Reuniting Ethiopia’s children with their families after migration horrors

By Paul Schemm

UNICEF- IOM partnership on assisted voluntary returning children from Ethiopia
Ahmad, 17, demonstrates how traffickers in Yemen held him for ransom. A joint project between UNICEF, the International Organization of Migration and the Ethiopian Government, the transit centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia reunites migrant children with their families. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mulugeta Ayene

ADDIS ABABA, March 31, 2016 – As Ahmad* was being chased through the Yemeni desert by the motorcycle-riding human traffickers that had tortured and beat him in their camp for months, he thought he would never see his home village in southern Ethiopia again.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it home,” recalled the young 17-year-old with an expressive face and wide eyes as he described his five months of attempted migration to Saudi Arabia that resulted in him getting ransomed by traffickers twice and ended in a harrowing midnight escape when he rolled off the truck containing bodies of fellow migrants he had been sent to help bury.

Ahmad is now safe in a transit centre in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, just a few short days away from the trip back home and being reunited with his family as part of a collaboration between UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration and the Ethiopian Government.

The lure of migration

UNICEF- IOM partnership on assisted voluntary returning children from Ethiopia
Children play ping pong in the courtyard of the transit centre where they await their return to their families after failed attempts to migrate. A joint project between UNICEF, the International Organization of Migration and the Ethiopian Government, the transit centre reunites migrant children with their families. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mulugeta Ayene

Thousands of Ethiopians leave the country searching for opportunities, with many heading for oil-rich Saudi Arabia via the Red Sea port of Djibouti and through Yemen, which is currently deeply embroiled in a civil war.

Many are preyed upon by human traffickers who often leave them stranded, or worse hold them for ransom. Many who make the trip are minors left stranded far from home.

UNICEF and the IOM have begun bringing these children back to Ethiopia and housing them for a week in the Addis Ababa transit centre while their families are contacted.

“Most of them have travelled through very harsh circumstances, some were robbed and they all went long days without food,” said centre director Mohammed Farah who just last week sent almost hundred children back to their homes. “Most of them are traumatized.”

The children are given new clothes, showers and counselling to try to overcome some of the experiences they have been through.

Many are at first uncommunicative but with time and group therapy they begin to interact with their peers, said Farah.

The centre helped bring home 598 children in 2015 and already in the first few months of 2016 it has sent another 157 to their families, including 10 girls. Families receive a 1,000 birr (US$50) resettling aid as well.

Most of the children helped by the programme are between 15 and 17 years-old but there are cases of even younger children caught up in the lure to immigrate.

The IOM-UNICEF partnership to bring these children back to their families has been singled out by the UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional office as a success story.

Coping with the trauma

UNICEF- IOM partnership on assisted voluntary returning children from Ethiopia
Kabir, 16, looks out the window of the transit center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where he awaits the journey back to his family that he hasn’t seen for the past five months. The joint project between UNICEF, the International Organization of Migration and the Ethiopian Government reunites children migrants with their families. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mulugeta Ayene

Sitting in the clean, white-washed activities room, Zerihun*, 17, talked about being ransomed by traffickers in Yemen and beaten repeatedly when his family couldn’t provide the money.

“They beat me until I became really sick and then they thought I would die so they left me outside,” he recalled, admitting that he still has trouble sleeping from the trauma. In the end, he survived the terrible experience and was able to run off into the desert and find a Yemeni village. There, he received assistance that eventually put him in contact with the IOM, enabling him to return home.

Some migrant children at the centre said they left for Saudi Arabia because they had seen many others go and thought it was a chance to make something of their lives  and return with money.

Kabir*, just 16-year-old, thought he could use his skills as a herder and help manage the massive herds of sheep and goats imported into Saudi Arabia annually for the Muslim feasts, but he too just ended up ransomed by traffickers who had hired Ethiopians to communicate – and beat – their prisoners.

He said when he returned home, he would be sure to warn others about the perils of migration.

“I want to restart my education and help my family,” said Kabir. “It is death if you go there – it is better to transform oneself and thrive inside your own country, that’s what I would tell them.”

*Names changed to protect the children’s identities.

Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation by 2030, say UNFPA and UNICEF

Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake on the 2016 International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM

Mariame Habib, 17, was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) when she was a child.
Mariame Habib, 17 years old and 9 months pregnant, was subjected to (FGM/C) Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting ) when she was a child. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Tsegaye

 

NEW YORK, 5 February 2016 – “FGM is a violent practice, scarring girls for life — endangering their health, depriving them of their rights, and denying them the chance to reach their full potential. 

“FGM is widespread.  It is a global problem that goes well beyond Africa and the Middle East, where the practice has been most prevalent — affecting communities in Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America.  And the number of girls and women at risk will only get larger if current population trends continue, wiping out hard-won gains. 

“FGM is discrimination.  It both reflects and reinforces the discrimination against women and girls, perpetuating a vicious cycle that is detrimental to development and to our progress as a human family. 

“FGM must end. In September at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, 193 nations unanimously agreed to a new global target of eliminating FGM by 2030.  This recognition that FGM is a global concern is a critical milestone.  

“But the recognition, while important, is not enough.  To protect the wellbeing and dignity of every girl, we need to take responsibility as a global community for ending FGM. 

“That means we need to learn more — improving our data collection to measure the full extent of the practice — and do more. We need to encourage more communities and families to abandon FGM.  We need to work with larger numbers of medical communities — including traditional and medical professionals — persuading them to refuse to perform or support FGM.  We need to support more women and girls who have undergone the harmful practice and provide them with services and help to overcome the trauma they have suffered. And we need to support and empower girls around the world to make their voices heard and call out to put an end to FGM.  

“All of us must join in this call. There simply is no place for FGM in the future we are striving to create –  a future where every girl will grow up able to experience her inherent dignity, human rights and equality by 2030.

Trust fund donors visit of the UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme acceleration of change to eliminate FGM/C
Momina Gida, 17 years old in Aasero village, Sabure Kebele, Awash District in Afar region represents the new generation of uncut girls in the Region. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mulatu

In Ethiopia, despite a steady reduction in FGM/C nationally over the past decade, still 23 per cent (nearly one out of four) girls between the ages of 0 to 14 undergo this practice (Welfare Monitoring Survey (WMS) 2011). According to the same source, FGM/C is practiced across all regions in Ethiopia with varying degree with the prevalence in Amhara (47 per cent), Benshangul-Gumuz (24 per cent) and Tigray (22 per cent), Oromia (17 per cent) and Harari (14 per cent). The regions with the highest prevalence rate are Somali (70 per cent) and Afar (60 per cent). The impact of FGM/C in these two regions is severe as the two regions practice the worst form of FGM/C which involves total elimination of the external female genitalia and stitching, just leaving a small opening for urination.  

The Government of Ethiopia has taken strategic and programmatic measures to eliminate FGM/C. Some of the key actions include; endorsement of the National Strategy and Action Plan on Harmful Traditional Practices against Women and Children and communication strategy for social norm change and establishment of the National Alliance to End Child Marriage and FGM/C. Moreover, the Government has shown a ground-breaking commitment to end FGM/C and child marriage by the year 2025 at the London Girls’ Summit and reinforced by setting a target to reduce the practice to 0.5 per cent in the Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP II). 

UNICEF is supporting the Government of Ethiopia in developing a roadmap which defines the long term strategic and programme interventions and the role of different actors, strengthening the National Alliance through supporting the establishment of functional secretariat, enriching the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) module to include better data and consensus building sessions with religious leaders in collaboration with UNFPA and other Alliance members.

UNICEF and UNFPA have been working hand in hand for many areas in Ethiopia for the abandonment of FGM/C. One of the exemplary programme that can be sited is the joint programme on the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Afar Region. The programme has a social mobilization component which includes; facilitated community dialogue, working with religious and clan leaders, youth dialogue targeting in and out of school girls and a care component which involves tracking cases of complications with linkage to health facilities. Also, improving enforcement of the law through increasing legal literacy, strengthening special units in the law enforcement bodies for better reporting and management of cases. The programme has recorded pronounced success in facilitating declaration of abandonment of the practice in 6 districts in Afar Region, and eventually expanding to other districts in Afar and other regions.

Ethiopia-Brazil South-South collaboration in urban sanitation technology transfer

By Samuel Godfrey

Wukro Town, situated in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region, received two Brazilian experts in the area of sanitary sewerage from 12 to 23 October 2015. The two officials from the Water and Sewerage Company of the State of Ceará (CAGECE), Fabiano Lira and Marcondes Ribeiro Lima, travelled to Ethiopia as part of the Trilateral South-South Cooperation initiative between Brazil, Ethiopia and UNICEF.

