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: US$1.4 billion urgently required to meet food and non-food needs for 10.2 million people

Ethiopia: Government and humanitarian partners launch the Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) for 2016

Fartun Hassan, 25, mother of 4, makes her way home in Yahas-Jamal Keble in Somali region of Ethiopia 11 February 2014 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ose

Addis Ababa, 11 December 2015: The Government of Ethiopia and humanitarian partners today launched the joint Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) for 2016. The appeal seeks $1.4 billion to provide 10.2 million people with emergency food assistance; 5.8 million people with water, health and sanitation; and more than 2.1 million people with nutrition including 400,000 severely malnourished children. The HRD also identifies funding requirements for education, agriculture and livelihoods, emergency shelter and relief items, displacement, and targeted assistance for women and children.

The impact of this global El Niño climactic event followed failed spring rains and led to erratic summer rains in Ethiopia, and contributed to one of the worst droughts in decades. Resultant spikes in food insecurity, malnutrition, water shortages, and health concerns surged well beyond global emergency thresholds and compelled a massive increase in emergency assistance by the Government and humanitarian partners. The needs presented in the HRD for 2016 were established through a robust, Government-led interagency assessment that resulted in a strategic overview and objectives, sector implementation plans, and detailed funding requirements.

The impact of the El Niño-driven disaster will be most acutely felt in the months ahead. “The Government has, and continues to provide exemplary leadership for humanitarian responses to the emergency,” said Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Ethiopia.

“The Government has responded immediately, put forth its own resources, and led calls on the international community to scale-up response and funding. The humanitarian system and donor partners are moving quickly to step up, which is very encouraging,” Ms Eziakonwa-Onochie further noted.

“The highest priority remains food – some $1.1 billion is urgently required for emergency food assistance,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF’s Representative to Ethiopia. “We are confident donors will quickly provide this support, as this can prevent needless suffering and far more costly specialized nutrition interventions if we act now. In addition to emergency food aid, we must ensure nutrition, water and health are effectively resourced to meet urgent gaps as well.”

Mr Amadou Allahoury Diallo, FAO’s Representative to Ethiopia, stated, “We must capitalize upon the opportunity to utilize available water to support small-holder farmers for short cycle crops to restore livelihoods and reduce food importation.”

“In many areas its simply didn’t rain” said Mr Paul Handley, OCHA’s Head of Office. “This, in addition to affecting livelihoods, dried up potable water sources and affects nutrition and health concerns. Addressing this is a critical priority of the HRD for 2016.”

The Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team further calls on development partners and the Development Assistance Group to continue to work closely together to safeguard development gains and to identify durable solutions to cyclical humanitarian needs.

Heads of UN agencies call on world to support #Ethiopia as frightening drought looms

By Stephen O’Brien, António Guterres, Ertharin Cousin and Anthony Lake*

Zahara Ali, 9, cooks breakfast in a rural village in the Dubti Woreda
Zahara Ali, 9, cooks breakfast in a rural village in Dubti Woreda, Afar Region, Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Bindra

Those who remember Ethiopia in the 1980s may feel a disturbing sense of déjà vu. The country is once again facing devastating climatic conditions: rains have failed; millions of people need food aid; children are suffering from severe malnutrition. But this is not the Ethiopia of the 1980s. With the leadership of the government and the support of the international community, Ethiopians can survive this crisis without witnessing a repeat of the devastating famine that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives 30 years ago.

The facts are frightening enough. Two back-to-back seasons of poor or non-existent rainfall, exacerbated by the strongest El Niño phenomenon on record, have led to the worst drought in decades. At the beginning of this year, less than three million Ethiopians needed government support. Today, that figure stands at an estimated ten million, and forecasts indicate that it could double within months.

In a country that already hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, many are concerned that the looming crisis could lead people, particularly farmers, to move in search of food, water and pasture.

