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.

One year on – South Sudan refugee children still in need of life saving support

Refugee girls, Nya Panom Makal, Nya Choul Makal and Nayakhor Gatluack pumps water at Burbie Refugees Reception Centre
Refugee girls, Nya Panom Makal, Nya Choul Makal and Nayakhor Gatluack pumps water at Burbie Refugees Reception Centre ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene 

GAMBELLA, Ethiopia – 15 December, 2014: While recognising the 1st year anniversary of the onset of the emergency response for South Sudan refugees in Gambella today, UNICEF appreciated the commitment and dedication of its partners and the generous contribution of donors who have played a key role in providing lifesaving assistance to refugee women and children at the border crossing points, in the refugee camps, and to vulnerable host communities.

Since the conflict started in South Sudan a year ago, more than 190,900 refugees have crossed the border into Gambella Region in Ethiopia. Over 90 percent of the new arrivals are women and children. From the onset of the emergency, UNICEF, in partnership with the Gambella Regional Government, Administration of Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR, have developed a multi-sectoral emergency response strategy to address the humanitarian needs of vulnerable host communities and refugees at the border crossing point and refugee camps.

“Despite tremendous challenges faced by women and children in the refugee camps and border crossing points, we would not have made a difference in the lives of women and children if it has not been for the profound support of our donors and partners,” said Ms. Anupama Rao Singh, Acting Representative of UNICEF. “UNICEF is appreciative of their continued support to critical humanitarian action including: the provision of immunisation, primary health care, nutrition surveillance and prevention and treatment of malnutrition, provision of safe water and improved sanitation, hygiene promotion, psychosocial support for children, family tracing, reunification and care of separated children, and providing a protective environment for learning,” she added.

A mother walks back to her temporary shelter after visiting a clinic
A mother walks back to her temporary shelter with her children after visiting a clinic ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

UNICEF wishes to recognise the continued support of the Government of Ethiopia and partners including, ARRA, the Gambella Regional Health, Water and Education Bureaus, Bureau of Women and Children Affairs, Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs and the Gambella Institute of Teacher Training. UN partners including IOM, UNHCR, WFP, and Non-Governmental Organisations including: Action Contre La Faim, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, CONCERN Ethiopia, Danish Refugee Council, Ethiopian Red Cross Society GOAL, International Medical Corps, International Red Cross, Lutheran World Federation, Médecins Sans Frontières, Norwegian Refugee Council, OXFAM, Plan International Ethiopia, Save the Children International, ZOA and others.

Some of the key donors that supported UNICEF in the emergency response include, but are not limited to: the Governments of, the United Kingdom, the USA and Finland as well as European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO), Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), Humanitarian Response Fund (HRF) and the UNICEF National Committees of the United Kingdom and US Fund for UNICEF.

UNICEF Ethiopia appeals for US$ 13.7 million to continue its life-saving emergency response for South Sudanese refugees in the Gambella region in 2015. With this funding, UNICEF and its partners will continue vaccinating children at the border crossing points and refugee camps, provide safe drinking water, basic hygiene and sanitation facilities, child protection and nutrition services, building learning spaces and provide teaching and learning material.

The scale of the crisis in the world’s youngest country is staggering. Since the violence erupted on 15 December 2013, almost 750,000 children have been internally displaced and more than 320,000 are living as refugees. An estimated 400,000 children have been forced out of school and 12,000 are reported as being used by armed forces and groups in the conflict. With traditional social structures damaged, children are also increasingly vulnerable to violence and to sexual abuse and exploitation.