UNICEF: 1.1 million HIV infections in children averted since 2005

Lemlem, 20-years-old, with her 18-month-old son at the Saris Health Center in Addis Ababa

An estimated 1.1 million HIV infections among children under 15 have been averted, as new cases declined by over 50 per cent between 2005 and 2013, according to data released by UNICEF today ahead of World AIDS Day.

 This extraordinary progress is the result of expanding the access of millions of pregnant women living with HIV to services for the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT). These include lifelong HIV treatment that markedly reduces the transmission of the virus to babies and keeps their mothers alive and well.

“If we can avert 1.1 million new HIV infections in children, we can protect every child from HIV – but only if we reach every child,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.  “We must close the gap, and invest more in reaching every mother, every newborn, every child and every adolescent with HIV prevention and treatment programmes that can save and improve their lives.”

 The sharpest declines took place between 2009 and 2013 in eight African countries: Malawi (67per cent); Ethiopia (57per cent); Zimbabwe (57per cent); Botswana (57per cent); Namibia (57per cent); Mozambique (57per cent); South Africa (52per cent) and Ghana (50per cent).

Ethiopia is one of the 25 countries that reduced new HIV infections by 90 per cent from 135,000 in 2001 to 15,100 in 2013. On average, more than 11 million people per year have been reached with HIV testing and counselling as part of early treatment initiation efforts. People living with HIV who are accessing antiretroviral treatment (ART) have dramatically increased from 8,000 in 2005 to over 350,000 in 2014.  However, coverage of ART for children less than 15 years is only 23 per cent compare to 86 per cent for adults in 2014. 

In Ethiopia, mother to child transmission rate has also significantly reduced from 35 per cent in 2009 to 19 per cent in 2013. As of June 2014, over 19,000 pregnant women living with HIV received antiretroviral prophylaxis or treatment. Coverage of antiretroviral treatment for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) increased from 24 per cent in 2010 to 60 per cent in 2014. However, the country is behind the global goal of providing antiretroviral medicine to 90 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV.

Haregua Askale stands in her traditional bar waiting for customers

“UNICEF is committed to reducing the number of children born with HIV in Ethiopia by supporting the government innovative strategy of Heath Extension Workers and Health Development Army through demand creation intervention as a primary prevention. In 2014 alone, this strategy has resulted in 1.2 million pregnant women testing for HIV.” said Ms. Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF Acting Representative.

Overall, UNICEF contributed to the considerable progress made by the government of Ethiopia in improving PMTCT, including HIV testing for pregnant women, antiretroviral treatment for HIV-positive women for Prophylaxis, CD4 test provision and HIV tests for infants born from positive mothers, and the roll out of the option B+[1].  Maternal ARV coverage for PMTCT has increased by 60.6 per cent in 2014, improving Ethiopia’s performance among the 22 PMTCT priority countries.

Despite the decline in HIV prevalence among young people, there is strong consensus based on evidence that girls and young women remain disproportionately vulnerable to HIV infection in Ethiopia. In this regard, UNICEF continues to provide support to the government of Ethiopia to address these issues. 

Disparity in access to treatment is hampering progress. Among people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries, adults are much more likely than children to get antiretroviral therapy (ART). In 2013, 37 per cent of adults aged 15 and older received treatment, compared with only 23 per cent of children (aged 0-14) – or less than 1 in 4. 

AIDS mortality trends for adolescents are also of significant concern. While all other age groups have experienced a decline of nearly 40 per cent in AIDS-related deaths between 2005 and 2013, adolescents (aged 10-19) are the only age group in which AIDS-related deaths are not decreasing. 

UNICEF’s Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDS provides the most recent analysis of global data on children and adolescents from birth to 19 years of age.

