Five-fold increase in number of refugee and migrant children traveling alone since 2010 – UNICEF

Ahead of G7, UNICEF urges world leaders to adopt six-point action agenda to keep refugee and migrant children safe

“He said to me if I didn’t sleep with him he would not bring me to Europe. He raped me.” – Mary, 17-years-old from Nigeria

NEW YORK, 17 May 2017 – The global number of refugee and migrant children moving alone has reached a record high, increasing nearly five-fold since 2010, UNICEF said today in a new report. At least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in some 80 countries in the combined years of 2015 and 2016, up from 66,000 in 2010 and 2011.

‘A Child is a Child: Protecting children on the move from violence, abuse and exploitation’ presents a global snapshot of refugee and migrant children, the motivations behind their journeys and the risks they face along the way. The report shows that an increasing number of these children are taking highly dangerous routes, often at the mercy of smugglers and traffickers, to reach their destinations, clearly justifying the need for a global protection system to keep them safe from exploitation, abuse and death.

“One child moving alone is one too many, and yet today, there are a staggering number of children doing just that – we as adults are failing to protect them,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth. “Ruthless smugglers and traffickers are exploiting their vulnerability for personal gain, helping children to cross borders, only to sell them into slavery and forced prostitution. It is unconscionable that we are not adequately defending children from these predators.”

The report includes the story of Mary, a 17-year-old unaccompanied minor from Nigeria, who experienced the trauma of being trafficked firsthand during her horrific journey through Libya to Italy. When describing the smuggler turned trafficker who offered to help her, she said, “Everything (he) said, that we would be treated well, and that we would be safe, it was all wrong. It was a lie.” Mary was trapped in Libya for more than three months where she was abused. “He said to me if I didn’t sleep with him he would not bring me to Europe. He raped me.”

Additional key findings from the report include:

  • 200,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum across around 80 countries in 2015-2016.
  • 100,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2015-2016.
  • 170,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in Europe in 2015-2016.
  • Unaccompanied and separated children accounted for 92 per cent of all children arriving to Italy by sea in 2016 and the first months of 2017.
  • Children account for approximately 28 per cent of trafficking victims globally.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America and the Caribbean have the highest share of children among detected trafficking victims at 64 and 62 per cent respectively.
  • As much as 20 per cent of smugglers have links to human trafficking networks.

Ahead of the G7 Summit in Italy, UNICEF is calling on governments to adopt its six-point agenda for action to protect refugee and migrant children and ensure their wellbeing.

“These children need a real commitment from governments around the world to ensure their safety throughout their journeys,” said Forsyth. “Leaders gathering next week at the G7 should lead this effort by being the first to commit to our six-point agenda for action.”

The UNICEF agenda for action includes:

  1. Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence;
  2. End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, by introducing a range of practical alternatives;
  3. Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status;
  4. Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services;
  5. Press for action on the underlying causes of large scale movements of refugees and migrants;
  6. Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination.

UNICEF is also urging the public to stand in solidarity with children uprooted by war, violence and poverty, by supporting the six-point agenda for action.

Dalocha girls, who returned from Arab states now detest that quick money

By Coletta N. Wanjohi

DALOCHA WOREDA (DISRICT), SNNPR, 13 February 2015 – As she speaks her eyes become wet and in no time she breaks down in tears. She speaks between sobs, “I don’t want to remember the experience in the Saudi Arabia prison,” Zeineb* explains as she wipes her tears with her fingers.

Two years ago, 16 years old Zeineb stopped school at 8th grade to go and work in Saudi Arabia. She has three brothers and one sister. She wanted to make money and move them from the current one roomed mud house to a house that she would build.  Her father, a painter, could not make enough money to keep Zeineb in school and provide for the rest of the family. Zeineb’s family lives in Silt’e zone in Dalocha woreda, in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region of Ethiopia.

Zeineb says she was sent to work in a rural area of Saudi Arabia as a camel caretaker. Her employer, a father of two had no respect for her.

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“He used to slap me often, and he also attempted to sexually assault me. Every day he came to my room, I used to refuse,” Zeineb explains with anger painted all over her face.

