EU Partnership Paves the Way for Better Nutrition for Children and Women in Ethiopia

By Nardos Birru

ADDIS ABABA, September 2016 – Ethiopia has experienced repeated droughts, particularly in the past few years, which have eroded rural livelihoods, causing increased food insecurity and malnutrition among vulnerable communities. The 2015/2016 El Niño-driven drought, for instance, left 9.7 million people in need of emergency food assistance.

In response to recurrent food insecurity, UNICEF has partnered with the European Union (EU) to contribute to building resilience of the most vulnerable groups, which includes children under five, as well as pregnant and lactating women. Resilience, or the ability of a community to withstand, adapt and quickly recover from shocks such as drought, is a cornerstone of the EU’s humanitarian and development assistance.

To this effect, the EU has provided €10 million to UNICEF-assisted programmes as part of its Supporting the Horn of Africa’s Resilience (SHARE) initiative through a project entitled Multi-Sectoral Interventions to Improve Nutrition Security & Resilience. The project is implemented in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in the drought-affected woredas (districts) of Amhara, Oromia Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNP) regions, benefiting 285,665 households.

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As part of the community-based nutrition programme, Binti, a Health Extension Worker counsels a mother on best nutrition practices. ©UNICEF/2014/Nesbitt

How does SHARE work?

The project aims for communities to have access to quality nutrition services in their vicinity and a better understanding of the importance of proper infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices.

It covers a wide range of interventions including the promotion of exclusive breast feeding and adequate complementary feeding, vitamin A supplementation and deworming of children, as well as the promotion of hygiene and sanitation.

This is complemented by a series of nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions led by FAO in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture. This component helps build the capacity of women to improve the variation of their diet through livestock and poultry rearing, as well as backyard gardening. It also brings opportunities for women to collaborate as peer support groups to produce nutritionally valuable complementary foods such as cereal mixtures for sale. This stimulates the local economy by creating jobs and empowering women to ensure the healthy growth of their children.

An evidence-based approach

Launch of document entitled “Situation Analysis of the Nutrition Sector in Ethiopia” from 2000-2015
Left to right: H.E Chantal Hebberecht, Ambassador of the European Union; Birara Melese, National Nutrition Programme Team Coordinator; Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia; at the launch of the 2000-2015 “Situation Analysis of the Nutrition Sector in Ethiopia” in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ©UNICEF/2016/Tesfaye

One achievement of the project was an initiative to analyze and document the nutrition situation in the country from 2000 to 2015.  The report was launched in March 2016 and highlights critical gaps in terms of existing policies and programmes which need to be addressed urgently to accelerate nutrition results for women and children. Key findings of the situation analysis report include poor water supply and sanitation as high risk factors for child stunting, educating mothers as a key factor for improving nutrition, as well as the need to improve production diversity, nutrition knowledge and women’s empowerment to ensure that diverse and nutritious foods are available and accessible at all times.

The SHARE project also serves as a platform for multiple non-governmental organizations where they can exchange expertise and best practices to improve implementation and follow a harmonized approach in their respective intervention sites. This way, efforts are combined and the impact on the nutrition status of children and women will be maximized.

UNICEF would like to express its gratitude to the EU for the generous financial contribution to UNICEF-assisted programmes and looks forward to strengthening successful collaboration for children and women in Ethiopia. Thanks to EU support, over 225,000 children under five and over 50,000 mothers will have better access to improved nutrition services. This is in line with the efforts of the Government of Ethiopia to realize the Seqota Declaration to make undernutrition, in particular child undernutrition, history in Ethiopia.

Rehabilitation of Borehole Saves Thousands of Lives and Livestock during Drought

By Ayuko Matsuhashi

A signboard on the sight of rehabilitated borehole
A signboard on the sight of the rehabilitated borehole ©UNICEF/2017/Tsegaye

HARSHIM, SOMALI, 19 January 2017 – “For three months, the borehole was not functional and people suffered a lot. There was little rain, so most of the birkas[1] became empty. Additionally, water from birkas is usually contaminated so we suffered from diarrhoea,” Muse Hassan Ali, 45-years-old recalls the time that he and his neighbours did not have access to safe and sustainable water in his town. Birkas are underground water storage systems intended to collect rain water during the rainy season and store for use during the dry season. Birkas can also be used to store water transported by trucks during emergencies.

According to the Harshim woreda (district) administrator, Sied Abraham, this borehole in Harshim town is the only sustainable water source that survived the 2015 El-Niño drought. It was drilled by the Somali Regional Water Bureau (RWB) following a UNICEF groundwater mapping in 2009 to identify potential drilling sites. The depth of the borehole is 535 meters, one of the deepest in the Somali region. After this borehole became non-functional due to electromechanical failure last year, UNICEF, with generous financial contribution from European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO), supported the RWB to rehabilitate the borehole by replacing a submersible pump, generator and an electric cable.

An immediate rehabilitation of the only sustainable water source in the woreda was crucial not only for Harshim town, but a large part of the region. It typically benefits over 9,000 people in Harshim and neighbouring woredas as well as people who cross the border from Somalia. At the end of 2016, it also served people in far-reaching woredas when drought conditions worsened once again due to the negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). The RWB and partners began providing emergency water trucking, using this borehole as their source. Thus, its well-functioning affects a high number of direct and indirect beneficiaries across the region.

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Roda Ahmed, 35 years old and Rahma Ahmed, 30 years old collecting clean water from the on-site water point ©UNICEF/2017/Tsegaye

Roda Ahmed, 35 years old, is with her five children collecting water. “This is a source of life. Now I can cook and feed my children,” she says. Another woman from Harshim town also with five children, Rahma Ahmed, explains, “Since this borehole has been working, we stopped drinking water from birkas.