To download a copy of the data update, excel spreadsheets, tables and graphs, please visit: www.childrenandaids.org

Thousands more mothers, babies can be saved in Ethiopia

New Lancet Series finds major progress in improving survival for Ethiopia’s babies, but more can be done

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ADDIS ABABA: 24 November 2014: By 2025, Ethiopia could save as many as 76,800 mothers and babies each year if it continues its aggressive efforts to develop and implement effective strategies to improve maternal and newborn health. These estimates were released in Addis today at the Ethiopia launch of The Lancet Every Newborn Series 2014 and the Every Newborn Action Plan.

The authors of the Series say that while Ethiopia is one of the 10 countries with the highest numbers of neonatal deaths, it is currently ranked fifth in the world as having the greatest potential to save maternal, perinatal and neonatal lives by 2025. A systematic assessment of challenges in high-burden countries like Ethiopia, revealed that the most common barriers to improving survival were related to the health workforce, financing, and service delivery. By addressing these challenges, many lives can be saved in the next decade alone.

Yet far too many babies and mothers in Ethiopia still die from preventable causes with 84,000 babies dying before their first month, and an additional 78,400 who are stillborn. The major killers were prematurity, complications during child birth including trouble breathing, and severe infections, which together cause more than 80 percent of neonatal deaths. More than two-fifths of Ethiopia’s under-five deaths are among newborns.[1][2]

Mother feeding her child plumpy nut
Mother taking care of here baby boy. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2006/Getachew

Birth is the riskiest time for mothers and their babies, but there is an opportunity to accelerate progress towards ending preventable newborn and maternal deaths,” said John Graham, Country Director for Save the Children. “Our five-year research known as Community-based Interventions for Newborns in Ethiopia (COMBINE) shows community-based treatment of severe neonatal infections can reduce newborn deaths after the first day of life by as much as by 30 percent. This demonstrates investment in community-based newborn health programme will reduce newborn deaths and sustain the country’s remarkable achievements in tackling child deaths.”

The Series findings present the clearest picture to date of a newborn’s chance of survival in countries around the world and highlight the steps that must be taken to end preventable infant deaths. New analyses indicate that 3 million maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths can be prevented each year around the world with proven interventions—including the promotion of breastfeeding, neonatal resuscitation, kangaroo mother care for preterm babies, and the prevention and treatment of infections.

These interventions can be implemented for an annual cost of US$1.15 per person. Providing quality care at birth yields a quadruple return on investment—saving mothers and newborns, and preventing stillbirthsand protects babies from disability.

“Newborn survival is as attainable as child survival, we know why and when newborns are dying,” said Patrizia DiGiovanni, Representative a.i., UNICEF Ethiopia. “We also know what we need to do to reduce neonatal death. Investment on newborn survival has a promising return for future generations. The time to act is now.”2

Examination of new born at Wukro Clinic ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2009/Tuschman

Ethiopia is using the lifecycle approach to implement a number of high impact interventions to ensure newborn survival; this starts before pregnancy, through pregnancy delivery and the postnatal period. The country is currently revising the national newborn and child survival strategy taking the newborn survival agenda as central.

“There is tremendous opportunity and we know what needs to be done to ensure every Ethiopian mother and her baby have a healthy start,” said Dr. Gary L. Darmstadt, Lancet Series author and senior fellow at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Countries that have made recent, rapid reductions in newborn and maternal deaths have done so by expanding the number of skilled health workers, rolling out innovative mechanisms to reach the most underserved families, and focusing on improving care for newborns.”2

“The success in Ethiopia is primarily due to political commitment and the introduction of our home grown innovative community health workers programme called the Health Extension Programme”, said Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister, Federal Ministry of Health.

Health extension workers are equipped with the skills and equipment to identify pregnant mothers early, conduct focused, antenatal care, facilitate skilled birth care, conduct postnatal home visits to identify complications in both mothers and newborns and take appropriate measures, including but not limited to the treatment of newborns with severe infections by using oral and injectable antibiotics when referral is not possible or acceptable by families. The Health Development Armies are supporting the 38,000 Government funded health extension workers in mobilizing communities to promote key healthy behaviors including early care seeking for newborns, children and mothers.

