stronger words than previous agreements that investing in children is central to inclusive and sustainable growth,” said Yoka Brandt, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “The Addis Ababa Action Agenda puts a strong emphasis on equity, on reaching the most vulnerable. Combined with the Sustainable Development Goals, which also give clear priority to the interests of children and equity, we now have a robust, new global foundation for making the world fit for children.”

However, UNICEF warns against complacency and calls upon the international community to build on the commitments made in Addis Ababa by:

  • Prioritising investments in basic universal services such as education, social safety nets, health care, immunisation, water and sanitation and child protection;
  • Identifying and targeting groups and communities with the greatest needs;
  • Progressively mobilising additional resources to address financing gaps in underfunded SDG priority areas with the greatest impacts for children such as nutrition, children protection and early childhood development;
  • Improving reporting on child-related spending including documenting how much funding goes to groups or areas with greater incidences of child deprivation.

“We must make sure that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children are at the heart of the SDGs, and at the heart of how we go about mobilising the financing that is needed to achieve these goals,” Brandt said. “We have a unique opportunity to translate commitments and promise and into action. To turn rhetoric into practical results for all children.”

Sustaining Achievements in Polio Eradication in Ethiopia and Africa

High level Vaccination Session During the Financing for Development conference
PDG Dr Tadesse Alemu, President of Rotary National Polio Plus Committee, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Dr Margaret Chan, UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibe, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ms Yoka Brandt and Ethiopian Minister of Health Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu poses for a group picture after vaccinating a group of children at Selam Health Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Sustaining the Achievements in Polio Eradication in Ethiopia: High level Vaccination Session During the Financing for Development conference ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Westerbeek

Addis Ababa | 14 July 2015. Ethiopian Minister of Health Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Dr Margaret Chan, The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) Chief Executive Officer Dr Seth Berkley and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ms Yoka Brandt participated in a high level polio vaccination event at Selam Health Centre in Addis Ababa. Also present at the event were UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibe, US Ambassador Ms Patricia M. Haslach, Brazil Ambassador Mrs Isabel Cristina, President and CEO of PATH Dr Davis Steve, and Rotary National Polio Plus Committee Chairperson PDG Dr Tadesse Alemu as well as national and international EPI partners, health workers and mothers with their children. “Strong leadership, political will and coordination are key to sustaining the gains made in interrupting polio transmission in Ethiopia and Africa,” said Dr Margaret Chan, commending Ethiopia’s aggressive response to the 2013 outbreak of wild polio virus. “Horn of Africa countries should continue to immunise all at risk age groups until the threat drops to zero and eradication is achieved. And this is possible only through high quality immunisation activities for all communities.” When the wild polio virus outbreak in the Horn of Africa spread to Ethiopia in August 2013, the Government of Ethiopia intensified vigilance, surveillance and mass immunisation campaigns, together with partners like WHO, UNICEF, USAID, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Rotary International. Fifteen supplementary immunisation campaigns were implemented with a focus on high risk areas. Cross-border coordination was heightened, with Horn of Africa countries coming together to implement synchronised response activities. It has been 18 months since the last case of wild polio virus was reported in Ethiopia, and 11 months since the last case in Africa. Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu said, “We will focus on equity and quality for every child and mother in Ethiopia,” adding, “The Government of Ethiopia continues to be committed to eradicating polio from Ethiopia, and Africa.” He further affirmed that “The Government of Ethiopia will continue to engage communities for active participation in routine immunisation, and will continue to build strong health partnerships.” With a view of sustaining the achievements in interruption of wild polio virus transmission, and strengthening the immunisation system, the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia, with support from partners, is currently implementing a two-year Routine Immunisation Improvement Plan 2014-2015. The plan pays special attention to low performing prioritised zones and accelerating efforts to support such vulnerable zones to improve performance, among other priority initiatives.

