For the community in Lode Lemofo Kebele, Sire Woreda in the Arsi Zone of the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia, access to water was an ongoing problem. During the annual dry seasons in this hot, low-land area, community members had to walk for hours under a blazing sun just to get water.
In January 2016, the communities of Lode Lemofo and neighbouring Chenge Kebeles have seen a marked improvement in their day-to-day lives, thanks to a water supply project that was commissioned and constructed with UNICEF support. About 6,500 people in two Kebeles, particularly the 3,250 women and girls who are usually charged with collecting water for household use, are reaping the benefits of improved access to clean and safe water, including increased school attendance among children.
Lode Lemofo community member Yesunesh, mother of 10-year-old Genet and two-year-old Samuel, says, “Fetching water used to be the most demanding task we had to endure on a daily basis. Sometimes we had to do it twice a day. It is very tiring and takes up to three hours to and from the river. At times it is also dangerous, because sometimes hyenas try to attack us or our donkeys.”
The lack of access to water also affected health centres and schools. Communities had to support the provision of water in these facilities themselves. Visiting patients and members of neighbouring households carried water to health centres while school girls and boys carried water to school on a daily basis.
All this has changed when the new water supply scheme became operational. The scheme draws its source from a 265-metre deep well and includes 16 kilometres of pipe network, 11 water distribution points and a 100,000-litre reservoir. One primary school and one health centre have also been connected to the water distribution system.
Yesunesh underscores the difference the scheme has made, saying, “All that suffering is now gone. My girl Genet – as you have seen – can get the water we need for cooking and other household use in less than ten minutes.”
Health centres can now provide better care to community members, particularly pregnant women, while boys and girls are better able to learn at school.
In total, 24 other Woredas in Oromia Regional State are benefitting from UNICEF’s water and sanitation programme. This is part of the overall progress in water and sanitation in Ethiopia, where 57 per cent of the population now relies on improved water supply sources such as water taps or hand pumps, rather than unprotected and risky sources such as rivers and streams. This increased access to clean and safe water has benefitted the children of Ethiopia tremendously, contributing to the reduction of under-five child mortality by two-thirds and the significant reduction of child stunting.
Addis Ababa, 13 November 2015 – Queen Mathilde of the Belgians, Honorary Chairperson of UNICEF Belgium travelled to Ethiopia from 9 to 12 November to witness first hand programmes where UNICEF supports the Ethiopian Government in order to achieve results for children, especially in the areas of child survival and girls and women’s empowerment.
On the first day, while visiting Yekatit 12 hospital in Addis-Ababa, the Queen declared: “I am impressed by the commitment of the medical staff, men and women. They provide not only care for babies, they also teach mothers how best to take care of their new-borns. Mothers themselves also receive care. It’s a global approach.” She also stressed the importance of birth registration: “a child who is not registered does not legally exist and cannot be protected.”
Although huge strides have been made, harmful traditional practices still persist in the country. During her visit to Oda Sentela Primary School in Gursum Town, Oromia Region, the Queen could see how UNICEF, through supporting the Government, contributes to the reduction of child marriage and female genital mutilation. While meeting with young school girls, active in awareness raising, she told them, “I am impressed with your work in changing harmful traditions. I strongly encourage you to go on. You will be a model for the next generation.”
While visiting a water supply scheme in Gursum Town, the Queen witnessed how bringing clean water to communities has an enormous social and economic impact. “Not only can girls, who in the past walked many hours to fetch water, attend school and be safer, clean water obviously dramatically improves the community’s health situation,” she said.
Queen Mathilde was moved by the sick children she met on the third day of her visit. But she underlined “I know that through the commitment of the health workers, their situation will improve.”
On her last day, she met with H.E. Dr Mulatu Teshome, President of Ethiopia. Speaking in the name of UNICEF Belgium, the Queen thanked the people of Ethiopia for their warm welcome and encouraged them to continue their efforts in the years to come in order to give each boy and girl a fair chance in life.
AWBARE, Somali region– Ermias Amare and Salah Kedir, health workers in Ethiopia’s Somali region, zip through the arid plains kicking up a trail of dust as they ride their motorcycle to the next settlement where they will be administering polio vaccines to children under the age of 5 years.
It is campaign time in Ethiopia’s Somali region, and the two health workers are on a mission that is critical for the well-being of Ethiopia’s children.
Ermias and Salah are taking part in the National Immunisation Days (NIDs) campaign, vaccinating children against polio with the oral polio vaccine (OPV) in the Somali region. Vaccination against polio is essential to prevention of this crippling, disabling and potentially fatal disease which, is easily contracted from person to person, and especially dangerous to individuals and populations when there is not sufficient immunity, or protection, against the virus. The consequences of polio disease are devastating, for a child, for a family, and for a community.