By early next year, projections indicate that 400,000 children could suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition, a potentially fatal condition that requires immediate treatment. Some children who suffer from SAM may have massive loss of body fat and muscle tissue and look almost elderly; others can look puffy and their hair may be thinning. Both sets of symptoms mean there is a high risk of death. Even when it is treated successfully, SAM can affect physical and mental development throughout a child’s entire life.

We know this is coming. We know how to prevent it. We simply have to act, now.

The key to stopping this crisis in its tracks is early warning followed by decisive action. And the Ethiopian government is leading the way. Its safety net programme, the largest in Africa, will assist eight million of the poorest Ethiopians to access food. By linking agricultural training and asset creation, the programme has already made Ethiopian families and communities far more resilient to drought, famine and food price spikes.

Coupled with investment in infrastructure including the roads that are vital to move supplies around, this means conditions for emergency relief have changed beyond recognition in the past 30 years. But what has not changed is the harsh and unpredictable climate that can cause sudden, sharp hunger in a country where more than 80 per cent of people depend on agriculture.

The Government has raised the alarm and international aid agencies have tried to mobilize funds and action. But with multiple crises around the world and record numbers of people displaced by conflict, they have had limited success. There are many claims on donor funds and by global standards, Ethiopia does not look urgent.

By the time it looks urgent, it will already be too late. We must not repeat the mistake of 30 years ago, when the world ignored the unfolding crisis for far too long and only heeded the alarm when the situation was beyond control.

This time, we need urgent, rapid action to scale up our support to the Ethiopian government and people. And the good news is that we have every chance of success. By investing now, we can safeguard three decades of development and billions of dollars of assistance that have helped Ethiopia to become one of the most successful economies on the African continent. UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movements, and international and local charities are on standby to increase their help. All they need is reliable funding.

So far, donors have provided an additional $200 million in aid, but there are early indications that the amount needed to make sure lives are not lost could be around $1 billion. Ethiopia needs that money now, if we are to avert a second tragedy in 30 years.

UN @70- UNICEF @63 in Ethiopia

UNICEF EPI Communication Specialist Shalini Rozario with a todler at the Polio NIDs campaign lainch in Jijiga
UNICEF was created in 1946, and began its operation in Ethiopia in 1952. UNICEF Ethiopia’s Country Office is located within the UN-Economic Commission for Africa compound in the capital city, Addis Ababa. The Country Office is supported by zonal offices present in Assosa, Bahirdar, Dollo Ado, Gambella, Gode, Hawassa, Jijjiga, Kabri Dahar, Mekelle, Oromia and Semera.UNICEF Ethiopia employs approximately 400 highly-qualified and experienced staff, both international and national professionals.

The purpose of UNICEF’s work is to support the realisation of the rights of every child, especially the most disadvantaged children – victims of war, disasters, extreme poverty, all forms of violence and exploitation. UNICEF is uniquely positioned to perform this role, given its comparative advantages. These include: an explicit mandate based on the widely ratified Convention on the Rights of the Child; proven capacity in multiple sectors; a strong field presence; and a mandate that embraces both long-term development and humanitarian response.

A key principle underpinning UNICEF’s work is equity, whereby all children have an opportunity to survive, develop and reach their full potential, without discrimination, bias or favouritism. A child growing up in Gambella Region, for example, should have the same opportunities to receive a quality education and access health and protection services as a child growing up in Addis Ababa.

There is increasing evidence that a focus on the most disadvantaged and excluded children, families and communities not only accelerates progress towards fulfilment of the rights of all children and reduces disparities but also brings about social and economic growth. In all of its work, UNICEF takes a life-cycle based approach to child development, which recognises key stages in a child’s life as it grows into adulthood, and designs and implements holistic and integrated approaches to health, education and social protection that are appropriate to each of the key life stages.