Sustaining the Achievements in Polio Eradication in Ethiopia
Ms Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF gives an anti polio drop to a child at Selam Health Centre. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

Ms. Yoka Brandt, asserted, “Immunisation, especially routine immunisation, is a core priority within UNICEF, and it will continue to be. With the availability of new innovations, new vaccines, and new research and evidence, we can go fast and far.” Immunisation is among the most cost effective interventions we can provide to our children. Yet, one in five children are not fully immunised worldwide. In Ethiopia and Africa, children in remote and marginalised communities are more likely to be missed. It is these same children that carry the highest risk of diseases that vaccines can prevent. Therefore we must refine our strategies to reach these children and include them in our services. Reaching every community is an approach that strives at inclusion of all communities, especially the marginalised children, ensuring resources and services are available and monitoring is in place. Dr Seth Berkley, highlighting GAVI’s commitment to strengthening routine immunisation, said, “Strong routine immunisation systems are a bedrock of healthy societies and are central to global plans for the eradication of polio. By working together, we are reaching more children than ever before with lifesaving vaccines and the GAVI partners are committed to supporting countries like Ethiopia to sustain and build on their progress on immunisation.” WHO, UNICEF, GAVI and other immunisation partners remain committed to support African governments in reaching every community with vaccination – the gift of life. Untitled

We can eliminate violence against children – Sustaining investments in childhood

S-Date 13 July event - photo


Discussion on the role of a global partnership and fund to end violence against children. 


 Ms. Marta Santos Pais – UN SRSG on Violence against Children

H.E. Hon. Saada Mkuya Salum – Minister of Finance, United Republic of Tanzania

H.E. Hon. Christian Paradis – Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Canada

Ms. Yoka Brandt – Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF

Mr. Nick Dyer – Director of Policy, UK Department for International Development

Ms. Gugulethu Ndebele – CEO, Save the Children South Africa


13.15-14.450, Monday, 13 July 2015


Warka 1+2, Radisson Blu, Addis Ababa


Every 5 minutes a child dies as a result of violence. Almost 1 in 4 girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide report being victims of some form of physical violence since age 15. In 2012, 1 in 5 homicides deaths were children and young people under the age of 20. Aside from the incalculably damaging effects on children, the global economic impact and costs resulting from the consequences of physical, psychological and sexual violence against children could be as high as $7 trillion according to Overseas Development Institute.

 Children have a right to be protected from all forms of violence in all settings, in every country of the world. The establishment of a global fund and partnership to end violence against children would be a major step along the road to realising this fundamental right.  

UNICEF, WHO: Lack of sanitation for 2.4 billion people undermining health improvements

A South Sudanese refugee takes a shower with water poured from a jerry can
A south Sudanese refugee Nvakuache Tut takes a shower by the way of water poured from a jerry can. 26, June 2014 Burbie South Sudanese Refugees Reception Centre Gambella Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

Final MDG progress report on water and sanitation released 

NEW YORK/GENEVA, 30 June 2015 – Lack of progress on sanitation threatens to undermine the child survival and health benefits from gains in access to safe drinking water, warn WHO and UNICEF in a report tracking access to drinking water and sanitation against the Millennium Development Goals.

The Joint Monitoring Programme report, Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment, says worldwide, 1 in 3 people, or 2.4 billion, are still without sanitation facilities – including 946 million people who defecate in the open. 

“What the data really show is the need to focus on inequalities as the only way to achieve sustainable progress,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene programmes. “The global model so far has been that the wealthiest move ahead first, and only when they have access do the poorest start catching up. If we are to reach universal access to sanitation by 2030, we need to ensure the poorest start making progress right away.”

Access to improved drinking water sources has been a major achievement for countries and the international community. With some 2.6 billion people having gained access since 1990, 91 per cent of the global population now have improved drinking water – and the number is still growing. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 427 million people have gained access – an average of 47,000 people per day every day for 25 years.

The child survival gains have been substantial. Today, fewer than 1,000 children under five die each day from diarrhoea caused by inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene, compared to over 2,000 15 years ago.

On the other hand, the progress on sanitation has been hampered by inadequate investments in behaviour change campaigns, lack of affordable products for the poor, and social norms which accept or even encourage open defecation. Although some 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, the world has missed the MDG target by nearly 700 million people. Today, only 68 per cent of the world’s population uses an improved sanitation facility – 9 percentage points below the MDG target of 77 per cent. 

“Until everyone has access to adequate sanitation facilities, the quality of water supplies will be undermined and too many people will continue to die from waterborne and water-related diseases,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director of the WHO Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. 

Access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene is critical in the prevention and care of 16 of the 17 ‘neglected tropical diseases’ (NTDs), including trachoma, soil-transmitted helminths (intestinal worms) and schistosomiasis. NTDs affect more than 1.5 billion people in 149 countries, causing blindness, disfigurement, permanent disability and death.

The practice of open defecation is also linked to a higher risk of stunting – or chronic malnutrition – which affects 161 million children worldwide, leaving them with irreversible physical and cognitive damage.

“To benefit human health it is vital to further accelerate progress on sanitation, particularly in rural and underserved areas,” added Dr Neira.

