UNICEF Ethiopia Supports South Sudanese Children with Vaccination Services

By Demissew Bizuwerk

Nyabiel Chamjock and her nine moth old daughter in Tergol.
Nyabiel Chamjock holds her nine months old daughter closer after he gets vaccinated. Nyabiel is one of the thousands asylum seekers, who crossed into Tergol town of Akobo Woreda, the Gambella region of Ethiopia that borders with South Sudan. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Bizuwerk

TERGOL, AKOBO WOREDA (GAMBELLA REGION)- Nyabiel Chamjock, a 20-year-old South Sudanese refugee, waits in line at the vaccination post with her nine-month-old daughter in her arms. She joins a long queue of other mothers with young children who are also waiting at the post to receive vaccinations. The growing queue is evidence of an effective community mobilisation campaign carried out in the last few days. In addition to the vaccination post where Nyabiel is waiting, three more posts have been made operational to cope with demand from the rising influx of South Sudan refugees. To ensure that vaccination posts are adequately stocked with supplies – two UNICEF boats regularly deliver vaccines. Nyabiel is one of the thousands of refugees who crossed into Tergol town in January in the Gambella Region of Ethiopia bordering South Sudan. Sadly, Nyabiel lost her husband during the tribal conflict between the Murle and the Lue Nuer tribes more than a year ago. She has recently had to face more tragedy. The eruption of violence in South Sudan, in December 2013, forced Nyabiel to flee into Ethiopia in search of safe refuge. After trekking most of the day on foot, clutching her child and a few selected belongings, she managed to cross the border.

Mass Vaccination Campaign for Refugees and Host Community
After waiting 30 minutes in the queue, Nyabiel’s daughter finally receives her required vaccines. She receives an injection against measles and drops to prevent her from contracting polio; she also receives vitamin A supplementation. In addition, her mid-upper arm circumference is measured to check her nutrition status. The chubby little infant looks surprisingly healthy despite the difficult conditions that her family is facing. Before Nyabiel leaves the vaccination post she is given a card confirming her daughter’s immunisation. She is also reminded that it is important to keep the card safe for future reference.

Nyabiel understands the importance of vaccinations for her child. “I know that my child will be protected from diseases after taking the vaccines. It is difficult in this area to keep a child healthy. As it gets dry and hot, children easily fall sick,” she said.

A four years old boy from South Sudan receiving a Polio vaccination in Tergol town   A child getting a Vitamin A supplementation in Tergol town.

UNICEF supports the provision of vaccination and nutrition supplements to children affected by the conflict in South Sudan
 

The mass vaccination campaign administered to South Sudanese refugees and members of the host community in Tergol, the capital of Akobo Woreda, is supported by UNICEF in coordination with the Regional Health Bureau. The campaign started at the beginning of January 2014 and more than 95 per cent of children have been targeted for immunisation.

UNICEF has prepositioned emergency vaccine supplies in the Gambella Region to ensure a timely response to the acute emergency needs of those fleeing from the violence in South Sudan and also to the vulnerable members of the host community. The mass vaccination campaign is crucial in preventing outbreaks like measles and polio. In the context of population movement across borders – especially in emergency situations – disease outbreaks can easily occur and prevention measures need to be in place to protect vulnerable mothers and children.

“This vaccination campaign is very important for the health of children both from the host community and refugees,” says Getachew Haile, UNICEF health emergency officer.  “It protects the children from contagious viral diseases such as measles and polio,” he adds.

In addition to the provision for vaccines against measles and polio, vitamin A supplementation is also given to children aged between six months and five years. Since the Gambella Region is prone to malaria, a distribution of mosquito nets has also helped to reduce the incidence of malaria morbidity and mortality.

Coordination Work
The emergency response to South Sudan refugees in Tergol is being coordinated by the Government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR. UNICEF supports the health activities of ARRA and UNHCR in partnership with the Regional Health Bureau. Adequate planning and functional systems have been put in place to manage human resource and logistic arrangements. In addition, health workers from Gambella town and adjacent areas such as Gniengnang, Wantowa and Tergol have received a one-day orientation.

With the support of the local administration, vaccination posts have been set up in locations that are accessible to the host community and refugees. Community mobilisation work has been an integral part of the vaccination campaign to ensure that community members and refugees are aware of the campaign programme and its importance to the health of mothers and children.

Head of the Akobo Woreda health office, Samuel Yien, acknowledges the impact of UNICEF’s support. He says that the emergency vaccination campaign is going well and that the activities are monitored closely. “We are grateful for the support we received from UNICEF. We are coordinating activities together and so far the campaign is good,” he added.

The Akobo Woreda (district) is the most inaccessible area in the Gambella Region. To reach the woreda capital of Tergol, one has to take an eight-hour boat ride from Buribe town- the last town accessible by vehicle. Accessibility problems make the role of UNICEF boats essential in delivering vaccines and other supplies to the vaccination posts.