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2015  
Mr. Fabiano Lira and Mr. Marcondes Lima meet Ethiopian State Minister of Water, Mr. Kebede Gerba © UNICEF Ethiopia/2015  

 

In the early 2015, a 2-year tripartite South-South collaboration has been developed between the Governments of Ethiopia and Brazil with the assistance of UNICEF Brazil and UNICEF Ethiopia. The theme is ‘urban sanitation and urban water’ and aims at strengthening Ethiopia’s water supply and sanitary sewerage services, directly benefitting Ethiopian institutions and, in the long term, the country’s urban population.

In 1960, less than 50 per cent of Brazilians lived in urban areas. By 2012, more than 85 per cent of Brazilians lived in urban areas. Africa is urbanizing at a similar rate, with Ethiopia having one of Africa’s quickest urbanization rates. According to the Ethiopian Central Statistics Agency, the urban population is projected to nearly triple from 15.2 million in 2012 to 42.3 million in 2037.

During their visit, the Brazilian officials provided key technical expertise in the development and finalization of the technical project to provide a pilot sewage network in a condominium of Wukro Town, as well as in the identification of a management system for the sewage network. Most of the condominium blocks in Ethiopia are not provided with treatment systems for the waste water produced by residents, whom are systematically exposed to severe risks related to the contaminated environment. The project will therefore contribute to the promotion of better health and quality of life for the residents of the town, with opportunities for expansion.

During the mission, Scoping and technical work was conducted in the field, where key data was gathered for the preparation of the project. The delegates, delighted by the warm hospitality of the people from Wukro, not too different from the semi-arid state of Ceará, presented the drafted project both to the residents of the condominium, requested to play a key role in the management of the proposed facility, local authorities and to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy.

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2015  
Brazilian officials, UNICEF staff and Ethiopian officials discuss strategies in Wukro ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015  

The project proposal was received positively by the Ethiopian Government and local population, signalling a productive first step in the cooperation agreement signed by both countries and facilitated by UNICEF Ethiopia and Brazil Country Offices. The next steps in the cooperation plan will be the building and implementation of the project in Wukro Town, alongside training of institutional partners and eventual expansion into other regions of the country.

From the Sheikh and Imam to the Nomad: Engaging a Network of Allies to End Polio in Ethiopia’s Somali Region

 

By Jasmine Pittenger, UNICEF consultant and writer

For many nomads in Ethiopia’s Somali Region, home is a hand-sewn tent.
For many nomads in Ethiopia’s Somali Region, home is a hand-sewn tent. To reach families that are constantly on the move, it is essential to tap into the nomads’ own communication networks. This house-marked tent shows children were reached with the polio vaccine during the campaign. Awbare woreda of the Somali Region, November 2014. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Rozario.

The patches that make up the nomad’s tent say it all. Yellow, orange and red cloth is sewn together with broad stitches — even a pair of trousers is sewn into the mix. Yet the tent is greater than the sum of its parts. It protects a large family from scorching desert sun, from cold nights and rain.

When a polio outbreak struck the Horn of Africa in 2013, WHO and UNICEF with the help of the European Union had to find a way to reach every last child across Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. It was a daunting task to deliver multiple doses of OPV (Oral Polio Vaccine) into the mouths of some of the world’s hardest-to-reach children – from war-torn parts of Somalia to the diverse landscapes of Kenya and Ethiopia. Among the very hardest-to-reach are nomads in Ethiopia’s Somali region, which shares a porous 1,600 kilometer border with Somalia. Here, over 80 per cent of the 5 million people are nomadic, herding cattle, camels and goats across broad stretches of desert in search of water and pasture. For many families, home is a tent sewn together from patches of cloth and carried from one watering hole to another on the back of a camel.

To end the outbreak, it was crucial to deliver messages to families constantly on the move. Yet only 11 per cent of people here have access to newspapers or radio. How, then, do you inform families about polio’s risks and the need for children to take OPV? What is the patchwork that makes up this particular community? How do the nomads themselves pass on life-saving information, and receive it? And who is in a position to mobilize families?