[1] The Lancet Every Newborn Series

[2] United Nations Inter Agency Group for Mortality Estimate, 2014 Report

State of the World’s Children report launched in Ethiopia

SOWC 2014 IN NUMBERS coverAs we mark 25 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 2015 edition of The State of the World’s Children calls for brave and fresh thinking to address age-old problems that still affect the world’s most disadvantaged children. In particular, the report calls for innovation – and for the best and brightest solutions coming from communities to be taken to scale to benefit every child.

The report highlights the work of creative problem solvers around the world, allowing them to talk about the future in their own voice. Much of the content in the report was curated from UNICEF’s series of ‘Activate Talks,’ which have brought together innovators from around the world to highlight specific challenges and concrete actions to realize children’s rights.

The report launched today in Ethiopia by Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia and the new UNICEF Ethiopia National Ambassador, young rap star Abelone Melese, a citizen of Norway with Ethiopian origin.

Abelone Melese and Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Ethiopia Representative launched the State of the World's Children Report at the Ambassadorship signing ceremony.
Abelone Melese and Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Ethiopia Representative launched the State of the World’s Children Report ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

We are requesting your support, as a key influencer on social media to help promote the report and generate greater awareness around the power of innovation to drive change for children.

We encourage you to read and share the report and videos, through this link and share your ideas through social media using the report’s main hashtag: #EVERYchild, as well as #innovation, when relevant. Also, make sure you are following @UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with our #EVERYchild messages to help spread the word!

By helping to create a global conversation around innovation as a means of reaching the most disadvantaged children, you are helping to put innovation for equity at the centre of the global agenda.

UNICEF Ethiopia Appoints young rap star Abelone Melese as its New National Ambassador

Abelone Melese and Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting Representative for UNICEF Ethiopia hold a UNICEF T-shirt to officiate Abelone's new title.
Abelone Melese and Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting Representative for UNICEF Ethiopia hold a UNICEF T-shirt to officiate Abelone’s new title. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

20 November 2014, Addis Ababa: Today, UNICEF Ethiopia appointed young rap star Abelone Melese, a citizen of Norway with Ethiopian origin, as its new National Ambassador at a signing ceremony held in its premises. The event was attended by Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Mrs. Tove Stub, Minister Counsellor/Deputy Head of Mission, Royal Norwegian Embassy, members of the media and UNICEF staff.

Abelone, after visiting Ethiopia several times, was driven by compassion and the zest to help mothers and children by using her music to convey positive messages. She participated in a project called 10,000 happy birthdays which was a fundraising activity to help mothers in Malawi and Ethiopia. At a fundraising concert organized for this project, Abelone performed a rap song in Amharic and English on the situation of African mothers-a song she composed especially for this concert and which has left a big impression and fans.

Abelone Melese interviewed by the media on her new role as the newest UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia.
Abelone Melese interviewed by the media on her new role as the newest UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia.

Speaking of her new title as a UNICEF National Ambassador Abelone said, “I have always wanted to help children and young people who do not have the opportunities to reach their highest potential. Since I couldn’t do it financially, I am happy that I can use my talent to convey those messages”. She further said, “Working with UNICEF as a National Ambassador will allow me to help defend the rights of children, including the right to education, health, nutrition, water, and sanitation, protection and participation and ensure compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, because that’s what UNICEF is about.”

Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Representative underlined, “Abelone is a role model for her peers and especially girls. Her candid personality coupled with her strong presence in the public domain sends powerful messages that reach the hearts and minds of children and youth all over the world. We are confident that she will make a positive contribution especially in the area of child rights, maternal health and girl’s empowerment during her ambassadorship.”

Abelone is following in the footsteps of Aster Awoke and Hannah Godefa as UNICEF National Ambassador by demonstrating an outstanding commitment and dedication by promoting the rights of children’s issues over time.