Rural areas are home to 7 out of 10 people without access to improved sanitation and 9 out of 10 people who defecate in the open. 

Plans for the new Sustainable Development Goals to be set by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 include a target to eliminate open defecation by 2030. This would require a doubling of current rates of reduction, especially in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, WHO and UNICEF say. 

WHO and UNICEF say it is vitally important to learn from the uneven progress of the 1990-2015 period to ensure that the SDGs close the inequality gaps and achieve universal access to water and sanitation. To do so, the world needs:

  • Disaggregated data to be able to pinpoint the populations and areas which are outliers from the national averages;
  • A robust and intentional focus on the hardest to reach, particularly the poor in rural areas;
  • Innovative technologies and approaches to bring sustainable sanitation solutions to poor communities at affordable prices;
  • Increased attention to improving hygiene in homes, schools and health care facilities.

Young people are important actors in ending child marriage in Africa

Theme of the Day of the African Child 2015: “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”

Ubah Jemal, 15, makes a call before a meeting of the Girls Club in Jigjiga, Somali Region, Ethiopia
Ubah Jemal, 15, makes a call before a meeting of the Girls Club in Jigjiga, Somali Region, Ethiopia, 24 January 2015. Ubah is the vice president of the Somali Region Children’s Parliament, a position that enabled her to engage and empower girls in Jigjiga town, where she lives. In addition to heading the Girls Club in her own high school, she is responsible for setting up similar clubs in all the primary schools of her town. Ubah wants to pursue the field of medicine while continuing to serve in leadership position. “I want to become a doctor because it grants the opportunity to touch peoples’ lives directly, but ultimately, I want to become a leader, preferably a president,” she says. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Bindra

NEW YORK/ADDIS ABABA, 16 June 2015 – Child marriage remains a brutal reality for millions of girls across Africa, denying them the right to live healthy and fulfilling lives. 

Poverty, lack of education, gender stereotyping, discrimination and negative religious practices have resulted in millions of these girls being married off before their 18th birthday.

In Ethiopia, Child Marriage of girls is prevalent throughout the country and is clearly a gender issue, given the considerable difference between men and women in age at marriage. According to the Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey (EDHS) of 2011, the median age at first marriage for women is 17.1, almost a year below the legal age of marriage, whereas the median for men was six years older, at 23.1. 

“Child Marriage affects girls in various ways and denies their right to fully develop their potential and be in charge of their destiny,” said Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “Hence, Ethiopia is heading in the right direction due to the concrete actions taken by the Government and its developments partners including the adoption of a national strategy on Harmful Traditional Practices, the formation of a national alliance to end child marriage, the strong commitments made by the government at the July 2014 Girls Summit in London to end child marriage and FGM/C by 2025.” 

Haimanot Gashu (center), 12, stands outside the Goha Primary School in Goha Kebele, Dera Woreda, Amhara Region, Ethiopia
Haimanot Gashu (center), 12, stands outside the Goha Primary School in Goha Kebele, Dera Woreda, Amhara Region, Ethiopia, 28 January 2015. Married at the age of seven, she is currently under a lot of pressure from her mother to move in with her husband, as she is now considered old enough to run her own home. She currently lives with her uncle and aunt. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Bindra

UNICEF in collaboration with other stakeholders is currently supporting the government of Ethiopia in meeting their commitments. UNICEF will continue to support the scale up of programmes and interventions which have proven to have a positive impact on girls and women empowerment.  The programmes will also ensure that the various interventions deliver concrete results for the girls through proper monitoring and evaluation systems.

The magnitude of violations occasioned in a single act of marrying off a child cannot be underestimated. In the worst of cases, a girl who becomes pregnant when her body is not yet ready may die at childbirth. Her baby may also not survive: a double tragedy. Infants born to adolescent mothers are 60 per cent more likely to die in their first year, and are more likely to be malnourished.

 “We cannot downplay or neglect the harmful practice of child marriage, as it has long term and devastating effects on these girls whose health is at risk and at worst leading to death due to child birth and other complications,” said Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

 The African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa encourages governments across the continent to set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years. The Campaign also focuses on strengthening families and communities to protect their children, and ensuring they have access to key information and services of quality.

The Day of the African Child (DAC) will serve to shine a brighter spotlight on the contribution that young people are making to accelerate the movement towards ending child marriage at multiple levels. From young reporters who publish stories on child marriage, to young people who speak at international fora, to those who take part in discussions with their families, their peers and their communities about the benefits of delaying marriage and pregnancies and in action to end the practice – they are important agents of change. Their role can be further enhanced through the provision of life skills, quality education and training.

