Translate commitments to invest in children into action, UNICEF urges leaders at Financing for Development Conference

Rahmat and her baby Ne'ema Abdu-Dessie Zurie Woreda
Rahmat and her baby Ne’ema Abdu-Dessie Zurie Woreda © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Tsegaye

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).

Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director UNICEF, makes a remark at the Child Protection: Sustaining Investments in Childhood side event
Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director UNICEF, makes a remark at the Child Protection: Sustaining Investments in Childhood side event at FFD3 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

“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.”

Sustaining Achievements in Polio Eradication in Ethiopia and Africa

High level Vaccination Session During the Financing for Development conference
PDG Dr Tadesse Alemu, President of Rotary National Polio Plus Committee, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Dr Margaret Chan, UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibe, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ms Yoka Brandt and Ethiopian Minister of Health Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu poses for a group picture after vaccinating a group of children at Selam Health Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Sustaining the Achievements in Polio Eradication in Ethiopia: High level Vaccination Session During the Financing for Development conference ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Westerbeek

Addis Ababa | 14 July 2015. Ethiopian Minister of Health Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Dr Margaret Chan, The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) Chief Executive Officer Dr Seth Berkley and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ms Yoka Brandt participated in a high level polio vaccination event at Selam Health Centre in Addis Ababa. Also present at the event were UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibe, US Ambassador Ms Patricia M. Haslach, Brazil Ambassador Mrs Isabel Cristina, President and CEO of PATH Dr Davis Steve, and Rotary National Polio Plus Committee Chairperson PDG Dr Tadesse Alemu as well as national and international EPI partners, health workers and mothers with their children. “Strong leadership, political will and coordination are key to sustaining the gains made in interrupting polio transmission in Ethiopia and Africa,” said Dr Margaret Chan, commending Ethiopia’s aggressive response to the 2013 outbreak of wild polio virus. “Horn of Africa countries should continue to immunise all at risk age groups until the threat drops to zero and eradication is achieved. And this is possible only through high quality immunisation activities for all communities.” When the wild polio virus outbreak in the Horn of Africa spread to Ethiopia in August 2013, the Government of Ethiopia intensified vigilance, surveillance and mass immunisation campaigns, together with partners like WHO, UNICEF, USAID, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Rotary International. Fifteen supplementary immunisation campaigns were implemented with a focus on high risk areas. Cross-border coordination was heightened, with Horn of Africa countries coming together to implement synchronised response activities. It has been 18 months since the last case of wild polio virus was reported in Ethiopia, and 11 months since the last case in Africa. Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu said, “We will focus on equity and quality for every child and mother in Ethiopia,” adding, “The Government of Ethiopia continues to be committed to eradicating polio from Ethiopia, and Africa.” He further affirmed that “The Government of Ethiopia will continue to engage communities for active participation in routine immunisation, and will continue to build strong health partnerships.” With a view of sustaining the achievements in interruption of wild polio virus transmission, and strengthening the immunisation system, the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia, with support from partners, is currently implementing a two-year Routine Immunisation Improvement Plan 2014-2015. The plan pays special attention to low performing prioritised zones and accelerating efforts to support such vulnerable zones to improve performance, among other priority initiatives.

Sustaining the Achievements in Polio Eradication in Ethiopia
Ms Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF gives an anti polio drop to a child at Selam Health Centre. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

Ms. Yoka Brandt, asserted, “Immunisation, especially routine immunisation, is a core priority within UNICEF, and it will continue to be. With the availability of new innovations, new vaccines, and new research and evidence, we can go fast and far.” Immunisation is among the most cost effective interventions we can provide to our children. Yet, one in five children are not fully immunised worldwide. In Ethiopia and Africa, children in remote and marginalised communities are more likely to be missed. It is these same children that carry the highest risk of diseases that vaccines can prevent. Therefore we must refine our strategies to reach these children and include them in our services. Reaching every community is an approach that strives at inclusion of all communities, especially the marginalised children, ensuring resources and services are available and monitoring is in place. Dr Seth Berkley, highlighting GAVI’s commitment to strengthening routine immunisation, said, “Strong routine immunisation systems are a bedrock of healthy societies and are central to global plans for the eradication of polio. By working together, we are reaching more children than ever before with lifesaving vaccines and the GAVI partners are committed to supporting countries like Ethiopia to sustain and build on their progress on immunisation.” WHO, UNICEF, GAVI and other immunisation partners remain committed to support African governments in reaching every community with vaccination – the gift of life. Untitled

We can eliminate violence against children – Sustaining investments in childhood

S-Date 13 July event - photo


Discussion on the role of a global partnership and fund to end violence against children. 


 Ms. Marta Santos Pais – UN SRSG on Violence against Children

H.E. Hon. Saada Mkuya Salum – Minister of Finance, United Republic of Tanzania

H.E. Hon. Christian Paradis – Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Canada

Ms. Yoka Brandt – Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF

Mr. Nick Dyer – Director of Policy, UK Department for International Development

Ms. Gugulethu Ndebele – CEO, Save the Children South Africa


13.15-14.450, Monday, 13 July 2015


Warka 1+2, Radisson Blu, Addis Ababa


Every 5 minutes a child dies as a result of violence. Almost 1 in 4 girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide report being victims of some form of physical violence since age 15. In 2012, 1 in 5 homicides deaths were children and young people under the age of 20. Aside from the incalculably damaging effects on children, the global economic impact and costs resulting from the consequences of physical, psychological and sexual violence against children could be as high as $7 trillion according to Overseas Development Institute.

 Children have a right to be protected from all forms of violence in all settings, in every country of the world. The establishment of a global fund and partnership to end violence against children would be a major step along the road to realising this fundamental right.  

Investing in learning from a child’s very earliest days critical to have a good start in life – Hannah Godefa

(L-R) UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, Hannah Godefa, UNICEF national Ambassador to Ethiopia and Nobel Laureate Economist Professor James Heckman

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.

Wash Program, Shebedino Woreda, AwassaI 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.