Zeineb says that for one and a half year she worked without pay. One day when the employer was away she took away money worth her 6 months’ pay- as she knew where he kept his money- and fled to the capital Riyadh, by taxi.

In Riyadh an Ethiopian broker linked her to a couple whom she says paid her 10,000 birr per month. Her hope ended just two months later when her new employers left for the United States. Left on her own the Saudi police arrested her for being in Saudi illegally and threw her into prison.

“I’m happy to be back home, nobody should go there. Everybody can work here in Ethiopia and change their lives. We shall become better, I know. I tell my friends this,” She explains with brightness in her now dry eyes.

In another home just nearby, 15 year old Fatima* is doing laundry with her sisters by their water tap area. They chat as one washes and the others rinse in two huge metallic basins. From time to time they shout at their small brother not to go out of the compound into the dusty road.

15 year old Fatima went to Saudi Arabia to work at the age of 12. She stopped school at 8th grade.

The agent, who connected her to Saudi at a fee of 10,000 birr, told her that she would be paid 1,500 Saudi riyal. Lelya says when she got there her elder sister who had gone before her helped her get a job at a hair salon where she was only paid 500 riyal per month.

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“We would work for long hours. Our employer would threaten us every time and was slow to pay us the meager salary. What annoyed me is that the Philippines and Indians who worked with us were paid more than we the Ethiopians,” says Fatima.

After 1 year and 8 months she decided to come back home to Dalecho. Here she found the financial situation as challenging as she had had left it. She had not made money that would make the changes that she had envisaged. Her sister who had been in Saudi for 11 years was deported for lack of legal residence permit.

“I was depressed when I found the friends I had left in school had reached grade 12, but I have to move on,” She says sadly. Fatima has decided to leave school because her father, a policeman, cannot afford to keep her there. Now she is the only one who can care of her parents, 5 sisters and 3 brothers.

“I would love to continue to study but the financial challenge is big. All is not lost. I will start up a business, maybe cosmetics shop or hair salon depending on the capital I will raise,” She expresses herself confidently.

50 km deeper into the rural areas of Dalecho woreda, Fozia* , kneads bread dough. From time to time she waves away the birds that attempt to peck into the dough. Her 4 year old daughter plays nearby with other small children.

Fozia lives with her parents in one round hut. Made of mud and wattle the hut is divided into a sleeping area, and a space for utensils. The fireplace is at the middle of the hut. On one side of the mud walls is a drawing of a simple modern house by white chalk.

Fozia has also been to Saudi Arabia. Just like the other girls she wanted to bring back home money that would change the lives of her mother, 2 sisters and 5 brothers. Having stopped school at 3rd Grade, Saudi was the only hope for a change in life.

She left for Saudi when she was 15 and had already been married by then, with a two year old daughter. She only managed to send money back home once.

“Due to communication barrier, my employer used to slap me often. I would bleed from my mouth and nose, they never took me to the hospital, ‘explains Fozia,’ my employer also threw me in prison for three days. I don’t know what I did.”

Fozia came back home just after  a few months, back to the same round grass thatched house that is several kilometers away from tap water. She came back to a husband she does not want anymore because according to her, ‘he is never there’.

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“Mother does pottery for a living. I am the first born child and must help her sustain the family,” Fozia explains, “I will do any legal business here, I will try anything, I know I will give my family a good life.”

Having undergone female genital mutilation herself, Fozia says that she now understands that it is a bad practice and will not subject her four year old daughter to that.

“The government has told us that is wrong so I will not allow my daughter to do it, I want her to go to school.”

Tackling the challenge of trafficking underage girls

In Dalocha woreda the excitement of working in the Arab countries begun 3 to 4 years ago. The bureau of Women and Children affairs in Dalocha says that it is primarily a financially driven challenge. It is triggered by the high expectations that the girls in the woreda develop when they see little changes that other girls who worked in Arab countries have made.

“We have banned the operation of the agents or brokers who are trafficking girls to the Arab world in this woreda,” explains Zenash Asmalesh, an officer at the bureau, “we are trying to help the unemployed girls be self employed through microfinance credit schemes.”