This year’s DAC will be 25 years since it was first marked, and will focus on ending child marriage in Africa. While the DAC commemorations are held on 16 June each year across countries in Africa, the official continental commemoration will take place in Soweto, South Africa, on 15 June 2015. 

The DAC also coincides with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), and an opportunity to reinforce the commitment by African governments to children’s rights, while examining the main achievements and challenges in the implementation of the ACRWC.

Hundreds of children from South Africa will be joined in Soweto by others from across Africa, to commemorate the DAC and further urge the African leadership to do more for children, especially in ending child marriage.

Access to education for 1 million children improved through 10-year UNICEF and ING partnership

10 YEAR UNICEF – ING PARTNERSHIPNEW YORK/ADDIS ABABA, 21 April 2015–UNICEF and ING, a Dutch multinational banking and financial services corporation, today announced the renewal of a decade-long partnership that to date has provided access to better quality education for more than 1 million of the world’s hardest-to-reach children.

During the past 10 years, ING has inspired its employees and customers worldwide to raise funds for UNICEF, helping to improve children’s access to education in remote communities in Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Nepal and Zambia.

In Ethiopia, 458 Alternative Basic Education Centres for pastoralist children have been built, benefiting over 50,000 children. Andover 3,400 facilitators (teachers from the community) have been trained to apply a ‘childfriendly’ teaching method.

“ING shares UNICEF’s deep commitment to improving the lives and well-being of children and young people around the world,” said Koos Timmermans, Member and Vice-Chairman, Management Board Banking, ING. “We are united by a conviction that education is a fundamental building block for the development of children and their societies. We are proud that with the support from our customers and employees, the ING–UNICEF partnership has positively affected the lives of 1 million disadvantaged children.”

The partnership has trained 17,000 teachers and has been instrumental in the development of new ways to reach marginalised children. In 2006, ING was one of the first investors to support Alternative Basic Education Centres, providing much needed educational opportunities for pastoralist children in Ethiopia. The strategy has now been fully integrated into the country’s education system. In Nepal, ING was also the first investor to support the Adolescent Development and Participation programme in 2013, helping to equip young people with social and financial skills.

The second phase of the partnership will shift its focus to adolescents. While the world has made remarkable progress for millions of children over the past decades – reducing child mortality, increasing the number of children enrolled in primary school, and expanding access to health care services – far too many of the 1.2 billion adolescents worldwide have been left behind.

“UNICEF is grateful to ING – and especially to its employees and customers – for their commitment to improving children’s lives and futures,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “We are excited that our renewed partnership with ING will focus on reaching adolescents and helping them develop the knowledge and skills they need to build brighter futures for themselves, their families, and the societies in which they live.”

For the next three years, the renewed partnership aims to reach 335,000 adolescents in six countries – Indonesia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Nepal, the Philippines and Zambia –enabling them to develop into socially and financially empowered adults and full members of society.

10 YEAR UNICEF – ING PARTNERSHIPBehind these figures are the individual stories of teachers and children like Mohamed, a young Ethiopian man who herded goats until he was 11 years old and was given the opportunity to be one of the first children to enrol in an ING-supported Alternative Basic Education Centre. “The school building was made of sticks and we shared one book between five students and were sitting on rocks,” said Mohamed, who is now 19 years old, remembering his first experiences at school.“So much has changed since then! Right now, the children in my community have their classes in a real school building; they have tables and chairs and every child has a textbook. Most importantly, parents really understand now why children should go to school.”

In 2005, UNICEF faced a challenge in providing basic education for pastoralist children in Ethiopia. Young pastoralists, who make up a significant part of Ethiopia’s population of children, grow up in areas far from primary schools. But with ING’s support, UNICEF and its partners initiated a new concept called Alternative Basic Education Centres (ABEC) to provide education for these children – an approach that turned out to be the first step towards a new, successful education model.

These alternative learning centres introduced education into the pastoralist lifestyle so that the school calendar and the time schedule were adapted to the daily chores of the children who take care of the livestock. This approach turned out to be so successful that, over the years, 458 centres have been built in Afar, Somali, SNNPR and Oromia regions of Ethiopia.

Furthermore, the government raised the standard of these alternative schools to meet that of regular primary schools. As a result, many of the schools have now been formalised or will be formalised in the future; teachers receive professional training and pastoralist children can continue their education in formal secondary school.