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.

UNICEF calls for an increase in education spending as new report reveals global crisis in learning

NEW YORK, 18 September 2016 – More than two-thirds of schoolchildren in low-income countries will not learn basic primary level skills in 2030 despite an ambitious goal to get every child in school and learning, according to a report launched today by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity.

The Learning Generation: Investing in Education for a Changing World notes that without an urgent increase in education investments by national governments, children in low-income countries will remain trapped in intergenerational cycles of poverty and be left without the skills and knowledge they need to contribute to their societies and economies when they reach adulthood.

“Every child, in every country, in every neighbourhood, in every household, has the right not only to a seat in a classroom, but to a quality education – starting in the early years of life, the single most important stage of brain development,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “We need to invest early, invest in quality, and invest in equity – or pay the price of a generation of children condemned to grow up without the knowledge and skills they need to reach their potential.”

The report shows that more than 1.5 billion adults will have no education beyond primary school in 2030. UNICEF backs the recommendations made in the report and calls for an increase in national education expenditure from 3 per cent to 5 per cent to help address what could be a global education crisis.

Other key findings from the report:

  • Only half of primary-aged schoolchildren and little more than a quarter of secondary-aged schoolchildren in low- and middle-income countries are learning basic skills.
  • 330 million primary and secondary school students do not achieve even the most basic learning outcomes.
  • The crisis is growing as populations grow – there will be an estimated 1.4 billion school-age children in low- and middle-income countries by 2030.
  • Twice as many girls as boys will never start school.

“We face the civil rights struggle of our generation – the demand of young people for their right to education and the ticking time bomb of discontent that results from the betrayal of the hopes of half of an entire generation,” said Chair of the Education Commission and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown. “We cannot accept another year or decade like this. The Commission aims to unlock the biggest expansion of educational opportunity in modern history.”

# # #

Notes to Editors:

A Financing Compact for the Learning Generation: 12 recommendations to get all children learning

I.Performance – Successful education systems put results front and center

  • Set standards, track progress and make information public
  • Invest in what delivers the best results
  • Cut waste

II. Innovation – Successful education systems develop new and creative approaches to achieving results

  • Strengthen and diversify the education workforce
  • Harness technology for teaching and learning
  • Improve partnerships with non-state actors

III. Inclusion – Successful education systems reach everyone, including the most disadvantaged and marginalized

  • Prioritise the poor and early years – progressive universalism
  • Invest across sectors to tackle the factors preventing learning

IV.Finance – Successful education systems require more and better investment

  • Mobilize more and better domestic resources for education
  • Increase the international financing of education and improve its effectiveness
  • Establish a Multilateral Development Bank (MDB) investment mechanism for education
  • Ensure leadership and accountability for the Learning Generation

Ethiopia specific information:

With the interest of gauging learning outcomes as a means of measuring the quality of education, the country has institutionalised National Learning Assessments (NLA) along with early grade reading and mathematics assessment. Successive reports of the NLA showed low learning outcomes at Grades 4 and 8, signifying access to education has not been accompanied by quality.

Five national sample learning assessments for Grades 4 and 8 indicated that only half of the students at Grades 4 and 8 met the achievements expected -50 per cent- of their grade levels. The recent NLA report showed students’ achievement to be below the required level with 42.9 per cent and 43.5 per cent for the two grades respectively (National Learning Assessment, Ministry of Education: 2013).

About The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity

The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (The Education Commission) is a major global initiative engaging world leaders, policy makers and researchers to develop a renewed and compelling investment case and financing pathway for achieving equal educational opportunity for children and young people.

This report is the culmination of a year-long analysis involving over 30 research institutions and consultations with 300 partners across 105 countries.

The report is available at: http://report.educationcommission.org

For more information, please contact:

Georgina Thompson, UNICEF New York, Mobile: + 1 917 238 1559, gthompson@unicef.org

Alexandra Westerbeek, UNICEF Ethiopia, +251 911 255109 awesterbeek@unicef.org 

 

 

In 10 countries with highest out-of-school rates, 40 per cent of children are not accessing basic education

 NEW YORK/ ADDIS ABABA, 1 September 2016 –In the top 10 countries with the highest rates of children missing out on primary education, nearly 2 in every 5 children – 18 million – are out of school, UNICEF said today.

Liberia is home to the highest proportion of out-of-school children with nearly two-thirds of primary-aged children not accessing school. The second highest is South Sudan, where 59 per cent of children are missing out on their right to a primary education and 1 in 3 schools is closed due to conflict. 