The ban follows a decision by the Addis Ababa administration to stop travel to Middle East countries for domestic work. In 2014, the government was forced to facilitate the return of over 150,000 Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia who did not have legal permits to work in Saudi. There had been cases of some death and mistreatment of Ethiopians by the Saudi security forces.

UNICEF_ETHIOPIAThe courage to come back home from Saudi Arabia even without money by most girls in Dalocha woreda is positive enough. The realization by girls who went to the Middle East for jobs, that life at home even though not plush is peaceful is encouraging.

“ We are creating awareness to all community members against this shortcut to life, “ says Zenash,” We  explain often in different fora the need  for attitude change, that people can make good here in Ethiopia,”

The Saudi Arabia returnees have become living testimonies for other girls who haven’t made the attempt. They are not afraid to tell their story to other girls.

13 year old Lognesh Alemu who stopped school at 8th grade two years ago says that she has no hopes of going back to school because her mother is financially unable. However, she is quick to add that she will stay in Dalocha and help her mother sell pepper.

“ I will not go away like to Saudi Arabia , like the other girls I have heard,” Lognesh explains while smiling shyly, “ I hear that bad things may happen to me there, I will stay home and slowly help mother , my sister and my 3 brothers. ’

Her mother with her right hand on her chin looks at her proudly.

 

Photo: ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Holt

* Names have been changed to protect identity.

Strong mothers go extra mile to keep their children safe

By Zerihun Sewunet

In Ethiopia, below-average rainfall has worsened the situation in the Somali region, already severely affected by protracted drought. Access to water, sanitation and health services critically low and livestock deaths have further reduced communities’ capacity to cope, resulting in food and nutrition insecurity.

When drought strikes women and children suffer the most. Mothers have to travel long distance to find water and food and they often struggle to feed their children. In stories below, we are celebrating strong mothers who go extra mile to keep their children safe and their families together.

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 Kadar Kaydsane is 35 years old and has ten children, five boys and five girls. She has walked for five hours to get to Waaf Dhug temporary settlement site. She knew that there would be water and basic health and nutrition services.
Her husband and four of her ten children are not with her as they are herding the remaining goats. Most of her family’s livestock have died.
Dohobo Mohamed
The mother of 9 children who is 40 years old had three of her children affected by AWD. Her 4 year old boy passed away while two remain in care with Plan C interventions. Her biggest worry remain her two children that are still in care. Her family used to own 400 animals of which only 13 are remaining.
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Mariema Aden is a Waaf Dhuug local and has two children. She has sold all her livestock in order to survive and has no remaining means of livelihood. Her two children go to Waaf Dhuug primary school, one is in grade 6 and one in grade 8.
Deqa Osman
The 35 year old Mother of nine children has a 5 years old son that is doing a follow up due to being affected by malnutrition. Deqa says that the medical intervention her children have received was very effective.
Out of the 150 cattle her family owned, currently only 15 remains out of which most are likely to die. She worries about the future as her family’s livelihood, similarly to most, fully depended on cattle.
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Amren Mualin is 42 years old and has 13 children (12 girls, one boy).
She used to have 400 goats and sheep of which 200 were ready to be exported. 350 of the 400 animals have died as a result of the drought which has lasted for three years.
Seven of her 13 children are with her including her husband and the other six children who are looking after the remaining livestock.
Seafi Khalif
Seafi Khalif, 46, has two children who are both affected by AWD and received plan A and Plan B interventions. The medical intervention was administered to her children in a nearby CTC and they are back home now.
Just like so many others, her family has lost a significant amount of cattle; now only 20 remain out of 150. Her husband stays a few kilometers away from the IDP camp and looks after the remaining livestock.
Saynaba Sahene
Saynaba Sahene, 20,  has three children, including her youngest son who is 18 months old and suffers from acute malnutrition. She says that even though he was previously admitted for medical treatment and was discharged after given care, he currently needs to be readmitted because she was unable to provide him with the nutrition he needs to stay healthy.
She says she stopped breastfeeding her son when he was 6 months old due to health reasons.
Saynaba’s family doesn’t have a lot of cattle. Out of the 14 they have, only one camel has survived. Her husband lives at a different location assisting his father with keeping their livestock safe.