Important results to which UNICEF Ethiopia, in cooperation with other partners, has contributed include: achievement in reducing under-five mortality by two thirds between 1990 and 2012- the required reduction for meeting the target of Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4)-three years ahead of schedule; meeting MDG 7c by halving the number of people without access to safe water since 1990 – 57 per cent of the population now using safe drinking water; a reduction in neonatal mortality from 37 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010 to 27 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014;a reduction in the proportion of stunted children from 58 per cent in 2000 to 40 per cent in 2014; adoption of the National Social Protection Policy and a commitment by the Government of Ethiopia to end Harmful Traditional Practices by 2025 and establishment of Vital Events Registration structures at national level.

Through the Growth and Transformation plan of the Government of Ethiopia, UNICEF as part of the United Nations Country Team will contribute to four pillars of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF): a) the Resilient, Sustainable, and Green Economy, b) Basic Social Services, c) Governance, Participation and Capacity Development and d) Equality and Empowerment, with the goal of supporting the second Growth and Transformation Plan to progressively realize children’s rights within the framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international commitments.

Ethiopia: Government and Humanitarian partners scale up to meet additional immediate relief needs of El Niño-driven crisis

An additional US$164million urgently needed to address increased food
and non-food needs for the remainder of the year

Temporary emergency rub hall tent built by UNICEF for drought affected people in Afar National Regional State, Adaytu woreda (district), Ethiopia.
Temporary emergency rub hall tent set up by UNICEF for drought affected people in Afar National Regional State, Adaytu woreda (district), Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Tesfaye

Addis Ababa, 13 October 2015: The Government of Ethiopia announced yesterday, during a meeting with UN agencies, NGOs, and Donor representatives, that the number of people in need of relief assistance in Ethiopia due to El Niño phenomenon had increased to 8.2 million. An inter-agency assessment conducted last month and led by the government identified an additional 3.6 million people in need of food assistance (from 4.55 million in August) as well as 300,000 children in need of specialized nutritious food and a projected 48,000 more children under five suffering from severe malnutrition.

An addendum to the joint-Government and humanitarian partners- Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) mid-year review was signed to officialise the increase in humanitarian needs. The National Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Committee (NDPPC), the high level national advisory body overseeing the Government response, further requested the government lead a multi-sector, multi-agency annual meher assessment in October (rather than November). This will enable the Government and partners to expedite planning and assistance provision for 2016.

His Excellency Mr Mitiku Kassa, NDPPC Secretary, explained during the meeting yesterday that the Government committed some 4 billion Ethiopian Birr (US$192 million), to address emergency food and non-food needs as a result of failed spring belg and poor summer kiremt rains caused by the climatic phenomenon known as El Niño.

“The El Niño conditions have brought Ethiopia a great challenge, but the Government and Regional States are ready to meet the needs of the people alongside partners in the international community,” said Mr Kassa. He further stated that the Government would continue to allocate resources as necessary to meet the needs of the Ethiopian people.

“The challenge we have before us is incredibly serious, and it will take the collective effort of the entire international community to support the Government in preventing the worst effects of El Niño now and well into next year,” said Mr John Aylieff, Acting Humanitarian Coordinator and Country Director for the UN’s World Food Programme.

Abahina Humed’s arm measurement shows that the child is acutely malnourished. He is taking treatment at Gewane Health Center, Afar region, Ethiopia.
Abahina Humed’s arm measurement shows that he is acutely malnourished. He is taking treatment at Gewane Health Center, Afar region, Ethiopia. © UNICEF Ethiopia/ 2015/Tesfaye

Affected areas include southern Tigray, eastern Amhara, Afar, and Siti zone of Somali region, eastern SNNP, East and West Hararge, Arsi and West Arsi, and lower Bale zones of Oromia. Water and pasture shortages decreased livestock production and caused livestock deaths in pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities.

The number of woredas (districts) prioritized for nutrition interventions doubled from 97 in July to 142 in September, and the number of severely malnourished children requiring therapeutic feeding in August reached 43,000 children. This is higher than any month of the 2011 Horn of Africa crisis.