Abelone, as the new National Ambassador to Ethiopia, will sign a two year agreement with UNICEF starting 20 November which is Universal Children’s Day and the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of a Children. (CRC)

In addition, she will perform on 21 November at the Music Concert organized jointly by UNICEF and Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MoWCYA) to celebrate International Day of the Girl Child (IDG) at Alliance Ethio-Francaise in the evening at 20:00.

Here is Abelone’s reflection after the ceremony

See the pictures from the ceremony here 

And her PSA with Hannah Godefa here

Lack of toilets dangerous for everyone, UNICEF says

Girls' toilet at Beseka ABE Center in in Fantale Woreda of Oromia State
Girls’ toilet at Beseka ABE Center in Fantale Woreda of Oromia State ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ose

NEW YORK/Addis Ababa, 19 November 2014 – Slow progress on sanitation and the entrenched practice of open defecation among millions around the world continue to put children and their communities at risk, UNICEF warned on World Toilet Day.

Some 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have adequate toilets and among them 1 billion defecate in the open – in fields, bushes, or bodies of water – putting them, and especially children, in danger of deadly faecal-oral diseases like diarrhoea.

In 2013 more than 340,000 children under five died from diarrhoeal diseases due to a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene – an average of almost 1,000 deaths per day.

“Lack of sanitation is a reliable marker of how the poorest in a country are faring,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes. “But although it is the poor who overwhelmingly do not have toilets, everyone suffers from the contaminating effects of open defecation, so everyone should have a sense of urgency about addressing this problem.”

The call to end the practice of open defecation is being made with growing insistence as the links with childhood stunting become clearer. India, with 597 million (half the population) practising open defecation, also has high levels of stunting. Last week, UNICEF convened a conference in New Delhi called ‘Stop Stunting’ to call attention to the effect of open defecation on the entire population, particularly children. UNICEF’s ‘Take Poo to the Loo’ campaign in India also works to raise awareness of the dangers associated with open defecation.

Asfaw Legesse a model in his community washes his hand after using a latrine.
Asfaw Legesse a model in his community washes his hand after using a latrine. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

“The challenge of open defecation is one of both equity and dignity, and very often of safety as well, particularly for women and girls,” Wijesekera noted. “They have to wait until dark to relieve themselves, putting them in danger of attack, and worse, as we have seen recently.”

Compared to other African countries, Ethiopia has made huge progress in reducing open defecation rates from 92 per cent in 1990 to 37 per cent in 2012. The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) 2014 report from UNICEF/WHO confirms that Ethiopia is leading the charge in Africa in reducing open defecation.The community total sanitation and hygiene approach, supported by UNICEF and utilizing the 38,000 Health Extension Workers in the country, has greatly contributed to this success.

“The challenge of improving sanitation levels to ensure that the minimum standards of toilet construction remains in many rural areas across Ethiopia. With the rapid urbanisation of the country there is also a need to “reinvent the toilet” to make it affordable, durable and appropriate for high density urban dwellings. UNICEF is advocating for these, and greater focus on toilets in schools and health centres nationwide, to ensure greater access to improved sanitation,” said Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting Representative of UNICEF Ethiopia.

UNICEF’s Community Approaches to Total Sanitation addresses the problem at the local level by involving communities in devising solutions, and has led to some 26 million people across more than 50 countries abandoning the practice of open defecation since 2008.

Eighty-two per cent of the 1 billion people practising open defecation live in just 10 countries: India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Niger, Nepal, China, and Mozambique. The numbers of people practising open defecation are still rising in 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, though they have declined in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. In Nigeria, numbers of open defecators increased from 23 million in 1990 to 39 million in 2012.

Globally, some 1.9 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990. However, progress has not kept up with population growth and the Millennium Development Goal target on sanitation is unlikely to be reached by 2015 at current rates of progress.

The inter-governmental Open Working Group on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals have recommended that the new goals include a target of achieving adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and ending open defecation by 2030.