Afghanistan (46 per cent), Sudan (45 per cent), Niger (38 per cent) and Nigeria (34 per cent) also feature in the top 10 countries with the highest primary out-of-school rates, painting a clear picture of how humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises are forcing children out of school. 

The UNICEF data analysis, which comes as millions of children return to school this month, highlights the extent of an education crisis affecting countries already blighted by conflict, prolonged periods of drought, flash floods, earthquakes and high rates of extreme poverty.

UNICEF fears that without education, a generation of children living in countries affected by conflict, natural disasters and extreme poverty will grow up without the skills they need to contribute to their countries and economies, exacerbating the already desperate situation for millions of children and their families.

Education continues to be one of the least funded sectors in humanitarian appeals. In 2015, humanitarian agencies received only 31 per cent of their education funding needs, down from 66 per cent a decade ago. Despite a 126 per cent increase in education requirements since 2005, funding increased by just 4 per cent. Moreover, education systems equipped to cope with protracted crises cannot be built on the foundations of short-term – and unpredictable – appeals.

During the World Humanitarian Summit, held in May 2016, a new global funding platform, Education Cannot Wait, was launched to bridge the gap between humanitarian interventions during crises and long-term development afterwards, through predictable funding.

Though not one of the top 10 countries with the highest rates of out-of-school children, Syria is home to 2.1 million school-age children (5-17) who are not in school. An additional 600,000 Syrian children living as refugees in the surrounding region are also out of school. Recent, reliable data from countries including Somalia and Libya are not available either from administrative or survey sources partly due to the continuing conflicts. 

“For countries affected by conflict, school equips children with the knowledge and skills they need to rebuild their communities once the crisis is over, and in the short-term it provides them with the stability and structure required to cope with trauma. Schools can also protect children from the trauma and physical dangers around them. When children are not in school, they are at an increased danger of abuse, exploitation and recruitment into armed groups,” said UNICEF Chief of Education Jo Bourne.

kalkidan , a 4th grade student at the Arara Kidanemeherete Primary school attending her class.Ethiopia has made remarkable progress in the past two decades towards universal primary education. Primary school enrolment is up, and mobilization efforts are enrolling school‑age populations across all regions. However, the number of out-of-school children remains high, and only just over half of all students who enter grade one complete a full primary education cycle. The Government of Ethiopia has continued its strong commitment to ensuring accessible, quality schooling for all as captured in its Education Sector Development Plan 2015–2020.

Drawing on Education Management Information System (EMIS) data for 2014/15, over 2.6 million children are estimated to be out of school. These out of school children represent “the most difficult to reach” population comprising of the last 10 per cent of the eligible school population. 

In 2012, UNICEF commissioned a study on the Situation of Out-of-school Children in Ethiopia which led to a large media based ‘Go-to-school Campaign’ to reach to out-of-school children and accelerate their enrolment. In 2014 alone, the national campaign brought back 47,511 out of school children in the four developing regional states of Afar, Somali, Benishangul-Gumuz and Gambella.

UNICEF, through its programme of cooperation with the Government of Ethiopia, has supported the Ministry of Education in the establishment of over 1,600 Alternative Basic Education Centres (ABEC) which have enrolled 276,777 students in marginalized localities. In conjunction with other Development Partners, a national Strategy on Education for Pastoralist Communities has recently been revised and provides a strong basis by which children in remote areas will be able to better access relevant educational services.

Children need peace for education, and education for peace

By Wossen Mulatu

Nyamat Oactoct from Pagak village in Gambella.
“We need peace. If there is conflict, I cannot follow my education properly and there will be no development,” Nyamat. Her five year old younger sister and brother are abducted to a neighbouring South Sudan by the Murle tribe. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

GAMBELLA, Ethiopia,  25 May 2016 – On April 15, hundreds of heavily armed men stormed through Nyamat Oactot’s village of Pagak in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region, stealing cattle, shooting people and kidnapping children.

The 16-year-old girl’s younger brother and sister were taken by raiders believed to be from the Murle tribe from neighbouring South Sudan, and have yet to be recovered. In the aftermath, parents across this part of Gambella have kept their children out of school in fear of further attacks.

“We need peace, if there is conflict, I cannot follow my education properly and there will be no development,” Nyamat said.

Ruey Tut Rue,15, lost his mother and brother and wishes he could bury himself in his studies to keep from thinking about them, but instead he has been frustrated by three weeks of school closure.

