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.

The Government of Japan gives US$ 2 million to UNICEF for drought affected populations in Somali Region

06 April 2017, ADDIS ABABA – The Government of Japan announced a US$2 million grant to UNICEF to assist water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), nutrition and prevention of acute watery diarrhoea in drought affected populations in the Somali region. The WASH sector will be taking the lion’s share with US$1,500,000 and the rest US$500,000 will be utilized by nutrition programme within an implementation period of six months. This assistance is provided as a swift response to the joint call for support by Deputy Prime Minister Mr Demeke Mekonnen and United Nations Secretary-General Mr Antonio Guterres at UNECA on 29 January 2017 on the occasion of the High Level Forum on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia.

The funding from the Japan Government aims to improve access to safe and reliable water to 115,000 women, men, boys and girls through drilling of new boreholes, rehabilitating non-functional water points and providing non-food items for distribution. In addition, 9,000 children with severe acute malnutrition will receive adequate treatment and 31,488 mothers and caregivers will be trained on adequate infant and young child feeding practices during emergency. The funding will also help prevent and control water-borne diseases, particularly the transmission of acute watery diarrhoea among affected and at-risk populations by securing access to safe water.

Ambassador of Japan to Ethiopia, Mr Shinichi Saida said, “We sincerely hope that Japan’s urgent humanitarian assistance for the drought response will reach the most vulnerable people as swiftly as possible and have a quick impact on the affected communities. Japan appreciates the WASH sector emergency response and its delivery promoted by Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity in Ethiopia and UNICEF Ethiopia.”

“Children are extremely vulnerable in emergencies, often living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions and at high risk of contracting diseases,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “This contribution is a tangible demonstration of Japan’s commitment to safeguard children’s future and enhance resilience building of communities affected by the recurrent drought.”

Bundesminister Dr. Gerd Müller visits Waaf Dhuug Temporary Settlement Site in Somali Region of Ethiopia
A child rests comfortably on his mother’s arms in Waaf Dhuug Temporary Resettlement Site ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Sewunet

Adding to an already dire situation, during the second half of 2016, a strong negative impact of Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) led to below-average rainfall in different parts of Ethiopia including the Somali region. As a result, the water level declined significantly with seasonal rivers, springs and ponds drying up earlier than normal and increasing frequency of non-functionality of water supply schemes due to over utilization.

UNICEF is currently involved in operations across all the drought affected regions and contributes to the ongoing drought response effort through water trucking, rehabilitation of non-functional water supply schemes, building water storage capacity at critical and good yielding boreholes, provision of therapeutic food supplies, screening of children and pregnant and lactating women for malnutrition and monitoring for the provision of quality nutrition services.

UNICEF’s drought response activities are guided by its Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action, which prioritize timely response in key lifesaving sectors, namely nutrition, health, water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Borehole Rehabilitation Contributes to Children’s Education and Futures

By Ayuko Matsuhashi

MIESSO, SOMALI, 15 January 2017 – “When the borehole was broken for a year and a half, I used to go to the nearby river for water, which is 12 km away from here. I have five children but I only managed to get one or two jerry cans of water for my family. I was not able to clean or bathe my children regularly at that time. That was difficult,” says Fathiya Ali Aadan, a 32-year-old mother of five living in Miesso town.

 

Harshim Town Fafan Zone Somali region
Fathiya Ali Aadan, 32 year-old, enjoys an household water connection which comes from the rehabilitated borehole in her premise ©UNICEF/2017/Tsegaye

Miesso is a small, remote town in the same-named woreda (district) located about 150 km west of the administrative city, Dire Dawa. Out of five non-functional water supply systems in Miesso woreda, one borehole was rehabilitated in the town by the Regional Water Bureau (RWB) in December 2016 with assistance from UNICEF, from the generous support of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). The emergency water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) intervention benefits 3,500 households in the town as well as the school and health centre.

 

The Miesso woreda administration office reports that there are currently 86 non-functional boreholes in the woreda, a key intervention necessary to improve the water situation, which is only one part of the challenges facing families in the region. Since most of the region is prone to drought and pastoralist livelihoods critically depend on water, non-functionality of water schemes requires immediate response to save lives of people and their livestock. It also affects children’s opportunity to learn.

