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.
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.
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 . Until 2016, this bustling school of over 1,300 students had only one traditional latrine – shared by boys and girls alike.
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.
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. 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.
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. There is a long way to go before all children in Ethiopia have proper access to safe and clean toilets at school.
 One WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) National Programme Draft Report 2016
 Menstrual Hygiene Management, Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Baseline Survey, 2017; Afar, Gambella, Oromia and SNNP regions of Ethiopia.
UNICEF has received only 12 per cent of the funds it needs this year to send children affected by emergencies to school
ADDIS ABABA/HAMBURG, Germany/NEW YORK, 11 July 2017 – Funding shortfalls are threatening education for millions of children caught up in conflicts or disasters, UNICEF said today ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg.
Of the $932 million needed this year for its education programmes in emergency countries, UNICEF has so far received recorded voluntary contributions of less than $115 million. The funds are necessary to give 9.2 million children affected by humanitarian crises access to formal and non-formal basic education.
“Without education, children grow up without the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to the peace and the development of their countries and economies, aggravating an already desperate situation for millions of children,” said Muzoon Almellehan, UNICEF’s latest – and youngest – Goodwill Ambassador, speaking from Hamburg, Germany, where she is representing UNICEF at the G20 Summit. “For the millions of children growing up in war zones, the threats are even more daunting: Not going to school leaves children vulnerable to early marriage, child labour and recruitment by armed forces.”
Funding gaps for UNICEF education programmes in some of the world’s hot spots vary from 36 per cent in Iraq, to 64 per cent in Syria, 74 per cent in Yemen and 78 per cent in the Central African Republic.
Pursuing educational opportunities has been cited as one of the push factors leading families and children to flee their homes, often at great risk to their lives. A survey of refugee and migrant children in Italy revealed that 38 per cent of them headed to Europe to gain access to learning opportunities. A similar survey in Greece showed that one in three parents or caretakers said that seeking education for their children was the main reason they left their countries for Europe.
For children who have experienced the trauma of war and displacement, education can be life-saving. “When I fled Syria in 2013, I was terrified I would never be able to return to school. But when I arrived in Jordan and realized there was a school in the camp, I was relieved and hopeful,” said Muzoon. “School gives children like me a lifeline and the chance of a peaceful and positive future.”
As an education activist and Syrian refugee, Muzoon joins forces with UNICEF to speak out on behalf of the millions of children who have been uprooted by conflict and are missing out on school.
“I urge world leaders to invest in the futures of children living in emergencies — and by doing so invest in the future of our world,” Muzoon said.
Note to editors:
Information on Ethiopia:
In Ethiopia, the education system remains vulnerable to natural disasters and manmade emergencies despite the significant advancements in expanded access to general education for children and young people. The past two years of successive drought have forced many students to drop-out of school and have lessened the quality of education, with hundreds of schools closing and families, including students and teachers, moving in search of water. At the end of the 2016/17 academic year, over 200 primary schools remain closed.
UNICEF Ethiopia works closely with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education to ensure equity and access for all children to education in the country. Interventions include the planning and coordination of education emergency responses and supporting the Ministry of Education to ensure that assistance to schools across the most drought-affected regions is efficiently targeted. UNICEF also assists regional education bureaus with the provision of primary school teaching and learning materials, water and sanitation services to schools, as well as support to offset the additional costs schools are bearing to stay open during drought. Furthermore, communities hosting displaced families and their children have been provided with temporary learning facilities.
In 2017, an estimated 2.7 million children require support to continue their education, including nearly 100,000 internally displaced children. In addition, an estimated 369,038 refugee children require further support to enable access to educational facilities.
As of early July, the funding gap for the education sector’s 2017 commitment remains at 57 per cent, with only US$5 million of the required US$11.6 million available to ensure children in emergency-affected areas stay in school.
More than 25 million children between 6 and 15 years old, or 22 per cent of children in that age group, are missing out on school in conflict zones across 22 countries, according to a recent UNICEF analysis.
Across the globe, nearly 50 million children have been uprooted – 28 million of them driven from their homes by conflicts not of their making, and millions more migrating in the hope of finding a better, safer life. Refugee children and adolescents are five times more likely to be out of school than their non-refugee peers.
Lack of access to education is particularly high among children on the move, with half of the world’s child refugees not able to start or resume their learning.
In 2016, just 3.6 per cent of global humanitarian funding was spent on education. $8.5 billion is needed annually to close this gap. Available funds are often short-term and unpredictable, resulting in high levels of disruption for children and their education.
During the first World Humanitarian Summit held in May 2016, UNICEF and partners launched the Education Cannot Wait fund aimed at addressing the funding gap to 13.6 million children with educational support over five years, and 75 million children by 2030.
In 2016, a total of 11.7 million children in humanitarian situations were reached by UNICEF with educational support.