“I feel upset and my mind is not focused,” he said. “Reading complicated subjects like biology and chemistry is now helping me to divert my attention from thinking about my mother.”

The attacks have also destroyed school materials making reopening the schools even harder, said Paul Puok Tang, the head of the Lare Woreda (district) education office.

“The dropout rates have also increased,” he said. “Through UNICEF and government  support, we are now trying to rehabilitate the schools and purchase school supplies for the communities that are affected.”

Gambella Region is one of the states in Ethiopia that is part of UNICEF’s Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme (PBEA), along with Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz and Somali regions.

These four regions suffer from neglect and frequent exposure to man-made and natural disasters such as drought and floods and because of their close proximity to conflict zones. Since 2014, annual disaster and risk response plans have been put in place to help them cope with major disasters.

Ruey Tut Rue, 15, and 7th grade student, Pagak village in Gambella.
Ruey Tut Rue, 15, and 7th grade student did not go to school for three weeks due to the recent abduction of large numbers of children in the Gambella Region of Ethiopia by Murle pastoralists from South Sudan ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

UNICEF has enlisted the support of the African Centre for Disaster Risk Management to come up with disaster and risk response plans at 31 schools in Gambella and 13 schools in Benishangul-Gumuz to develop the capacity of schools and communities to respond to disasters.

In the case of an attack like the recent cattle raid, villagers are taught to know when the raids come and what to do with their children during that period, said Omod Abela, Process Owner of Planning and Resource Mobilisation in Gog Woreda, Punido Kebele (sub-district),.

“We know that it is a seasonal occurrence – they come between March and May following their cattle and we teach communities not to send their children to herd cattle during this season, but to keep them at home and study,” he said. “Also, we teach parents that children should not play in isolation but surrounded by adult members of the community.”

PBEA seeks to strengthen resilience, social cohesion and peacebuilding in the four regions through strengthened policies and practices in education.

In Gambella, over 1,200 educational officials have been trained to promote peace and social cohesion within the region through disaster planning, peacebuilding, combatting school-related gender-based violence and promote child-friendly schooling.

“Parents and children need to understand the value of education,” explained Tok Bel from Lare Woreda Education Office. “Out of school children are more prone to be involved in conflict situations. Even during the recent Murle attack, most lives that were saved were those of children who were attending classes when the incident happened. Education saves lives.”

Ethiopia started the implementation of the PBEA in October 2012 with the Federal Ministry of Education and the four regional education bureaus.

The programme, which ends in 2016, is integrated across UNICEF’s US$60 million Learning and Development Programme and is a global initiative funded by the Government of the Netherlands.

“Where there is peace, education will go well. Without knowledge and education, there are no doctors and without doctors, many people will die,” said Gatiat Wal Rik, 15, a student from Bulimkum Primary School.

The power of education for building peace in Africa

infographicADDIS ABABA/NAIROBI/DAKAR, 1st JUNE 2016 – Ensuring equitable access to education is key in addressing the root causes of conflict and instability in Africa, stakeholders said today ahead of the Pan-African Symposium on Education, Resilience and Social Cohesion, at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa.

The three-day event shares evidence and best practices from UNICEF’s Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme (PBEA), and the Inter-Country Quality Node (ICQN) on Peace Education, established by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA). In doing so, the Symposium will seek to assess how inclusive, equitable and innovative education policy and programmes can contribute to sustainable peace and development across the continent. Currently, three out of 10 children in Africa are living in conflict-affected settings and exposed to numerous risks.  

“The capacity of education to support children develop and thrive is well documented, however we now also know that education can prevent and reduce the impacts of conflict,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala. “If the right policies and interventions are in place, together with financial investment, education can be a driving force in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 36 out of 45 countries are at medium or high risk of experiencing manmade disasters, the highest rate globally. Moreover, at least 327 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa live in fragile contexts and the majority of the estimated 29 million primary school aged children who are out of school are primarily found in fragile settings and are particularly at risk or threatened by conflict.

“We need to reorient Africa’s education and training systems to meet the knowledge, competencies, skills, innovation and creativity required to nurture the continent’s core values,” said Dr Martial de Paul Ikounga, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology. “We will then promote sustainable development at the national, sub-regional and continental levels.”

The African Union Commission, under the Agenda 2063 “The Africa We Want”, envisions that by 2020 all guns will be silent and a culture of peace and tolerance would be nurtured in Africa´s children and youth through peace.”      