Photo credit: ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Zerihun Sewunet

Integrated Nutrition Services for Better Nutrition Outcomes 

By Nardos Birru

BOLOSO SORE, SOUTHERN NATIONS, NATIONALITIES AND PEOPLE’S REGION, 26 January 2017 – It was a sunny afternoon at the Chamahinbecho health post and the trees planted by health extension workers 10 years ago provided much needed shade in the compound. A group of mothers were sitting under the trees discussing how to best feed their toddlers and among them was Beyenech.

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Beyenech (middle), waiting for the porridge to feed her baby at a cooking demonstration session at Chamahinbecho health post, Boloso Sore woreda, SNNPR ©UNICEF/2017/Pudlowski

The cheery Beyenech, a mother of three, came to the health post to get her 1-year-old son weighed as part of the growth monitoring and promotion session that they attend on a monthly basis.

“I bring my son here every month and the health extension worker measures his weight and gives me advice,” says Beyenech. “She teaches us how to prepare meals for our children using different foods. I can see that my child is growing healthy and am glad to hear that [confirmed by] the health extension worker.”

Beyenech is among the many mothers in Chamahinbecho kebele (sub-district) who are benefiting from a project supported by the European Union called EU-SHARE. The project aims to contribute to improved nutritional status of children under five, adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women through strengthening nutrition outcomes of Government health, food security and livelihood programmes. The strategy involves integration of the multi-sector interventions at the household level to create synergetic effects that will maximize programme results.

Nutrition services for adolescents

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Adolescent deworming service. Chamahinbecho health post, Boloso Sore woreda, SNNPR ©UNICEF/2017/Pudlowski

It is not only Beyenech’s son who is benefiting from the nutrition services at the health post; her 15-year-old daughter has participated in the deworming campaign organized for adolescent students in the kebele. Beyenech speaks of her daughter, “Wubalem received a deworming tablet from the adolescent deworming campaign at her school last year. She also told me about the nutrition and hygiene practices that she heard from group discussion sessions during the campaign.”

Deworming of intestinal worms and schistosomiasis is an important service for young students, as both ailments affect the health and education of children and adolescents. A student with worms will be too sick or tired to attend school or will have difficulty concentrating in school. If left untreated over time, they may face stunting or malnutrition due to anaemia, as well as impaired cognitive development.

The Government-led programme, which is supported by EU-SHARE, contributes to the health and nutrition status of adolescents while improving school attendance rates. EU-SHARE project supports the programme through procurement of deworming tablets, provision of information, education and communication as well as behavioural change communication materials that are helpful to create awareness and initiate discussion on nutritional requirements during adolescence. The programme also includes technical support to health workers who carry out the deworming campaigns. Students like Wubalem have a better chance to succeed with their education due to initiatives like these.

Improving dietary diversity through backyard gardening

EU-SHARE also includes nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions which is implemented by FAO as part of the Government’s commitment to integrate nutrition into the agriculture sector. Promotion of backyard gardening is among the initiatives being implemented in the kebele.

After meeting the eligibility criteria targeting vulnerable families, Beyenech has been selected among the 1,960 beneficiaries targeted for seed supplementation led by the woreda agriculture office. She received vegetable seeds and began growing carrots, cabbage and tomato in her backyard garden. Beyenech explained, “I started preparing a porridge mixed with vegetables from my garden, using what I learned from the cooking demonstrations at the health post. I also prepare roasted vegetables along with shiro wot [chickpea stew] for the rest of my children.”

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Beyenech, a mother of three, showing her backyard garden. Chamahinbecho kebele, Boloso Sore woreda, SNNPR. ©UNICEF/2017/Pudlowski

Beyenech aspires for her children to have a better future. She wants them to be top students and become teachers or doctors so they have the knowledge and skills to impact the next generation in the community.