Children are the most affected by the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Bizuwerk

Thousands of civilians, mainly women and children, have been affected by the violence that broke out in South Sudan in mid-December 2013. At the beginning of April 2014, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimated that more than 88,000 refugees crossed over the Ethiopian border through six entry points including Tergol, since the conflict began. These people are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, including food, water and health services. Mothers and their babies are visibly weak after enduring the long trek to Tergol, while some of the children are malnourished. As the influx of refugees increases and puts food supplies under strain, the nutritional status of newly arrived children deteriorates.

Although some of the refugees in Tergol are being accommodated by the host community, there are still many more staying in makeshift shelters close to the Akobo River.

Nyabiel constructed her small makeshift shelter from sticks and rags to offer some protection from the piercing sun. Her new rickety home is shared with her child, her grandmother and a few scattered bags containing her belongings. She hopes better times await her child. She is keen to keep her daughter healthy and despite the challenges she faces – she is determined to send her to school because “an education will help bring her a better future,” she adds.

In South Omo, Education- a gateway for children but a competition for parents

By Zerihun Sewunet

Students attend class at Alkatekach primary school

DAASANACH, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR), 18 December 2013 – Omorate village in South Omo Zone of the SNNPR is a semi-arid area where the Daasanach tribes live. Their houses are dome-shaped made from a frame of branches, covered with hides and patch works. These houses are scattered along the site where the Omo River delta enters Lake Turkana of Kenya. Most tribes in South Omo are pastoralists. In Omorate too, the people’s lives are bound to the fate of their herds of cattle, sheep and goats that they raise.

Children play a critical role in the pastoralist lifestyle. Boys as young as 6 years old start to herd their family’s sheep and goats, while girls marry very young so parents get additional livestock through dowry. Therefore, parents do not send their children to school. In the Daasanach tribe, education is considered as a luxury. For teachers of Alkatekach Primary School this is their biggest challenge. They use the Alternative Basic Education (ABE) system to cater for the need of the children. The Alternative Basic Education system responds to the urgent need for an education that suits the special needs and constraints of pastoral life. It provides flexible school hours, allowing pastoral children fulfil their household responsibilities of herding cattle to find water and pastures while still finding time for school.

Meseret Chanyalew, Director of the school, explains there is an increase in the number of children from last year because of the continuous effort to enroll and retain students. “We enroll students throughout the year to encourage children to come to school. We also discuss with the community to create awareness on education by going house to house to convince parents to send their children to school.”

Located five kilometers from Omorate town of Kuraz district, the Alkatekach Primary school has only 79 registered students for the 2013/2014 academic year and the highest grade these students can reach is fourth grade. This is because there are no classes set up above the fourth grade.

The Lucky ones in the family go to school

Temesgen Qoshme, 14,  attends a class in Alkatekach primary school14 years old Temesegen Koshme is a third grade student in Alkatekach Primary School. He is sitting in a class exercising the conversion formula for different measurements. His favorite subjects are mathematics and social science. Unlike Temesgen, children his age are taking care of family cattle or are married off. “I prefer coming to school than looking after my parents’ cattle. Alkatekach is where I grasp knowledge,” says Temesgen, “When I go to school in the morning my brother and sister look after the cattle. After school, I go straight to the field to take over”.

Temesgen’s parents told him that his younger sister is waiting to be married off, “I tried to explain that she has to come to school, but they did not listen to me” says Temesgen concerned about his sister’s future. Temesgen is one of the lucky ones to be enrolled this year. For him school is his happiest place.

Agure Amite, a father of twelve, living in Omorate village, sends two of his children to Alkatekach Primary School. When asked why the others do not go to school he says, “Some of them have to look after my cattle and others are not ready for school because they are below 10 years old.” Some parents in the Daasanach tribe send their children to school when they reach age 10. However, nationally children start school at age 7.

Alternative Basic Education (ABE) accommodates the pastoral children

Children, not students, play at Alkatekach Primary SchoolThe 2012 study on situation of out of school children in Ethiopia shows that SNNPR has 46.5% of out of school children making it the third highest region after Oromia (49.2%) and Amhara (48.7%).

With the support of UNICEF and the generous donation of US$240, 000 received from ING the Daasanach tribe now has ABE centers close to in their area. In addition to the construction of ABE centers, ING’s support also helped to provide furniture, training for ABE facilitators and education materials to pastoralist and economically disadvantaged children. For Meseret and her colleagues at the Alkatekach Primary School, this means increasing the schools capacity up to sixth grade means that children like Temesgen will be able to receive education within their community for the next two years.

Commiting to Children is Commiting to The Future – Angélique Kidjo

While visiting UNICEF Ethiopia in November, Angélique Kidjo UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador,  asked the public to join her and UNICEF and commit to ensure that children have adequate food, shelter and clean water; every boy and girl has access to education and primary health care and  protect children from all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

She said: Committing to children, is committing to the Future!

The story of a girl activist – Ethiopia

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When I was seven years old, I visited my parents’ rural hometown of Axum, and was staying with my grandmother. There was a young girl around my age there, and I became very good friends with her. Before I left, I wanted to keep in touch with her as a pen pal, but my parents explained to me that she did not have the pencils or materials to do so.