Oley Dibba-Wadda, the Executive Secretary of ADEA, sees education as “a key tool against all kinds of violence” and strongly appeals to African governments to “endorse and develop integrated, peaceful, inclusive approaches and strategies that support the implementation of a comprehensive program on non-violence, tolerance and peace, especially for the young generation.” 

The high-level event in Addis Ababa, which is being attended by Ministers of Education from 16 African countries, including conflict-torn states, will close with concrete recommendations on how to strengthen education sector policy and programmes in Africa to address the risks faced by children and to support sustainable peace and development across Africa. The symposium will also provide evidence to inform both donor and public funding strategies and investment priorities.

“Education can play both a protective and preventative role. In doing this, education’s power is transformative and serves as a peace dividend, reducing inequities and grievances between groups and strengthening social cohesion” said the Ethiopian Minister of Education, Ato Shiferaw Shigute.

The symposium is co-organized by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education, UNICEF, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), and the Inter-Country Quality Node (ICQN) on Peace Education.

Water trucking brings relief to remote communities and helps revive local education

By Paul Schemm

UNICEF-supported water trucking helps revive education
Ababa Abraha had to leave school to work when her family ran out of food amid a severe drought. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Hema Balasundaram

When the drought came to the remote kebele (sub-district) of Gonka, Ababa Abraha’s family held out as long as they could, in their picturesque village set among the sharp mountain peaks and deep valleys of the Tigray Region.

With no crops and food, however, they finally had to leave to find temporary work in nearby towns and pulled 14-year-old Ababa out of Grade 7 to work as a house cleaner.

Then came word that there was water being supplied and a Government feeding programme at the Gonka Complete Primary School, a rough stone building in the village, and Ababa was allowed to return.

“I like school a lot,” said Ababa, who dreams of studying finance at university one day. “But I can’t learn without food. If there is no food, I have to work to help my family.”

Gonka Kebele, which is near the arid Afar Region, was hard hit by the drought affecting much of the country. With its two wells failing, it received a 10,000 litre-capacity water bladder that is refilled every other day by a truck that makes an arduous journey over the treacherous gravel road.

Trucking water for the hardest hit

UNICEF-supported water trucking helps revive education
Every other day, a truck transports 10,000 litres of water through mountainous terrain to the drought-affected community in remote Gonka Kebele © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Hema Balasundaram

The current drought has rendered some 5.8 million people nationwide in need of access to safe water. As long term solutions to water scarcity are developed, the Government of Ethiopia, supported by UNICEF, has started trucking in water to the most severely drought-affected communities.

UNICEF’s 100 trucks are operating in the Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, SNNP and Tigray regions and have already delivered 15 million litres of water to 300,000 people in the last month.

“It is the first of its kind, UNICEF providing full water services to beneficiaries,” said Getachew Asmare, the UNICEF Water and Sanitation Specialist in Tigray, where 110,000 people including school children have benefited from 4.6 million litres of water in one month.

In some communities, people are surviving on just 5 litres of water a day, a quarter of the Government-recommended 15 litres a day and a far cry from the 100 litres a day consumed by the average citizen of a developed country,” said Getachew.

The case of Gonka Kebele shows how water scarcity doesn’t just affect hygiene and crops but also education.

A lifeline for the school

Haftu Gebreziher, the 26-year-old director of the Gonka Complete Primary School described how he was losing students by the day before the start of UNICEF-supported water trucking and Government feeding programme. Some were spending the day walking for hours fetching water at the distant river, others couldn’t pay attention in class.

Students also complained about the difficulty of getting a drink and the lack of regular showers due to the water scarcity

“There was a drop in attendance and a rise in tardiness,” he said, estimating a 60 per cent absentee rate. “This was interfering with school but now with the water and feedings, that has stopped.”

UNICEF-supported water trucking helps revive education
A water truck hired by UNICEF fills a 10,000-litre water bladder next to the school. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Hema Balasundaram

The large yellow water bladder donated by the Government of Ireland sits right outside the school, next to the hut where the children’s midday meal is prepared. The students swarm around the water taps connected to the bladder and drink whenever they want instead of taking a long trek by foot or camel to a river in the distant valley.

The €110,000 (ETB 2.6 million) worth of donated water containers marks the latest support from Ireland, which so far has given Ethiopia €9.1 million to combat the drought. The water tanks and jerry cans will be used by UNICEF in the worst affected woredas (districts) nation-wide.