At Mulli School, which includes grades one through twelve, a 14-year-old, grade eight student Ibrahim Mohamed explains, “Before, we had to return back home to get water when there was no water at school. It was a big interruption of class.” The impact of water scarcity also causes some schools to close, such as last year after the failure of deyr rains (October-December). Additionally, pastoralist families may move in search of water, thus taking children and even teachers away from school.

“Now we can drink water, keep our clothes clean, wash our hands after using the bathroom and most importantly for me, there is no longer need to go back home to get water during class. Girls need water for menstrual hygiene at school as well,” says Hayat Yusuf Adan, a 13-year-old, grade eight student.

Thanks to the rehabilitated borehole, Hayat’s school managed to remain open. While water supply at school tends to be neglected during emergency, it is clear that water availability contributes to retaining children in school. UNICEF is committed to support the Government of Ethiopia and implementing partners to improve the WASH situation for schools and families across Somali region to protect the futures of children and the livelihoods of their families.

UNICEF Ethiopia seeks US$110.5 million in emergency assistance for 9.2 million children and their families

Malnutrition poses “silent threat” to children, agency’s 2017 appeal says 

NEW YORK/GENEVA/ADDIS ABABA, 31 January 2017 – 48 million children living through some of the world’s worst conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies will benefit from UNICEF’s 2017 appeal, which was launched today.

From Syria to Yemen and Iraq, from South Sudan to Nigeria, children are under direct attack, their homes, schools and communities in ruins, their hopes and futures hanging in the balance. In total, almost one in four of the world’s children live in a country affected by conflict or disaster.

“In country after country, war, natural disaster and climate change are driving ever more children from their homes, exposing them to violence, disease and exploitation,” said UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes, Manuel Fontaine. 

UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children sets out the agency’s 2017 appeal totaling $3.3 billion, and its goals in providing children with access to safe water, nutrition, education, health and protection in 48 countries across the globe. 

An estimated 7.5 million children will face severe acute malnutrition across the majority of appeal countries, including almost half a million each in northeast Nigeria and Yemen.

“Malnutrition is a silent threat to millions of children,” said Fontaine. “The damage it does can be irreversible, robbing children of their mental and physical potential. In its worst form, severe malnutrition can be deadly.”  

The largest single component of the appeal is for children and families caught up in the Syria conflict, soon to enter its seventh year. UNICEF is seeking a total of $1.4 billion to support Syrian children inside Syria and those living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

In total, working alongside its partners, UNICEF’s other priorities in 2017 are:

  • Providing over 19 million people with access to safe water;
  • Reaching 9.2 million children with formal or non-formal basic education;
  • Immunizing 8.3 million children against measles;
  • Providing psychosocial support to over two million children;
  • Treating 3.1 million children with severe acute malnutrition.

In the first ten months of 2016, as a result of UNICEF’s support:

  • 13.6 million people had access to safe water;
  • 9.4 million children were vaccinated against measles;
  • 6.4 million children accessed some form of education;
  • 2.2 million children were treated for severe acute malnutrition.

UNICEF Ethiopia’s 2017 Humanitarian Appeal for Children (HAC) is for US$110.5 million, which includes US$17.3 million required to provide assistance to refugees.  Together with the Government of Ethiopia and humanitarian partners, UNICEF Ethiopia aims to reach 9.2 million children and their families with access to safe water and hygiene, nutrition, health and protection services and give hope for the future by providing education in emergencies.

Aysha Nur a mother of four is receiving a medical treatment for her child
Fatuma Ahmed 4 is checked for malnutrition by a mobile health extension officer at Lubakda Kebele of Kori Woreda in Afar Regional state. Lubakda, a remote site served by one of Afar’s 20 Mobile Health and Nutrition Teams (MHNTs), is 4km from the nearest health post and 30km from the nearest health centre. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Tesfaye

“In 2017, UNICEF Ethiopia prioritizes humanitarian needs of those affected by the Horn of Africa drought while continuing to support development initiatives to ensure all children and their families have clean water, adequate sanitation as well as access to nutrition and health services. Additional priorities are to support education for children facing emergencies and to protect children against violence and abuse,” said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “Our ability to respond adequately to the needs of millions of children contributes to future growth and stability in Ethiopia. Through linked humanitarian and development programming, the Government of Ethiopia, UNICEF and our partners’ investments helps build families’ and communities’ resilience against future emergencies.”

While the funding will be critical to UNICEF’s ability to respond to immediate needs, it will also be used to take appropriate action to strengthen preparedness, improve early warning systems and reduce vulnerability as well as contribute to more resilient communities. 