I knew in that moment that advocating for girls like me to have equal opportunities in education would be an important part of my life. I created a resource mobilisation project called Pencil Mountain that has delivered over half a million school resources to Ethiopian children.

Girls living in rural areas of Ethiopia are treated as an asset. A family values a girl for her ability to work. Girls do not have equal access to education with boys. There is a great disparity in literacy and if a parent has an opportunity to choose between sending a boy or girl to school, it is almost always the boy that is chosen.

The most difficult challenge I’ve faced is promoting this idea to rural communities where it a conflict of interest for community leaders. Tradition dictates that young girls at my age should be married, or stay home and support the family. It is not always easy to break through this mentality. However, the leadership in Ethiopia, and several NGOs have committed themselves to changing this longstanding mindset.

Biggest challenge: It’s been hard to balance my school and my advocacy work. I have learned to put my own education first, so that I can create a bigger impact later on. I strongly believe that every action for change, no matter how small, counts.

Proudest moment: I met Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper and the Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn. They are in a great position to implement change in educational rights.

My greatest achievement was being named Unicef goodwill ambassador for Ethiopia, because I have had an opportunity to bring a girl’s voice to an international level and raise awareness about education issues. Read Full story on The Guardian

Read more about Hannah Godefa

UNICEF Brings to Spotlight the Rights of Children at the 8th Ethiopian International Film Festival

UNICEF panellists discuss with Audience  at the 8th Ethiopian International Film Festival
Addis Ababa, 28 November 2013- To celebrate Universal Children’s Day – the anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child -UNICEF Ethiopia participated in the 8th Ethiopian International Film festival, to promulgate children’s rights to the public using public announcements, documentaries and photos as a channel.

Throughout the event UNICEF is showing public service announcement on different topics affecting children’s rights to the public. International and local celebrities like the world famous Argentinian  football player Leo Messi, actor Liam Neeson, singers Angelique Kidjo, Katy Perry, Lenny Kravits, Aster Aweke, The Ethiopia Wallia team and  the young advocator for children Hanna Godefa were seen joining UNICEF and taking up the issues of violence against children, barriers of education and HIV/AIDS.

For its premier UNICEF presented yesterday a short documentary: Overcoming Barriers: Famia and Rasso’s Journey in Pursuit of Education at the Italian Cultural Institute. It is a story of two adolescent girls in rural kebele of Djudjuma, near Dire Dawa who faced forced marriage and other economic and social obstacles to continue their studies. “This ground breaking documentary has given us a perspective from the adolescents themselves, their true stories and their realities that they go through in life,” said Mr Ibrahim Sesay, Child Protection Specialist of UNICEF Ethiopia.  “It’s a call to joint action for all stakeholders – government, media, religious groups, community based organizations, development partners and children – to strengthen the current collaborative partnerships to end child marriage.” The documentary is based on the Situation Analysis study on Investment in Boys and Girls conducted by UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Women Children and Youth Affairs and Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in 2012.

8th Ethiopian international film festival screeningThe premier was attended by the media, film industry community and teachers who discussed on the role of different stakeholders in protecting children and enabling them achieve their dreams after the screening. “The protection of children from all forms of violence is a fundamental right and we have to ensure that all children, everywhere and at all times are not victim of child marriage and such platforms should provoke conversations that will enhance change in behaviour starting at the family and community levels,” Mr Sesay added. “We need to join forces to get a zero sum game for the abandonment of harmful traditional practices that marginalise as well as violate children’s right, especially the girl child.”

The 8th Ethiopian film festival is being held from 25 November to 2 December 2013 in Addis Ababa. The festival is screening both national and international film producers in a week long programme encompassing International Organizations, embassies, NGOs, civil societies and other interest groups to premier their productions and draw a wide range of discussions on issues relevant to their field.

Working for the voiceless

Following the expansion of means of doing business and economy across the globe, actors effectively running all sorts of activities, labour or manpower in clear terms, is badly needed to fulfill the economic needs and generate capital with high production. Obviously, not all economic systems and enterprises are capable of using advanced technology in the process of coming up with great business and productions for higher productivity. To this effect, children and teenagers enter the risk of being used as cheap labour. Most of, the majority we can say, the children are vulnerable to such unbearable challenges due to poverty, the consequences stemming from broken family, among others. Worse even, they are unaware of their rights, overworked, can’t resist and they don’t know what kind of negative repercussions can they get after all work they are told to do at workplaces.

All forms of work by children under the age laid down in International Labour Organization (ILO) standards (normally 15 years or the age of completion of compulsory schooling subject to some exceptions) are considered as child labour, basically. According to this organization, the worst forms of child labour include: slavery, debt bondage, prostitution, pornography, forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, use of children in drug trafficking and other illicit activities, and all other work likely to be harmful or hazardous to the health, safety or morals of girls and boys under 18 years of age. Read more.