Most of the children in the village visited by Ermias and Salah have their finger marked with ink, indicating that they have already been vaccinated during this present campaign.
In August 2013, the Dollo zone of Somali region, in the southeastern corner of Ethiopia bordering Somalia, was hit by a polio outbreak. Tragically 10 children were paralysed as a result of wild poliovirus (WPV) infection. Since the beginning of the polio outbreak, 15 National and Sub-national Immunisation Days (NIDs/SNIDs), have been conducted to date to respond to the outbreak. The total number of WPV cases reported since the start of the outbreak remains at 10 – the last case confirmed 18 months ago. Maintaining the momentum of response efforts has been be critical to ensure no more polio cases are seen in Ethiopia.
Communication and social mobilisation efforts have been instrumental in the interruption of the WPV transmission in the Somali region. In Lafaisa kebele (sub-district) of Awbare (woreda) district, a town crier mobilizes the community through a megaphone to alert parents that children under the age of 5 years will be receiving polio vaccinations during the campaign.
Nearby, a village Sheikh, trained by the Somali Regional Health Bureau (SRHB) in partnership with UNICEF and the Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, gathers mothers and children for a discussion about the campaign where he explains the benefits of immunisation and urges them to have their children vaccinated. Among the strategies deployed by the SRHB and UNICEF to meet the need for information was to engage religious leaders to council the pastoralist communities, particularly women, about the importance of vaccinating their children, for every round. The eminent position that religious and clan leaders hold in pastoral Somali communities and their ability to mobilize the population, has become a key factor in the success of immunisation activities.
“In the past when we informed communities about upcoming campaigns, because they didn’t have an understanding about it, some would refuse to bring their children forward,” said Ermias. “There were many challenges. They would refuse to have their children vaccinated. But today, we vaccinated an infant who was born today. In the past, that would be unheard of. Now, if they have a child out at their farm when we come for the vaccinations, they will tell us we missed one and to come back the next day.”
Cross Border Vaccination
The success of the polio eradication efforts hinges on successful cross-border collaboration between neighbouring countries, such as Somalia and Kenya. Immunisation activities in Ethiopia’s Somali region are therefore held in coordination with health institutions across the borders. Border vaccination points have been set up, and all children under 15 years of age crossing the border receive polio vaccination.
“All the children under 15 years of age who cross the border from Ethiopia to Somaliland or the other way are vaccinated,” said Nemo Alele, head of the Awbare Health Center, located near the border with Somaliland. “This is a border area and we explain to the mothers very carefully what harm can happen if there is transmission of the disease. We have good relations with our counterparts in Somaliland and have discussions on a monthly basis.
There is a similar vaccination centre on the other side of the border where they are doing similar work, and we are both committed that no child should cross without being vaccinated.” Sophia Ege Bulale lives with her three month old grandson Hamad Mukhtar Dayib, in Lafaissa kebele. Sophia has been caring for her grandson ever since her daughter-in-law left Hamad with her son, who lives in Hargeisa in Somaliland, to raise on his own. “I travel back and forth between Lafaissa and Hargeisa with Hamad,” said Sophia. “We didn’t have these vaccinations when I was young and I have seen children who grew up disabled as a result of polio. I am therefore happy that vaccinators come to our house to make sure that my grandson will be protected, whether he is here or in Hargeisa.”
In February, the polio NID aimed to reach nearly 14 million children under the age of 5 years with OPV. According to the national administrative coverage, 99.7 per cent of children were reached with the polio vaccine nation-wide; and over 98 per cent in the Somali region. This is a remarkable achievement, particularly within the context of the highly mobile pastoralist communities of Somali region.
Mobile health and nutrition teams (MHNTs) have helped to reach communities with polio and routine vaccination. In the Somali region, 24 MHNTs operate to reach pastoralist and remote populations. The teams work 5-6 days a week in selected operational sites on a fixed schedule, and with the support of local social mobilizers who continuously inform the target community of the arrival of health teams. They reach over 1,000 clients per month, of whom, over 40 per cent are children under the age of 5 years.
Reaching all targeted children with the polio vaccine is neither an easy nor simple task. More than 90 million doses of the OPV were provided for all polio outbreak response campaigns to date. Much effort has been exerted by all stake holders to bring the polio vaccine from the manufacturer, to the vaccination teams, to the mouths of children, in a timely, safe and good condition to help protect every child against polio.
It is through the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health and the generous support of polio donors such as the European Union, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International, and others that more children have been reached with the polio vaccine, and that interruption of the outbreak has been possible. In partnership, alongside health workers like Ermias and Salah, together, we can ensure polio transmission remains at zero in Ethiopia.