“Such type of nutrition interventions that consider integration as a cornerstone by addressing the different aspects of nutrition are a key weapon to combat the problem of malnutrition in a sustainable manner,” said Israel Mulualem, the nutrition focal person in Boloso Sore woreda health office.

The four-year EU-Share programme has been operational since 2015 and continues to support children, mothers and their families in seventeen woredas located in SNNP, Oromia and Amhara regions. Together with the Government of Ethiopia and donors such as the European Union, UNICEF is able to support existing initiatives of Government programmes so that children such as Wubalem, Setot and Teketel may have a bright future.

Adapting Response Efforts to Stop the Spread of Acute Watery Diarrhoea 

By Rebecca Beauregard

SOMALI Region, 20 April 2017 – When Basazin Minda was requested to support the acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) response in Somali region, he did not hesitate. In fact, within one week, he handed over his duties to colleagues in UNICEF Oromia team and was in Jigjiga office.

Complex emergencies are not new to him. He was in Gambella when a South Sudanese refugee influx necessitated immediate WASH response. And when an AWD outbreak threatened lives in the southern cross-border town of Moyale, Basazin led the AWD WASH response and coordinated joint Kenya and Ethiopia control mechanisms. This is part of why he loves working with UNICEF – there is full support and resources to take quick action as well as the flexibility to respond where needed when communities are facing crisis, such as the AWD outbreak.

One lesson he learned from those past emergencies was that to have an impact, it required extensive human resources in the affected areas. Recently hired WASH Information Management Officers (IMOs) were available to support his team and he soon learned about UNICEF Health section’s C4D (Communication for Development) consultants, which could help spread the critical WASH messages to stop the spread of AWD.

Adapting Response Efforts to Stop the Spread of Acute Watery Diarrhoea
On site community mobilization concerning poor drainage and optimal water collection methods. Lasoaano kebele, Shilabo woreda ©UNICEF/2017/Mualid

AWD describes infections that can result in easily transmitted and potentially deadly diseases. The spread of such disease is very high in areas with water scarcity and can have a devastating impact on children who may already be undernourished. Additionally, those living in crowded spaces with poor access to WASH facilities, like the many temporarily displaced families, also face a higher risk.

The recent AWD outbreak peaked in Somali region in February 2017 and now more than 50 per cent of the woredas (districts) are reporting active cases. Particularly due to the current Horn of Africa drought, there are refugees coming from neighbouring Somalia, as well as temporarily displaced Ethiopian Somalis, as people move in search of water, food and pasture for their livestock. The predominately pastoralist Somali region is the worst drought-affected area in Ethiopia with over 30 per cent of the region’s population requiring food assistance in 2017. Living conditions of these temporarily displaced people are often inadequate and widespread open defecation poses a risk of the spread of AWD, among other disease outbreaks.

Upon arrival, Basazin began a series of discussions with people from UNICEF, the Regional Water Bureau (RWB) and the zonal command post. What he learned immediately on the ground was a little different than he had prepared himself for. He came for mass chlorination of boreholes to stop the spread of AWD. However, he identified that boreholes are protected. “This is what can be so interesting about emergencies. You go in with one mind set and task and immediately are faced with a reality that may differ. The problem was not the water sources, so the contamination had to be happening at some point after water is collected, either during collection or storage,” Basazin explains.

Like detectives, Basazin and the newly formed team began contacting local water office staff and meeting with various community members to pinpoint where this contamination was coming from. The team concluded that contamination was occurring from water trucking, during the transport of water (usually by donkey cart) and at the household level, where dirty jerry cans were utilized repeatedly. Now the task has shifted to a multi-effort approach including mass chlorination of water trucks, community awareness campaigns to ensure clean jerry cans and training sessions for local water staff on chlorination standards.

The RWB staff know about chlorination, however at this critical time of drought and AWD, with a mobile team equipped with testing kits, jerry cans and barrels of HTH chlorine solution, everyone was eager to learn more from practical demonstrations. A key lesson that was missing before now was how to calculate correct measurements of chlorine according to the container size to ensure disinfection. Referencing UNICEF WASH guidelines, Basazin prepared a guideline of chlorination and turbid water purification with these specific calculations included and it was subsequently distributed to all water offices in the region.