“Donors have been generous,” said Mr Paul Handley, OCHA’s Head of Office, “but if we are to meet the significant needs before us today, and more in the months ahead, we need far more support. We count on that generosity to continue,” he said.

The Mid-Year Review of Ethiopia’s Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD), issued on 18 August 2015, listed $432 million in funding requirements with contributions totalling $258 million (or, 55 per cent funding). The September rapid assessment conducted at the end of September highlighted increases in humanitarian need across several life-saving sectors, most notably food assistance, targeted supplementary food (TSF), therapeutic nutrition, emergency water interventions, and agriculture and livelihoods. Factoring in the previous shortfalls with adjusted needs, the 2015 humanitarian requirements were adjusted to $596.4 million, leaving the HRD funded at 43 per cent.

The on-going effects of the El Niño may further affect the weather patterns this autumn, with Ethiopia’s National Meteorological Agency (NMA) predicting strong rains along the Omo, Shabelle, and Awash rivers. This may impact harvests in some areas and cause flooding during the last quarter of the year.

In addition to food and nutrition needs, Ethiopia’s Humanitarian Requirements Document outlines emergency requirements in the health, WASH, agriculture and education sectors. Most sectors saw the figures of those in need increase.

The Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team again calls on all partners to work closely together to address emergency needs whilst safeguarding development gains.

Three weeks ago the Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team also released a forward-looking document (prepared in consultation with Government) called ‘Ethiopia Slow onset natural disaster: El Niño Driven Emergency’, available to download here.

Ethiopia: Government and humanitarian partners launched the Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD)

US$230 million urgently needed to address food and non-food needs for the remainder of the year

A man tends his livestock in Sankabar Kebele in Somali region of Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ose

Addis Ababa, 24 August 2015: On 18 August, the Government of Ethiopia officially launched the joint-Government and humanitarian partners- Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) mid-year review. The document is a revision of the 2015 HRD – released on 6 March 2015 – based on the multi-agency belg/gu/ganna/sugum national needs assessment, which was concluded in early July 2015.

The mid-year review includes the addition of 1.6 million people that require relief food, increasing the number of relief food beneficiaries in 2015 to 4.5 million. This represents a 55 per cent increase from the 2.9 million people projected to require food assistance during the year.

The Government recently earmarked 700 million Ethiopian birr or US$33 million for urgent response in areas where the humanitarian situation is deteriorating most rapidly and to supplement the on-going responses.

“The belg rains were much worse than the National Meteorology Agency predicted at the beginning of the year. Food insecurity increased and malnutrition rose as a result.” said Mr. David Del Conte, UNOCHA’s acting Head of Office. The normally surplus producing areas in the Oromia region, including Arsi and West Arsi zones, are requesting relief food assistance. Water and pasture shortages decreased livestock production and caused livestock deaths in pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities. The number of woredas prioritized for nutrition interventions doubled from 49 in February to 97 in May, and the number of severely malnourished children requiring therapeutic feeding support increased by 14.4 per cent to 302,605.

“Donors have been generous,” said Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative and acting Humanitarian Coordinator. “But the situation facing us today marks a significant change in our plans, requiring the scaling up of assistance, now. We are counting on the unfailing generosity of our donor partners to meet the rising humanitarian needs,” Ms. Mellsop noted. She stressed that money spent now to respond to the food, nutrition, WASH, livelihoods and health needs, will prevent unnecessary human suffering, safeguard development and resilience gains, and mitigate costlier interventions in the future.

In the first half of 2015, half of the HRD requirements of US$386 million were funded. However, with the additional needs identified during the mid-year review, the financial requirements increased by 10.6 per cent, and US$230 million is now urgently needed to address food and non-food needs for the remainder of the year.

An on-going El Niño phenomenon may further affect the June to September kiremt rains. This may impact harvests in some areas, and cause unseasonal downpours during the last quarter of the year. “A failed belg followed by a poor kiremt season means that challenges could continue into next year,” said Mr. John Aylieff, Country Director of WFP Ethiopia. The meher harvest is the major harvest for much of the country. “With the Government in the lead, we will engage in early planning and pre-positioning of supplies to avoid any delays in response. I am hopeful that resource shortfalls will not continue to limit our operational capacity,” Mr. Aylieff noted.