NEW YORK/ADDIS ABABA, 15 July 2015 – At the close of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, UNICEF challenges the international community to turn its promises to invest in children and young people into concrete action that reduces inequities and provides every child with a fair chance in life.
UNICEF welcomes the Addis Ababa Conference’s recognition that investing in children and young people is “critical to achieving inclusive, equitable and sustainable development”. This represents a significant shift away from the perception of children as passive recipients of social spending towards viewing them as agents of future growth and development.
UNICEF also supports the Conference’s acknowledgement of the “vital importance of promoting and protecting the rights of all children, and ensuring that no child is left behind,” believing that this provides a strong basis for final negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Here in Addis Ababa member states have agreed on a global roadmap for development finance that recognises in much stronger words than previous agreements that investing in children is central to inclusive and sustainable growth,” said Yoka Brandt, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “The Addis Ababa Action Agenda puts a strong emphasis on equity, on reaching the most vulnerable. Combined with the Sustainable Development Goals, which also give clear priority to the interests of children and equity, we now have a robust, new global foundation for making the world fit for children.”
However, UNICEF warns against complacency and calls upon the international community to build on the commitments made in Addis Ababa by:
Prioritising investments in basic universal services such as education, social safety nets, health care, immunisation, water and sanitation and child protection;
Identifying and targeting groups and communities with the greatest needs;
Progressively mobilising additional resources to address financing gaps in underfunded SDG priority areas with the greatest impacts for children such as nutrition, children protection and early childhood development;
Improving reporting on child-related spending including documenting how much funding goes to groups or areas with greater incidences of child deprivation.
“We must make sure that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children are at the heart of the SDGs, and at the heart of how we go about mobilising the financing that is needed to achieve these goals,” Brandt said. “We have a unique opportunity to translate commitments and promise and into action. To turn rhetoric into practical results for all children.”
Early childhood care and education is the first stage of lifelong learning and development. It lays the necessary foundation for building higher-level cognitive and non-cognitive skills and has the potential of breaking down inequity in learning from the beginning by leveraging the tremendous capacity of early brain development and function. Most importantly, it can have a serious impact on the education of adolescent girls later on in life.
That’s why I was honoured to share a panel on the importance of early childhood education and care with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Nobel Laureate Economist Professor James Heckman at the World Education Forum from May 19-22 in Incheon, South Korea. For me, learning started when I was a baby. I know this because I know my parents – and education has always been their number one priority.
Even before I was old enough for kindergarten, my father and I frequently went to the library together to read. My parents were still recent immigrants in Canada, where we live. At the library, there were literacy and support programmes. I remember that I loved the maps and photographs in geography books – especially pop up books with pieces I could touch.
My parents encouraged my interest and they sacrificed a lot so I would have a good education. I have no doubt that these early experiences formed my interest in books and the world and set me on my current path as a student and an advocate for education.
I know from my own journey that there is a direct connection between what a child learns early in life and what happens later. As an advocate for adolescent girls, I have travelled a lot. I have met girls my age and younger who are mothers. For very young mothers, it is incredibly important that they have knowledge, resources, programmes and support to help them provide their children with a good start in life. If we support these young mothers, we are also providing their babies with a fair chance to grow into young people and adults who can make the world a better place.
I think it is up to youth advocates like me – advocates who see the benefits of a strong early start in life – to speak about the issue.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons we are discussing this topic today is because not all children have access to early learning and care. Most of the children who go to pre-primary school live in more wealthy countries. In low-income countries, pre-primary enrollment ratios are only 19 per cent.These disparities in early childhood learning between wealthy and poor are not fair.
Over time, they also compound and the children who miss out early face ever greater challenges as they get older. Investing in learning from a child’s very earliest days is one of the best ways we have to make sure that all children – no matter where they live or who their parents are – have a good start in life.
Many of the individuals gathered at the World Education Forum for important discussions about investment in education and the Sustainable Development Goals. I came to the Forum to ask all to start early – to start investing and prioritizing learning for all children from the very earliest days of their lives. I can tell you from my personal experience: Those very first learning experiences make all the difference – they can change a girl’s life.
Many people living in the Rift Valley area of Ethiopia have stained teeth, as the result of drinking water that contains high level of fluoride. The yellowing of the teeth is one of the physical symptoms of consuming high levels of fluoride. Other symptoms include skeletal fluorosis, where children’s legs and arms are deformed resulting in physical disabilities. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that drinking water should contain less than 1.5 milligram of fluoride per litre to ensure that teeth and bones are protected.