One answer is with the Sheikhs and Imams. The Somali Regional Health Bureau and UNICEF reached out to the Somali Region’s IASC (Islamic Affairs Supreme Council). This part of Ethiopia is close to 100 per cent Muslim, and the IASC Sheikhs and religious leaders, are amongst the most respected and influential personalities amongst nomadic communities here. The communities have faith and belief in what they say, and seek out their teachings even as they’re on the move. Once the highest-level Sheikhs and Imams became engaged in warning parents about polio’s risks and the need for OPV, Islamic leaders at all levels got on board.

“We have partnered with UNICEF and WHO because we believe this is a noble cause that is completely in line with our religion, Islam,” says Sheikh Abdel Rahman Hassan Hussein, President of the IASC in Jigjiga, capital of the Somali region. “From the city to the most remote villages, you will find every person working in this project motivated and doing his/her best. They know they are doing something that almighty Allah will reward them for, at the last day. They know they are saving the lives of children and their future by protecting them from this disease, polio. We take every occasion to tell people about this – from Friday prayers to feasts.”

Another answer: children themselves. Messages about polio and OPV are also being taught in schools, including the religious schools or madrassas that many children attend.

School children
School children – like these, at a religious school near the border with Somalia – can be powerful advocates for polio eradication. Awbare woreda, Somali Region, 2014. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mohamed.

“How many drops of the polio vaccine must be taken, every time the vaccinators come, by each and every child in your home?” asks a teacher at a small IASC-run madrassa on the border with Somalia. “Two drops, two drops!” shout the school children. “How do you know when a child has been vaccinated?” “The finger! The mark on the pinkie finger!” Children clamor to show off where the ink-marks should go on their fingers. Children can be great transmitters of polio messages to their parents. Says 10-year-old schoolboy Hassan: “At home I tell my mother and father about the importance of immunisation to protect little ones under the age of five.”

Parents pay attention – especially when the messages their children bring home are backed up by their local Imams, clan leaders and female community mobilisers who work for polio eradication. In Lafa’isa kebele 04 in the Awbare woreda of the Somali Region, Mrs. Hibo Abdikarim Ibrahim, mother of one-and-a-half-year-old baby boy Mohamed-Amin Abdusalam Abdosh proudly shows his vaccination certificate:

Hibo Abdikarim Ibrahim proudly shows the vaccination certificate for her son
Hibo Abdikarim Ibrahim proudly shows the vaccination certificate for her son, Mohamed-Amin Abdusalam Abdosh, which is a record of his completed routine immunisation schedule. Lafa’isa kebele, Awbare woreda, Somali Region, November, 2014. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Rozario.

“I am so happy my child is fully immunized now. Every National Immunisation Day I also immunize him to protect him from polio. I learned all of this from our lady community mobilizers and we heard the same message in the mosque.”

From Sheikh and Imam to female community mobiliser to clan leader from madrassa student to mother and baby – this is how a movement is built. Each forms a piece of the patchwork to protect children from polio. Just like each dose of polio vaccine, generously funded by the European Union, strengthens the immunity of the community.

Yet there is still much to be done. In the last campaign, 5 per cent of children reached were “zero dose” – they had never before received even a single dose of OPV. This is both hopeful, we are reaching children never reached before, and potentially troubling – are there further pockets of zero dose children we have not yet reached, who are entirely unprotected from polio? And while OPV and Routine Immunisation can go a long way toward protecting children from ten life-threatening, vaccine-preventable diseases, ongoing threats to child health and survival in Ethiopia’s Somali region, and across the Horn of Africa, are great.

Like the patches that make up the nomad’s tent, no single square of cloth is enough on its own. When we join together, from the Sheikh and Imam to the nomad to the international community, the whole is much greater than its parts. Together we can keep building a tent of protection to end polio and improve child health in the Horn of Africa – and to wipe the virus from the face of the earth for good. This can only be done with generous contributions from donors such as the European Union who have enabled the programme to reach the hardest to reach with life-saving polio vaccine.

Regional experts confirm the polio outbreak is successfully interrupted in Ethiopia and Kenya

Vigilance in Somalia and region still needed before the region is declared polio-free once more.