AYSAITA, AFAR, 18 May 2017 –Even with her sun-stricken skin and tired eyes, one can feel the vibrancy and strong personality of Zahara Ali. Zahara is a volunteer social worker who dedicates herself to helping her community without any compensation. With some broken Amharic mixed with a translated Afari language and a smile on her face, she starts to explain how she ended up serving her community.
“My first daughter was lucky not to get mutilated,” explains Zahara, “I was sensitized about FGM/C at that time.” However, her second daughter was cut. “I was heavily pressured by family and neighbours.”
Zahara allowed the traditional cut to be done on her daughter at seven days old, not knowing that it would end up being the most ‘incorrect and terrible procedure’. Facing complications and enduring pain, her daughter had to be brought to Aysaita Primary Hospital for corrective surgery.
After that experience, Zahara became much stronger and committed to teach others about the harm of FGM/C. When a community FGM/C sensitization programme was started in her town, some volunteers were deterred due to the lack of compensation, but for Zahara, that did not matter. “After going through the pain with my second daughter, I decided to work as the hospital’s social worker. I am convinced that I have to help mothers with FGM/C complications and make a difference in people lives,” says Zahara.
“The hospital contacts Zahara to sensitize the community,” says Dr. Hatesy Abraha, the gynaecologist at Aysaita Primary Hospital who has been hired through UNICEF’s FGM/C programme. He adds, “It is sort of demand and supply. The hospital provides treatment while utilizing people like Zahara to sensitize and convince mothers. Otherwise, it is not common for mothers in the Afar region to go to the hospital.”
Zahara was trained on FGM/C by the community sensitization programme, which was launched by UNICEF and the Regional Health Bureau. She then goes into her community with volunteers like her to teach about the symptoms of FGM/C complications. That is when women with FGM/C complications and other gynaecological needs seek treatment from the hospital. Zahara brings in mothers who have medical cases such as fistula or urinary complications. She advices pregnant women to have antenatal care and institutional delivery.
While visiting the hospital with Dr. Hatesy, we met patients who had undergone such corrective procedures. One patient was Ebo Ahmed, a 60-year-old who has had many complications due to the type III FGM/C that was performed on her years earlier. Ebo has been stitched after every birth of her five children. Now, she has had vaginal prolapse, a condition in which structures such as the uterus, rectum, bladder, urethra, small bowel or the vagina itself begin to fall out of their normal positions. In addition to repairing the prolapse, the medical team removed her uterus as well, all done in effort to ease complications from her FGM/C.
Ebo says, “I used to visit the hospital frequently as I was in severe and constant pain.” This constant pain was due to repeated urinary tract infections and other complications she had due to the FGM/C. Ebo is determined to advocate and teach her community by sharing her experience. “I will advise, if they give me their ears,” she declares. As she prepares for discharge, she expresses her gratitude for the medical procedure, which was nearly free of charge thanks to UNICEF and partners.
Aysaita Primary Hospital is one of the hospitals in Afar region that was upgraded from a health centre in 2014, providing services for a majority pastoralist population of approximately 100,000. Through UNICEF support, the hospital employed a gynaecologist in May 2016. Following his assignment, the hospital started providing inpatient and outpatient management for FGM/C complications and different gynaecologic and obstetric cases.
The hospital has five trained health providers on clinical management of FGM/C victims and has two admission wards with a total of 10 beds. In 2017, they treated 292 cases, up from zero in 2016. With efforts from community members such as Zahara and Ebo and treatment from medical staff such as Dr. Hatesy, the goal is that one day again, the cases will be at zero – this time as a sign of tremendous progress towards eradicating the FGM/C practice.
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.
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.
“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.
Erbeti, Sfar, 17 May 2017 – Muna*, like many other girls in Afar region, was subject to type III female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C), a removal of the clitoris and the labia minora as well as infibulation: the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. In her first few days of life, she was irreversibly changed; the fate of 98 per cent of females in Afar according to the 2016 Demographic Health Survey.
Years later she began experiencing unending pain. “It is just not how I expected my life would be,” Muna explained. It began at the age of 13 when she had her first period, which quickly became her monthly nightmare. In fact, it was only the beginning of a brutal reality.
At the age of 15, Muna entered into an arranged marriage. Sexual intercourse is another painful experience. “I have never enjoyed sexual intercourse with my husband,” said Muna.
She soon became pregnant. Going to a health facility to give birth is considered taboo in her community; a woman showing her private parts to a man is ‘unacceptable’. Rather, women are to give birth at home. It was no different for Muna.
“I had a really horrible labour and birth experience; I was bleeding and was in dire pain. I felt I was dying,” Muna said. “I truly believe I would have died I had not been taken to the hospital,” she added. Health extension workers in the community came to her house and took her by ambulance to the hospital.
She recovered in the hospital, but that was not the end to her agony. Infections and bleeding continued for weeks. All this led Muna to make up her mind that she would never let her new born daughter go through life like her.