In addition to people collecting water near the borehole, the on-site trough draws in many pastoralists and their livestock. It takes more than a day for Farah Aden, 60 years old, to walk to the Harshim borehole with his 10 camels. “We are grateful for this borehole. Water is always a great cost for livestock. The functionality of this borehole has impacted our life a lot.” Indeed, during drought periods such as this one, entire herds may be wiped out, as evidenced by dozens of dead carcasses along the roads across the region.

Pastoralists come to Harshim town from neighbouring woredas and Somalia looking for water
Hundreds of livestock come from all over the Harshim woreda and drink water at the on-site trough ©UNICEF/2017/Tsegaye

As he contemplates this grave issue in his region, Muse pauses before emphasizing, “Still, this is not enough. There is a great pressure on this borehole. The generator is working 22 hours every day.”

UNICEF and partners will continue efforts to support the Government of Ethiopia to increase water coverage and functional water schemes in the Somali region to save the lives of children, their families and their livestock and contribute to a better future for all.

[1] traditional water harvesting pond

Butajira’s ideal health facilities give hope to ending maternal and new-born death in Ethiopia

By Wossen Mulatu

Butajira Hospital and Health Center Media Visit ahead of the EU-ESDE project lauch, 2 April 2014
Dr. Ayenachew Abebe, Medical Director of Butajira Hospital gives briefing about the activities of the hospital in maternal and new-born health. Butajira Hospital and Health Centre Media Visit ahead of the EU-ESDE project launch, 2 April 2014 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Fasil

Butajira, 2 April 2014: Around fifteen journalists from eleven media houses visited Butajira hospital and health center to witness firsthand the facilities for mothers and new-borns there.

The media visit was organized by the Federal Ministry of Health, European Union and UNICEF to show the commendable services provided by Butajira hospital and health centre ahead of the high level launch of the ‘Enhancing Skilled Delivery in Ethiopia’ (ESDE) which was made possible with EU’s generous €40.2 million grant.

New mother Aster Kebede’s face is filled with grace holding her new baby girl already named Etenesh Gobeza. After an hour of delivery, she has immediately started breast-feeding her child sitting comfortably on the hospital bed. It took her a day to come to the hospital from the neighboring Mareko woreda (district) with her mother Fichage Arega. Now, both of them are proudly sitting close to each other admiring the newly born child and grandchild in relief.

“I am highly content with the service provided here at the hospital. The staff were really kind to me and I had a smooth delivery. I am also grateful that such service is offered for free.” said Aster.

In Ethiopia the most critical period of care for maternal and neonatal mortality reduction (skilled birth attendance) has remained stagnant for the past two decades with only 29 per cent of mothers accessing this essential care. In addition, despite the improvements in reducing under 5 mortality rates, neonatal mortality rate has also remained stagnant showing no significant reduction from 39 in the 2005 to 37 in 2011.

Butajira Hospital and Health Centre Media Visit ahead of the EU-ESDE project launch, 2nd April 2014
Aster Kebede, one hour after delivering her baby girl Etenesh Gobeza describes her experience in the hospital to the media. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Fasil

“Both the quality and quantity of services have increased in the hospital due to the commitment and motivation of the hospital management and its staff to prevent any death of mothers and new-borns” said Andualem Mengistu, Manager of the hospital.

According to Andualem, the range of mothers who deliver at the hospital has increased from 10-15 up to 80-90 mothers per week at present. This significant increase is due to the introduction of free service for mothers who deliver at the hospital, increase in the number of midwives on duty programme and early referral system from the Health Center. In addition, the hospital implements Maternal Death Surveillance and Response (MDSR) and uses volunteers from Voluntary Services Organization (VSO) to fill the staffing and skill gap.

“Giving birth should be a time of happiness and celebration for mothers and not a time of sorrow. And newborns are not predestined to die” said Dr. Asheber Gaym, Health Specialist at UNICEF. “We need to make all our efforts to stop the unnecessary death of mothers and new-born in the country by closely working with the Government and partners” he added.

 Ali Abdella, deputy head of the woreda health unit indicates that, their main objective is to create demand so that mothers deliver at a health facility and not at home. The maternal mortality rate in the city used to be 67 deaths per 10,000 in 2010 and now it has gone down to 6 deaths per 10,000 which is a significant achievement.

According to Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) 2011, Ethiopia has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world estimated at 676 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births far from the MDG target of 267.

“We are now aiming at quality service and HDF (Home Delivery Free) community.” he stresses.

Translation of paragraphs from stories by journalists that took part in the media visit are posted here: [With a link to the Amharic story]

[Ethiopian Reporter] Saving a mothers life

Hospitals can solve Maternal health and newborn deaths when they have the necessary  equipments and sustainable supply. To equip new and old hospitals with the necessary equipments to sustain the supply, the European Union  has donated 40 million Euros through a project implemented by Ministry of Health and UNICEF. All health sectors will benefit from this three year project Read more.

[Ethiopian News Agency] The hospital has played a role in reducing maternal and newborn deaths

“Many newborn and maternal lives were saved because of this hospital” says Fetiya “The service is for free, so all mothers should come to the hospital and save the life of their children and themselves” Fetiya conveys her message. Read more

[DW- Amharic] Butajira hospital to benefit from new 40 million Euro EU funded project 

UNICEF and Ethiopian Ministry of Health will work together to achieve MDG5, reduce maternal and newborn deaths , by implementing a new 40 million euro project donated by the European Union. Read more