In 2016, UNICEF raised US$108.7 million to provide around 7 million children and their families with life-saving humanitarian assistance to mitigate the impact of the El Niño-induced drought. With severe water shortages, malnutrition and disease outbreaks, the anticipated humanitarian need in 2017 has reduced only slightly, from 9.7 to 9.2 million people.

Though an adequate 2016 ‘kiremt’ rainy season was recorded in many areas of the country, drought conditions and residual effects from the El Niño emergency continue to cause water shortages, malnutrition, disease outbreaks and related protection and education issues, including the closure of hundreds of schools in drought-affected areas.

A new drought expanding across the lowland areas in the Horn of Africa, induced by another weather phenomena, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), is further exacerbating humanitarian needs in the south and south eastern regions of Afar and Somali, as well as parts of Oromia and SNNP. Neighbouring country Somalia is also severely affected, causing 1,325 refugees crossing into the Ethiopian Somali region in the first 17 days of January. Ethiopia is already one of the top refugee-hosting countries in Africa, with 783,401 refugees as of November 2016 hailing from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan.

Ethiopia: Government and partners launch the mid-year review of Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) for 2016

US$612.4 million urgently needed to address food and non-food needs for 9.7million people  

Addis Ababa, 12 August 2016: On 12 August, the Government of Ethiopia officially launched the revision of the joint-Government and partners’ Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) for the second half of 2016. The revised HRD seeks US$612.4 million to help 9.7 million people with emergency food and non-food assistance.

“The findings of the comprehensive belg assessment show changes in the humanitarian context that require immediate action. While the overall response strategy remains the same, we need to respond to address increased needs in some areas,” noted Commissioner Ato Mitiku Kassa, Head of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC). “Thanks to the collaboration between the Government and humanitarian partners, we have done a lot this year. We need to sustain the generous support from the international community in the second half of 2016.”

Ethiopia continues to be affected by drought, exacerbated by the strongest El-Niño on record, which significantly eroded coping capacities. Some regions experienced flooding with unusually heavy belg spring rains in April and May 2016, causing temporary displacement and a surge in disease outbreaks. At the same time, some areas did not receive sufficient rainfall and people still do not have adequate access to water, resulting in continued food and nutrition needs that requires additional health and water response. The Government-led inter-agency belg seasonal assessment, undertaken at the end of June, allowed for a timely revision of the 2016 HRD to ensure well-prioritized response until the end of the year.

“The Government of Ethiopia maintains its very strong and decisive leadership in responding to this crisis and has helped avoid what could have been a humanitarian catastrophe’’ stated Ms. Gillian Mellsop, the acting Humanitarian Coordinator. “As was highlighted at the side-event at the World Humanitarian Summit in May, Ethiopia’s response model is an excellent example of how preparation, disaster risk management and response prioritization can mitigate the impact of natural disasters,” added Ms. Mellsop.

“Nevertheless, despite marked achievements earlier this year, the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia remains critical. With a combination of drought, which significantly weakened coping capacities, and extensive flooding that has caused displacement, disease outbreaks and the disruption of basic public services, we must maintain our scaled-up response,” Ms. Mellsop stressed.

“We should not underestimate our achievements this year, especially considering that we have received more than $1 billion in funding so far” Mr. Paul Handley, Head of Office for OCHA Ethiopia, emphasized. “However, we need to scale up and prioritize our response for the rest of the year to provide assistance to the most vulnerable. It is vital that the international community continues to support the Government to ensure that we do not lose the positive momentum we have gained towards ending the humanitarian crisis.”

UNICEF’s response in pictures (Click on the picture for more)

Emergency: Drought Response 2015/16

El Niño is over but its impact on children is set to worsen as disease, malnutrition continue to spread

In Eastern and Southern Africa alone, 26.5 million children are in need of aid

NAIROBI/NEW YORK, July 8, 2016 – The 2015-2016 El Niño has ended but its devastating impact on children is worsening, as hunger, malnutrition and disease continue to increase following the severe droughts and floods spawned by the event, one of the strongest on record, UNICEF said today.

And there is a strong chance La Niña – El Niño’s flip side – could strike at some stage this year, further exacerbating a severe humanitarian crisis that is affecting millions of children in some of the most vulnerable communities, UNICEF said in a report called It’s not over – El Niño’s impact on children.