As accustomed in her community, when her daughter was less than one month old, her family started planning for her FGM/C. Muna strongly refused: “I do not want her to go through the same pain. My husband almost made me leave the house, but I was persistent,” said Muna.
Community efforts supported Muna’s tough decision. The Government of Ethiopia, together with UNICEF, implements a multi-sector FGM/C eradication programme, with prevention, protection and care components each respectively managed by the Bureau of Women and Children’s Affairs, the Bureau of Justice and the Regional Health Bureau. Communication committees are one of the interventions, comprised of local religious leaders, clan leaders, health extension workers and police officers. Each fully integrated into their communities, they keep alert for three types of situations: child marriage, instances of FGM/C or a woman whose husband is refusing her to give birth in a health facility. They are reported to the appropriate sector office for further action. The committee also organizes training, supported by UNICEF and the Bureau of Justice, for community members on harmful traditional practices, with an emphasis on FGM/C.
Asrat, a communication committee volunteer, is also a teacher who is passionate about improving the lives of girls and women. “If I were to work in a modern community, I would not be satisfied. Helping to rescue young girls [from FGM/C] is fulfilling,” she says with tears in her eyes, “This issue is often a matter of life and death for them.”
Muna is happy that she saved her daughter from FGM/C and grateful for the education her community is receiving through the FGM/C programme. “Because of the awareness and training, my husband accepted my decision. Otherwise, it would have been impossible,” she said.
Enhancing knowledge to bringing social norm change
Sheikh Mohammed Dersa, the president of the Afar Region Islamic Supreme Council, started to combat FGM/C 25 years ago. He believes that FGM/C is a harmful practice that risks the life of young girls and has no basis in Islamic law but rather is Pharaonic. “When it comes to protection of girls from harmful tradition practices such as FGM/C, our challenge is lack of knowledge,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
Years ago, Sheik Mohammed and other religious and clan leaders who were against FGM/C, were highly resisted by the community and some religious leaders; it was unimaginable to stop the practice. Hence, they started advising people who practice type III FGM/C to reduce the practice to type I, as type I is considered the less painful than the other FGM/C practices (where a girl’s clitoris is ‘only’ cut or removed). The FGM/C practice used to be celebrated with a feast, but nowadays it is done behind curtains, an indication of the progress made.
Through partner collaboration, UNICEF is sensitizing the community gate keepers such as religious and clan leaders to support the effort; engaging the community through regular community dialogue, involvement of adolescent girls in the change process and implementing various sensitization events. Thus, it is believed a critical mass across the community is being built to support the change of social norms and end the practice.
Another facet of eradicating FGM/C is the strengthening and enforcement of legal frameworks, as the Ethiopian Government has passed laws to deter the practice. To this end, consultations to endorse the draft family law, enhancing legal literacy of the community, building the capacity of law enforcement bodies and the establishment and strengthening of community surveillance mechanisms are among the key interventions.
Ending a practice which has been long engrained in a community cannot be done with a single, short-term intervention. With the support of international donors, UNICEF is undertaking this extensive, multisector approach alongside the Government of Ethiopia to ensure that progress continues until no girl and no women are subject to the brutal reality of FGM/C.
ADDIS ABABA, 30 June 2017- UNICEF Ethiopia signed the Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2010 annual work plans with the Federal and Regional Government under the umbrella of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF 2016-2020). The signing ceremony, held at the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance and Economic Commission’s office, was attended by Heads of United Nations agencies including UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF and the implementing Federal and Regional Government offices as signatories of the annual work plans.
Mr Admasu Nebebe, State Minister for Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation, speaking after signing the work plans, said “Implementation of the signed work plans will contribute to the achievement of Ethiopia’s current Growth and Transformation Plan [GTP II]. The results and activities are linked to the Government’s priorities at all levels.” UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Officer-in-Charge, Ms. Shalini Bahuguna, applauded the Government of Ethiopia’s leadership in implementing the annual work plans, saying “A recent review conducted by UNICEF’s global team has identified the annual work planning process of Ethiopia as a model for other country offices, demonstrating principle of alignment with government policy and ownership by stakeholders.”
The work plans were prepared under the logic that the accomplishment of activities will contribute to the achievement of UNICEF’s and UNDAF’s intermediate and higher level results, which are in support of GTP II. A consultative process was followed during the preparation of the work plans at the Regional and Federal level. This year, UNICEF Ethiopia signed 143 work plans with more than 140 Regional and Federal Government implementing partners. The work plans cover fifteen programme areas including:
Early Warning and Disaster Preparedness
Sanitation and Hygiene
Child Friendly Social Welfare
Adolescents and HIV/AIDS
Violence against Children
Ending Child Marriage and FGM
Justice for Children
Public Finance for Children
Evidence and Coordination
The total budget equals US$ 74,867,075. Implementation of the work plans will start on the 1st of July 2017 and will close on the 30th of June 2018, following the Ethiopian Fiscal Year.