As the WASH cluster lead, UNICEF also supports the Government of Ethiopia and other partners in the rehabilitation, maintenance and construction of new water supply systems, provision of water purification and treatment chemicals, and provision of sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools. UNICEF is also exploring innovative ways to use satellites to detect deep groundwater for large scale, multiple-village water supply systems.

These efforts are helping ensure that students affected by the drought don’t have to forfeit their education. For 14-year-old Silas Hagos at Gonka Complete Primary School, this means that she can once again work towards her dream to become a pilot for the national carrier Ethiopian Airlines. When the drought came, she had to leave the eight grade to work.

She sold soap and packaged biscuits in nearby town for weeks until the feeding programme and the new water bladder allowed her to return and once again dream of flying.

“If we get the opportunity to learn, it is good – an educated person is better than an uneducated one,” she said with a smile.

In drought-stricken regions, children search for water and a lifeline for their hopes

In drought-stricken regions of SNNPR, children travel for hours to collect water for household needs.
In drought-stricken regions of SNNPR, children travel for hours to collect water for household needs ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

HALABA SPECIAL WOREDA & MAREKO WOREDA, SNNPR, 22 March 2016 – In the northern part of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia, bright yellow jerry cans are everywhere: on main roads and dirt roads, carried by hand or piled high on donkey carts being led on long journeys. Whatever the method, the goal is the same: water.

In SNNPR, 73 out of the total 136 rural woredas (districts) are grappling with water scarcity. Out of those, 45 are severely affected. In many of these woredas, water scarcity is an old problem, made much, much worse by the ongoing drought, which is the worst this country has experienced in decades. The result of a double blow of climate change and the El Niño phenomenon, the drought has led to food shortages and threats to livelihoods and survival. 

When there is no water, education takes a backseat

Wogbela, 15, travels to a neighbouring area for water, returning home the next day
Wogbela, 15, travels to a neighbouring area for water, returning home the next day. “I am late to school every day,” he says ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

Lack of water affects everything: food, health, education and children’s futures. In Washe Faka Primary School, located in Washe Faka Kebele (sub-district), Mareko Woreda of SNNPR, approximately 20 students have left school in search of work to support families whose livelihoods have been turned upside down by the drought. The children who remain in school are struggling.

“Students are coming to school with empty stomachs and leaving early because they can’t focus,” says Selfa Doloko, the school principal.

Fifth-grader Wogbela, 15, is struggling too. Every day after school, he travels hours to a water point in a neighbouring area. Because of the distance from his home, he has to stay overnight at a relative’s house. There are closer water points, but the long lines often mean hours of waiting.

“I used to go every other day, but the drought has dried up the ponds here, so I have to get water for the livestock in addition to water for the family,” he says.

In the morning, Wogbela travels home with his supply of water. He is tired by the time he gets home, but has to rush to school. “I am late to school every day,” he says, worried. Education is important to him, but it takes a backseat when there is no water.

Relief in sight

HALABA WOREDA, SNNPR – 24 JANUARY 2016
Munira, 13, is a student at Asore Primary School, located 30 metres away from a new UNICEF-supported water point. “It is much easier now. We can drink and wash easily,” she says. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

This is the story of so many children here, but thankfully for some, there is finally relief in sight.

For the students of Asore Primary School in Halaba Woreda, a new UNICEF-supported water point approximately 30 metres away means a new shot at learning. Students like Munira, 13, an eighth-grader at the school, can finally breathe a sigh of relief. “I used to travel two to three hours a day to fetch water. The wait at the water point was even longer. Sometimes the taps did not work and I would have to spend the whole day there and go home the next day. It was so tiring and a waste of time,” she says, glad that clean water is now just a short walk away.

Abdusamad, 16, another eighth-grader at the school, adds, “Some students had to drop out of school because they had to spend so much time collecting water. I’m more confident now that I can finish my studies and I want to help bring the students who dropped out back to school.”

As part of the drought emergency response, UNICEF, as the WASH cluster lead, is supporting the Government of Ethiopia and other partners in the rehabilitation, maintenance and construction of new water supply systems, provision of water purification and treatment chemicals, scaling up of water trucking activities, and provision of  sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools. UNICEF is also exploring innovative ways to use satellites to detect deep groundwater for large scale, multiple-village water supply systems.

With 5.8 million people around the country in need of access to safe drinking water, UNICEF and partners are racing against the clock to provide urgent help.

For children like Wogbela, it cannot come soon enough. “I hope things change soon,” says Wogbela, “so that I can get back to learning.”