By Shalini Rozario

Dr. Jean-Marc Olive, Horn of Africa (HOA) Polio Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Chair, chairs proceedings of the HOA Polio Outbreak Final Assessment
Dr. Jean-Marc Olive, Horn of Africa (HOA) Polio Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Chair, chairs proceedings of the HOA Polio Outbreak Final Assessment, and is seated with representatives from the Kenyan Government, WHO, UNICEF and partners such as Rotary International, The Gates Foundation, CDC among others. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Rozario

17 June 2015, Nairobi, Kenya. Government representatives, technical experts, donors, and polio partners gathered on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 to review the polio outbreak status in the Horn of Africa (HOA) Region. The final assessment concluded the following:

  • The assessment team commends the overall robust outbreak response in the HOA with strong vaccination, communication strategy and strengthened surveillance.
  • The assessment team believes that transmission in Kenya and Ethiopia has been interrupted; however, continued undetected low level transmission cannot be ruled out in Somalia

Overall progress in the region was reviewed since onset of the outbreak in April 2013, which resulted in a total of 223 WPV cases across the region (10 in Ethiopia), and remaining challenges ahead were identified. Chaired by the Horn of Africa polio Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Chair, Dr. Jean-Marc Olive, the meeting gave opportunity to strategically reflect on the current outbreak status and required next steps for all three countries. Dr. Ephrem Tekle, Director of the Maternal and Child Health Directorate, Ethiopia Federal Ministry of Health responded positively to the wild poliovirus (WPV) interruption in Ethiopia, and also acknowledged the work ahead to further improve routine immunisation. “Successes achieved in the polio response are due to the political commitment and the support of partners,” said Dr. Ephrem. “We have been successful on SIAs (supplementary immunisation activities) and NIDs (National Immunisation Days). However, I don’t think we are yet fully successful on routine immunisation; there is a lot to do on routine immunisation even though WPV transmission is interrupted.” Dr. Ephrem acknowledged the strong focus on the involvement of religious and clan leaders in the Somali Region, and mobilisation of the community which have been instrumental to some of the immense achievements in the polio legacy process. He cited an example of community leaders asking for a generator so they could continue routine immunisation services. In moving ahead, Dr. Ephrem stressed the importance of sustaining the polio gains made, using the momentum to improve routine immunisation in the country, and also emphasised the importance to intensify the same efforts in regions bordering South Sudan, such as Benshangul Gumuz and Gambella, in light of the immense population migration. The HOA TAG Chair congratulated Dr. Ephrem and the Ethiopia team on their efforts and wished the country success for strengthening routine immunisation in the country, a challenging task. Closing remarks were provided by governments and partners such as Rotary International, CDC, The Gates Foundation, Red Cross, Core Group, USAID, Communication Initiative, UNICEF, WHO and the HOA TAG Chairman. Next steps for countries include working towards the polio legacy transition plan and using polio assets and achievement to further strengthen routine immunisation and beyond. Countries will continue to implement specific recommendations from the external assessment team, and the outbreak response in Somalia will be assessed again after three months. Following the Somalia assessment, the next HOA TAG meeting in August, and continual monitoring of regional progress, it is hoped that soon, the entire HOA region will be declared “polio-free.”

Through the generous support of polio donors and partners such as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; Crown Prince Court, Abu Dhabi, UAE; European Union; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; National Philanthropic Trust; Slim Foundation; Rotary International; Swedish International Development Cooperation; and others, successful interruption of the outbreak in Ethiopia has been achieved. Continued collaboration is critical to sustain gains for polio and routine immunisation for healthy children and families in Ethiopia.

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Ethiopia boosts its efforts to end child marriage and FGM/C by 2025 at the National Girl Summit 

By Wossen Mulatu

National girl summit 2015
Participants of national girl summit 2015 at Sheraton Addis on 25 June 2015. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

25 June 2015, Addis Ababa: Today, the Government of Ethiopia reiterated its commitment to put an end to child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) at the National Girl Summit held for the first time in its capital. The Summit was held as a follow up to the Girl Summit in London held in July 2014 where the Government of Ethiopia took a heroic step by making a ground breaking commitment to end child, early and forced marriage and FGM/C in the country by 2025.

The historic National Summit in Ethiopia was officially opened by H.E. Ato Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister in the presence of H.E W/ro Zenebu Tadesse, Minister of Women Children and Youth Affairs with over two hundred partners drawn from Sector Ministries of Justice, Health, Education and Finance and Economic Development, UN representatives, representatives of religious council, development partners, civil societies, the private sector, members of the media and nine adolescent girls as guests of honour.