Adapting Response Efforts to Stop the Spread of Acute Watery Diarrhoea
Basazin demonstrating residual chlorine with technical staff and community mobilizers at the Lasooano kebele health centre in Shilabo woreda ©UNICEF/2017/Mead

The feedback was positive after the training and RWB staff proliferated the learning by sharing demonstration photos through their Viber group, a mobile messaging application utilized by all Somali RWB staff.

One water office participant commented after a demonstration, “Assistance has come through here and sometimes guidance is offered, but not like this. Receiving evidence-based participatory training makes a big difference.”

Basazin did not always explain the calculations and guidelines. Another lesson his work has taught him is to tailor his WASH messages according to the audience. “AWD bugs will attack the water if it finds it without chlorine and consequently the attack will reach to human beings.” There was laughter when Basazin used this metaphor.

The team is working through Good Friday, the big Easter holiday and weekends to curb the outbreak and spirits remain high. Basazin’s energy and commitment to ensuring his work has impact is easily detected as he speaks. “I like to learn today and implement for tomorrow,” he says. “Perhaps another idea coming from this mission is that we should highlight a jerry can and water truck washing day, just as we promote handwashing day.” He is also quick to admit this is not a one-man show. With the UNICEF Jijiga and Addis team and the community, mass chlorination is taking place exactly where needed to curb the AWD outbreak.

“Everything has a solution,” Basazin declares.

 

New EU funding will provide essential nutrition treatment for 130,000 children under the age of five in Ethiopia

03 May 2017, ADDIS ABABA – The European Union (EU) has given €3 million in humanitarian funds to support UNICEF’s emergency interventions in Ethiopia. The new grant will provide life-saving nutrition treatment for severely malnourished children living in drought-affected areas of the country.

In Ethiopia, below-average rainfall has worsened the situation in Somali, Afar, and parts of Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s (SNNP) regions, already severely affected by protracted drought. Access to water, sanitation and health services in these areas is critically low. In addition, livestock deaths have further reduced communities’ capacity to cope, resulting in food and nutrition insecurity. An estimated 303,000 children under the age of five are at risk of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2017.

A boy is being treated for a severe malnutrition at a UNICEF supported stabilization centre“We are grateful for EU’s continuous and generous assistance for life-saving interventions addressing malnutrition at this critical time,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “We believe that the funding will significantly improve the health condition of children affected by the current drought and reduce the long term impact of malnutrition including life-long cognitive impairments.”

The EU humanitarian funding will support UNICEF to reduce child mortality and morbidity associated with SAM. In order to reach vulnerable children in remote areas, UNICEF will support the Government to expand existing healthcare services and provide treatment supplies – including ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF), therapeutic milk, and medicines. The intervention will also aim at mobilizing communities’ awareness on preventing malnutrition.

“As devastating drought hits pastoral communities in the south and south-east of Ethiopia, bringing in its wake Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) , food and water shortages, the EU is scaling up funding to provide children with vital nutrition care,” said Ségolène de Beco, Ethiopia Head of Office for EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). “Infants and young children are extremely vulnerable to a combination of malnutrition and diseases. To avoid unnecessary deaths and suffering, we need to respond to the needs of these children in time with appropriate treatment and care.”

The concerted efforts of UNICEF with the EU, the Government of Ethiopia and other partners, will relieve the suffering of children while continuing to build long term resilience and strengthening the Government’s capacity to respond to future nutrition emergencies.

Drought Emergency Highlights Entire Families Not Receiving Primary Education

By Rebecca Beauregard

DANOT, SOMALI, 15 February 2017 – “A woman never tells her age,” says Sadeh Abdihayii with a smile, affirming that this taboo is common around the world. She then admits to be 40 years old. We continue, asking her how many of her children are in school. With eight children ranging from nine months to 20 years old, none of them, including Sadeh, have been to school. Ever.