Fluoride gets into the water supply from the geological rock formations of the Ethiopian Rift Valley. Studies undertaken by the British Geological Survey have recorded levels of fluoride as high as 25 milligrams per litre in the area. These excess levels of fluoride are affecting more than 14 million women and children from Afar, Oromia and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), as well as parts of the Ethiopian Somali Region.
To solve the problem of excess fluoride, numerous water treatment technologies have been piloted by the Government of Ethiopia and International Agencies. These have resulted in varying levels of success. In the past, UNICEF has supported the mitigation of fluoride through de-fluoridation techniques in affected woredas, mainly in Oromia and SNNPR. UNICEF has also supported two studies, entitled ‘Study of fluoride and fluorosis in Ethiopia with recommendations on appropriate de-fluoridation technologies’ in 2005 and ‘Spatial distribution of fluoride in the Ethiopian Rift and its adjacent highlands’ in 2011.
With the financial support of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), UNICEF has developed a new approach that involves the ‘below ground’ treatment of fluoride. This approach is a permanent hydrogeological solution, which requires study of both the geological formations in which the fluoride occurs as well as the use of advanced remote sensing and groundwater drilling techniques.
Most deep wells that have been drilled in the Rift Valley have a maximum depth of 200 metres. This is due to both the occurrence of productive shallow aquifers (underground layers of water-bearing permeable rocks) and the limitations of available deep well drilling machines. UNICEF proposed to drill ‘deeper’ and to access aquifers that are 250, 300 or even 400 metres below ground level.
In April 2015 , UNICEF drilled a deep well in Welenchiti Town, a first for the Oromia region, to a depth of 259 metres and applied a phased casing technique to block off the shallow aquifers that are contaminated with fluoride. The result is a highly productive deep well with a yield of 11 litres per second – almost 40 thousand litres per hour (or 4 large water tankers per hour) – and a fluoride level of 0.9 milligrams per litre.
As a result of the planned intervention in Welenchiti Town and three surrounding villages, there will be approximately 45,870 beneficiaries by the year 2025. The project is expected to provide acceptable fluoride levels, with far greater health benefits than current supplies, which have resulted in chronic disease that affect all sections of the population, including children, with dental and skeletal fluorosis.
UNICEF Ethiopia staff gather to dedicate a minute of silence to colleagues who tragically lost their lives in Somalia and Ethiopians killed in Libya and South Africa.
Below is UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Gillian Mellsop’s message during the occasion.
“It is with great sorrow that I’ve asked you join me and reflect together on what has happened to our UNICEF colleagues, other UN staff and fellow Ethiopians during the last couple of days.
By now I believe you have been informed about the loss of four of our colleagues, killed yesterday in an attack on a vehicle in which they were riding in Garowe, Somalia. In addition, four other colleagues have been critically injured.
The IED (improvised explosive device) attack occurred when the staff were travelling from their guest house to the office, normally a three minute drive….
The horrific attack on our UNICEF colleagues is an assault not only on them but on the people, the women and children they served.
This tragic loss again underlines the bravery of our staff across the globe and also the risks we face in the most difficult locations where we work, including in Ethiopia.
Our immediate thoughts are with the families of the staff members who were killed and with those who were injured. Our colleagues dedicated their lives to working for the children of Somalia. We are here together this morning, to mourn their loss and hope for the full recovery of the injured.
I know many of us have friends and colleagues working in Somalia and some of us may know the victims personally – which makes our pain even more profound.
Colleagues, It has been a week of shock and sadness for many. Last week, an Ethiopian national was killed during the xenophobic or ‘afrophobia’ attacks which went rampant in Durban, South Africa.
People across the world have also been shocked by the atrocious massacre of some 30 Ethiopian Christian migrants by Islamic State in Libya.
Let us each dedicate a few minutes this morning to think and pray for our colleagues in Somalia; those who lost their lives in the xenophobic attacks; and the brutal killing in Libya – and think about their children, husbands, wives, parents and friends they left behind.
Ethiopia will observe three days of national mourning starting Wednesday, with flags lowered to half-staff mast to mourn what it described as “atrocities committed against our nationals in Libya and South Africa.”
Colleagues, let me reassure you, we are condemning these atrocities, not because those killed are Ethiopian or our colleagues. We – as individuals cannot allow harming or killing of the innocent, regardless gender, nationality, race or religion.
Together, as a UNICEF family we should stand strong against this and instil a respectful environment where we can work and live in harmony.”
Awoke Moges, Chair Person, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa staff association added “This week will be one of the darkest period for UNICEF family, and Ethiopians families and friends who lost their beloved ones. Our thoughts goes with all of them.
Eastern and Southern Africa Regional staff association will be in solidarity with all the other country office’s during this difficult period of the year.”