National girl summit 2015
H.E. Demeke Mekonnen Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia gives opening speech and officially launches National Girl Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

“We all have an obligation to fight and eliminate harmful traditional practices that are violating the rights of girls who will take over as the future leaders,” said H.E Ato Demeke Mekonnen. “If we are expecting good results and a lasting change to tackle these issues ones and for all, we need to work in a coordinated manner and there has to be accountability. I would like to reaffirm that the Government is on top of the agenda to eliminate early marriage and FGM/C and to build a harmful traditional practice (HTP) free country by working together with all partners.”

The Government of Ethiopia has formulated policies and legal and strategic frameworks to establish an environment whereby all citizens, regardless of gender, should have the right to determine his or her own future. However, harmful traditional practices (HTPs) such as child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) are still commonly practiced in the country, due to deeply entrenched traditional norms and values that degrades the lives of girls and women.

According to the Demographic Health Survey (DHS), the national prevalence of child marriage declined from 33.1 per cent in 1997 to 21.4 per cent in 2009/10 and among children aged 0-15 declined to 8 percent in 2011.As to FGM/C, the national prevalence rate was 74 per cent in 2005, 56 per cent in 2008 and 46 per cent in 2010. Among children aged 0-14 years, 52 per cent in 2000, 37.7 per cent in 2010 and 23 per cent in 2011 which shows a consistent decline.

H.E. Minister Zenebu on her part said that the Ministry of Women Children and Youth Affairs will continue to work closely and jointly with its sector Ministries and partners to support all the efforts on the ground including community conversations and also reinforcing the laws associated with harmful traditional practices.

On her keynote address, Gillian Mellshop, Acting UN Resident Coordinator and Representative to UNICEF Ethiopia said that Ethiopia has made significant progress in developing polices and strategies as well as in building the capacity of individuals and institutions to tackle those two harmful practices. She stated, “Now it is our turn as the UN in Ethiopia to maintain the momentum and pledge our support to translate the commitment into concrete action for girls. Let us use this occasion to recommit ourselves to empowering adolescent girls through strategies, interventions and partnerships that deliver results so we can jointly end child marriage and FGM/C by 2025 or sooner.”

Let Girls Be Girls“Female circumcision is neither in the Bible nor in the Koran and it should not be associated with any religion. How could one try to cut and harm a human body that has been created as complete?” exclaimed Dr. Aba Hailegabriel Meleku, Representative of the Inter Religious Council. “Our council condemns both child marriage and FGM and we hope there will be a platform to have one voice at the federal level to eliminate both evil acts.”

At the Summit, adolescent girls’ messages were geared towards the need for more support from religious leaders and law enforcement bodies; more schools for more girls to be educated; education on reproductive health; and above all the support from boys and young men to change their attitude towards harmful traditional practices.

Dr. Kestebirhan Admassu, Minister of Health said, “We should empower, educate and protect girls. Ethiopia’s Health Extension Workers are a great example to the rural girls and women to inspire them pursue their education and give back to their communities. ”

The Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs establishes a national HTP Platform in order to realise the multi-sectoral mechanisms and to ensure effective coordination and collaboration between and among different development partners involved in the fight against HTPs. This National Implementation and Monitoring Platform is established from representatives drawn from relevant stakeholders (Government line ministries, multilateral and bilateral donors, CSOs, women and youth associations and national federations, faith based organisations, and national associations) working towards the prevention and elimination of HTPs.

Finally, the event was made colourful through the viewing of a rap song entitled, “Yalemachin Get” by young rap star- Abelone Melesse, UNICEF Ethiopia National Ambassador. The song sends a powerful message on children’s rights and making the world a better place for girls by educating, protecting and not turning our back on them as they need all our support.

Moreover, an exhibition was part of the summit where local and international NGOs, CSOs and the UN working on the themes of child marriage and FGM/C showcased their work through print and electronic media.

Photos, videos and other resources can be found here

Strengthening lives through strengthened partnerships in Gambella.

Charlene Thompson

Refugee children from South Sudan learn at a makeshift school at Kule Camp in Gambella region of Ethiopia
Refugee children from South Sudan learn at a makeshift school at Kule Camp in Gambella region of Ethiopia 12 August 2014. USF Board members visits Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ose

Gambella, Ethiopia – 14 November, 2014: Visitors to the grade one classes in the Kule Refugee Camp are often welcomed with a joyful song by the children in their native Nuer language. The song is about their right to an education and the students enthusiastically sing and clap along. In one of these classrooms there is one voice that rises over all of the other voices and immediately draws attention in its direction. It’s the voice of 13 year old Nyabol Lual. A slim, shy adolescent girl with a bright smile.