Sadeh had hoped one of them could go to school, but circumstances did not allow. “It seems sensible to learn, but we have not been able to,” says Sadeh.

40-year-old Sadeh Abdihayii laughs when asked about her age
Sadeh Abdihayii, 40-years-old, laughs about her age with her eight children gathered around her. Neither Sadeh nor her children have ever been to school. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Nahom Tesfaye

Living through drought

Sometimes Sadeh’s family lives in the vicinity of an organized village or town, such as now just outside Qorile kebele (sub-district), yet often they can be far away from any organized services including healthcare and schools. This is the life of a pastoralist family.

Sadeh’s family is one of the over 800 families that have temporarily settled in Danot woreda (district), in the eastern horned-tip part of Ethiopia. The Government of Ethiopia (GoE) has set up these temporary sites to provide life-saving medical and nutrition services, water and food during this drought period for one of the most vulnerable communities in the country, livestock-raising pastoralists.

Drought has hit these lowland areas across the Horn of Africa many times over the years, but Sadeh has never experienced one that devastated her livestock to this extent. Due to the negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), a weather phenomenon, the December rains failed, making it 12 months since many villages in the area have experienced rain.

It is understandable why school has not been possible for many of these children, whether considering the current food and water shortages, or the nomadic patterns of their  life. The regular school system does not fit into this lifestyle and it is a reality that is not often at the forefront of parents’ worries. With little or no safety net, pastoralist mothers and fathers are concerned with water, food and grazing land.

The GoE however, in partnership with UNICEF, has developed alternative methods to reach children, even those in remote areas.

Adapting education to the pastoralist context

With support from UNICEF, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has developed a pastoralist education strategy which is implemented across Somali and Afar, as well as some parts of Oromia and Southern Nations and Nationalities and Peoples’ (SNNP), regions where pastoralists are prominent.

The core intervention is a school equivalence programme, adapted for children ages 7 to 14, where students learn the equivalent of the first four grades of primary school before transitioning into formal schools. This Alternative Basic Education (ABE), is based on the national education system but has altered facets wherever necessary to make it feasible for the pastoralist context. Such alterations include low-cost construction of schools as well as flexible locations and schedules to accommodate children who herd their families’ animals or move in certain seasons.

While ABE is the most commonly implemented strategy for inclusion of pastoralist children, reaching 276,777 students over a period of six years, the GoE encourages families to enrol their children in formal schools whenever possible. UNICEF supports this initiative by identifying and addressing barriers to children joining school. Such interventions range from rehabiliting WASH facilities at schools to ensure proper toilets and water is available, to constructing temporary learning spaces or formal schooling in addition to providing exercise books for families who cannot afford the expense. Additionally, the GoE implements a school feeding programme to encourage school attendance, currently in 252 schools across Somali region.

More than ever, these crucial interventions are  needed now , particularly as hundreds of ABE schools across Somali region are currently closed due to drought conditions.

‘Maybe somehow one day’

Halimo Bandais, 20-year-old mother of a toddler is the eldest daughter of Sadeh.
Halimo Bandais, 20-year-old mother of a toddler, is the eldest daughter of Sadeh. She has never been to school. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Tesfaye

Families gathered near Qorile, such as Sadeh’s, are encouraged  to enrol their children in the Qorile primary school, which is within walking distance, even if it may only be for short term. While the drought situation is dire, there is now an opportunity for thousands of children to attend school while their families are receiving temporary assistance to keep their livelihoods afloat.

Sadeh’s eldest child, Halimo Bandais, comments, “I thought about school sometimes. But I have always been looking after the animals and we are moving here and there. How could I? But some of us will, perhaps my child.” Perhaps he will attend school one day. For now, hundreds of school-age children such as the girls neighbouring Sadeh’s tent, Feysa and Isthel, may be able to finally start their education while in the temporary settlement sites with adequate funding.

UNICEF is committed to the right of every child to receive an education. With contributions from international donors, the GoE, along with UNICEF and other education partners can expand programmes such as ABE or temporary learning spaces to ensure children such as those temporarily settled in Qorile, have an opportunity to access education.