Children in the worst affected areas are going hungry. In Eastern and Southern Africa – the worst hit regions – some 26.5 million children need support, including more than one million who need treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

In many countries, already strained resources, have reached their limits, and affected families have exhausted their coping mechanisms – such as selling off assets and skipping meals. Unless more aid is forthcoming, including urgent nutritional support for young children, decades of development progress could be eroded.

HALABA WOREDA, SNNPR – 24 JANUARY 2016In many countries, El Niño affected access to safe water, and has been linked to increases in diseases such as dengue fever, diarrhoea and cholera, which are major killers of children. In South America, and particularly Brazil, El Niño has created favourable breeding conditions for the mosquito that can transmit Zika, dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.  If La Niña does develop, it could contribute to the spread of the Zika virus to areas that have not been affected to date.

UNICEF also said there are serious concerns that Southern Africa, the global epicentre of the AIDS pandemic, could see an increased transmission of HIV as a result of El Niño’s impact. Lack of food affects access to anti-retroviral therapy (ART), as patients tend not to take treatment on an empty stomach, and many people will use their limited resources for food rather than transport to a health facility. Drought can also force adolescent girls and women to engage in transactional sex to survive. And, mortality for children living with HIV is two to six times higher for those who are severely malnourished than for those who are not.

“Millions of children and their communities need support in order to survive. They need help to prepare for the eventuality La Niña will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. And they need help to step up disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change, which is causing more intense and more frequent extreme weather events,” said UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programs, Afshan Khan. “The same children who are affected by El Niño and threatened by La Niña, find themselves on the frontlines of climate change.”

Sweden responds to El Niño-driven drought in Ethiopia

The Government avails US$ 5.7 million to UNICEF’s drought response activities

Inauguration of new UNICEF warehouse
New cartons of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) arrives at a UNICEF warehouse

ADDIS ABABA, 22 June 2016 -The Government of Sweden contributes US$ 5.7 million to UNICEF to save children’s lives and protect children affected by El Niño-driven drought in Ethiopia. This is the single largest crisis contribution of Sweden to UNICEF globally this year. In addition to the grant provided through UNICEF Ethiopia, Sweden has provided US$25 million to the drought response in Ethiopia since September 2015.

The Swedish support comes at a critical time when Ethiopia is currently facing the worst drought in decades leaving 10.2 million people, including 6 million children, in need of emergency assistance. It also created critical water shortages in Somali, Afar, parts of SNNP, eastern Oromia, Amhara and Tigray regions.  Poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, resulting from water shortage, are also contributing to an increase in disease outbreaks. 

In addition, the number of severely malnourished children who need therapeutic feeding treatment continues to increase. UNICEF, together with the Government of Ethiopia and humanitarian partners, is stepping up efforts to address the needs of 458,000 children under five with Severe Acute Malnutrition and 2.5 million children, pregnant and lactating women with Moderate Acute Malnutrition.[1]

“Sweden has been a strong humanitarian and development partner to Ethiopia over the years. We are very committed to support the country in the struggle to combat and prevent the effects of the worst drought Ethiopia has seen in over 50 years,” said H.E. Jan Sadek, Ambassador of Sweden to Ethiopia. “Sweden is determined to continue to work for a deeper integration between humanitarian relief and long term development objectives. The partners in Ethiopia have come quite far in this integration but more needs to be done. We believe that in this regard, UNICEF, which has a mandate in both ‘spheres’, is playing a key role.”

Together with other donors, Sweden’s support enabled UNICEF to make the largest global purchase of Therapeutic Food for children in drought-stricken Ethiopia. With this new funding, UNICEF will work towards improving the capacity of health extension workers on Severe Acute Malnutrition management.

In addition, new stabilization centres will be established in existing health centres to cater to the increasing number of children with severe acute malnutrition.  The contribution will also strengthen Mobile Health and Nutrition Teams which provide lifesaving primary health care, nutrition, hygiene and sanitation promotion services in hard hit drought areas of the Afar and Somali regions. Furthermore, water will be provided to primary schools for drinking as well as for routine handwashing in the Oromia Region.

“UNICEF appreciates the Government of Sweden’s generous contribution of life saving interventions for children and their families whose lives have been affected by the El-Niño driven drought emergency,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “UNICEF, together with the Government of Ethiopia and partners, continues to play an important role in scaling up its interventions in terms of nutrition, health, water sanitation and hygiene, child protection and education to mitigate the worst impact of this crisis.”