Holding a pencil and a ruler in her hands, Nyabol explains that she started school in the Kule Refugee Camp in July, one month after she arrived in Gambella, Ethiopia with her mother and her four siblings. After her father was killed in the conflict in South Sudan, her mother led the family on foot from the Upper Nile Region in South Sudan to Ethiopia. Nyabol was enrolled in school in South Sudan but her classes were interrupted by the fighting and she had to stop her education.

Nyabol Lual, 13 – a grade one student in the Kule Refugee Camp. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Thompson

“I like school very much and English is my favourite subject,” she says. Nyabol is one of 24,991 refugee children (10,996 girls; 13,995 boys) now enrolled in school in grades 1-4. A recent ‘Back to School’ campaign in September for the academic year 2014-2015 registered over 18,000 students in Kule and Tierkidi refugee camps. The opening of schools and the campaign to register children in the camps is the result of strong partnerships between Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), UNHCR, UNICEF and NGOs such as Plan International, Save the Children International and World Vision. “In addition to the life-saving services provided in the camps such as nutrition and clean water, it is important that we also give children the opportunity to go school,” says Mr. Daniel Ayele Bezabih, Head of Programme Implementation and Coordination, ARRA. “The partnership between ARRA, UNHCR, UNICEF and other NGOs has ensured that children in the camps can access education and continue to learn,” he adds.

To ensure children could go to school, ARRA; UNHCR and partners such as UNICEF had to allocate land in the camps for the schools; construct classrooms; identify and train teachers from the refugee community; develop a curriculum; and provide learning materials for teachers and students. Once all of this was in place, a door to door campaign was conducted to register children in school. “In an environment such as this where so many basic requirements need to be met and services provided to so many people so quickly; strong partnerships are key to the overall success,” explains Mr. Shadrack Omol, Chief of Field Operations, UNICEF Ethiopia. “The partnership between UNICEF, ARRA and UNHCR in education highlights such strength” he adds. UNICEF leads the cluster coordination for education in Gambella.

Mr. Daniel also acknowledges the importance of effective partnerships which he says was demonstrated when the Leitchuor and Nip Nip refugee camps and the Matar border entry point were flooded from June to October, displacing thousands of refugees. When the rainy season arrived and flooded the camps, thousands of refugees had to be accommodated within host communities. The regional government in Gambella opened its health facilities to the refugees and ARRA, UNHCR, UNICEF and other partners came together to ensure refugees and the host communities were able to access clean water, proper sanitation, health, nutrition, education and protection services.

Since the conflict started in South Sudan in December 2013, more than 190,900 refugees have crossed into Gambella, Ethiopia. Approximately 90 percent of the refugees are women and children. The Ethiopian Government maintains an ‘open-door’ policy towards refugees in keeping with international commitments. This has required robust coordination and effective and efficient partnerships to meet the needs not only of the refugees but also the host communities in Gambella which has also been greatly affected by the very rapid increase in population size. “The Government’s policy is when a refugee camp is established, the host community must also benefit from the services provided,” says Mr. Daniel.

Students in class in the Tierkidi Refugee Camp.
Students in class in the Tierkidi Refugee Camp. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Thompson

In Akula, refugees are settled together with the host community. Humanitarian partners and regional government have scaled up the provision of services to be used by the host community and refugees.   Refugee children attend school with children from the host community. UNICEF is support the humanitarian partners to build a new school in Akula and will provide teaching and learning material for all the children that will be attending the school. “The host communities are incorporated into the planning and implementation of our activities in response to the refugee situation in Gambella and it’s through good working relations with all partners that this is being done,” explains Mr. Daniel.

Back at school in the Kule Refugee Camp, Nyabol says she loves to come to school because she is learning many subjects. She dreams of becoming a doctor in the future so she can help other refugees like herself. For Mr. Daniel, Nyabol’s story represents the overall goal of ARRA, UNHCR and its partners. “Supporting refugees so they can not only sustain their lives but also thrive is success for ARRA,” he says.