In addition to food and nutrition needs, the HRD mid-year review outlines emergency requirements in the health, WASH, agriculture and education sectors. Most sectors saw their beneficiary figure increase, along with their financial requirements.

The Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team calls on development partners and the Development Assistance Group to work together to safeguard development gains and to find durable solutions to cyclical humanitarian needs.

Foster care and reunification efforts for separated children in Gambella refugee camps

by Monica Martinez and Nadine Tatge

Nyadiet and four foster children together with neighbors and friends in Kule refugee camp Gambella
Nyadiet and four foster children together with neighbors and friends in Kule refugee camp Gambella, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Martinez

Gambella, Ethiopia, 22 April 2015 – Nyadiet is a 50 year old South Sudanese woman who came to Kule refugee camp two years ago when her life was at risk due to the fighting in her country.

She came on her own and the whereabouts of the rest of her family are unknown. Because Nyadiet is on her own, she volunteered to become part of the foster family scheme in Kule camp, implemented by Plan International with support from UNICEF.

For five months now, Nyadiet has been fostering four siblings that also came from South Sudan. The oldest of the four siblings is a 13 year old girl called Nygua who found the bravery to bring her three younger brothers (8, 7 and 5 years old) across the border from South Sudan to Ethiopia.

During the fighting in South Sudan, Nygua and her siblings were separated from their parents and she has not heard anything from them since they left their home. The four children are thankful for Nyadiet’s care and support and they see her as their grandmother.

Nygua and her siblings are four of over 18,000 separated and unaccompanied children currently living in Gambella refugee camps. UNICEF is supporting UNHCR and other implementing partners to identify and document cases of children entering the camps and restoring family links that shall eventually lead to reunification. As an interim solution for children affected by family separation, alternative care through foster families and kinship care is being provided.

Social workers provide psychosocial support to reunification efforts

Kule refugee camp: Nyadiet’s house is on the left where she lives with he four foster childrenSocial workers attending to the children have been trained in psychosocial support. After the training, Simon, one of the social workers, says he now feels confident on how to identify children that might need further specialized services.

He analyses the interaction of children in the child-friendly spaces and especially looks out for children who seem to be isolated from the group of peers. Simon is from South Sudan himself, and he tries to keep the cultural roots and traditions of the South Sudanese refugees alive by performing traditional folklore, singing songs and telling stories in the child-friendly spaces (CFS).

These activities are crucial for the implementation of a holistic, and culturally adjusted psychosocial intervention. Psychsocial interventions provided in the CFS are tailored to the specific needs of children. Factors such as age, sex, and the different wellbeing concerns that an individual might have, are taken into account in order to provide the appropriate response.

Family tracing and reunification efforts

Nygua is attending school in the camp and sometimes she goes to the activities in the child-friendly space. In collaboration with the social workers, Nyadiet is supporting efforts to find Nygua’s parents. Plan International has already initiated the family tracing process and is working closely with the Ethiopia Red Cross Society and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Nyadiet said that she is happy with the support she is receiving from the social workers, who visit her regularly in her house in Kule. The family has basic commodities, but some items like mosquito nets and soap are always scarce and she worries that there is never enough food in the house to properly feed the four fostered siblings. Nyadiet adds, “I try my best to provide clothes for the four children but also these are scarce sometimes.”

Ethiopia and neighbouring countries are hosting the South Sudanese refugees who have fled their country, since the conflict started in December 2013. Heavy fighting continues in South Sudan and therefore it is not known, when the over 200,000 South Sudanese refugees currently living in Gambella refugee camps can return home.

When asked about her future, Nyagua says: “I wish to find our parents or at least to hear that they are fine and safe.”