On August 6th, I was fortunate to be a part of a campaign in Ethiopia when the establishment of the Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA) kicked off throughout the country.
VERA is an incredibly important institution for individuals, societies and government. For individuals, registration can be used as legal documents and proof for identification purposes. Information complied from these areas are then needed for admin applications like public health programmes and the electoral roll.
On the first day of the campaign, I visited the Gulele Sub City, Woreda 9 VERA team. UNICEF supports the campaign to ensure all resources needed for registration like registry, certificates, awareness creation, materials and logistics make it to all regions, all the way to the lowest levels of administration.
This process is incredibly important because it will ensure that every child will be accounted from the earliest days of life. This means big advancements for accountability when it comes to harmful traditional practices including child marriage, as every individual will have a marriage certificate with the new system from VERA. It will also make it easier for government, non-profit and civil society partners to identify when these practices are occurring.
Birth registration is the first recognition of a child’s existence by the state. Where births remain unregistered, there is an implication that these children are not recognized as persons before the law. The absence of the system of birth registration results in the violation of children’s rights to name and nationality; to protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including early marriage, child labour and trafficking; to basic social services, including education and health; and the personal rights of orphans and other vulnerable children.
Currently, birth, death, marriage and divorce will be kept recorded from the kebele civil status office to the federal level, so that there is less room for discrepancies and human rights crime.
Participating in the registration process was an incredibly humbling and powerful experience for me, and I am very excited to see how UNICEF will work with VERA and local partners to ensure that every child is accounted for, and no one is left behind.
Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia
‘Children are today’s flowers and tomorrow’s fruit’ is a saying in Ethiopia and there is no better investment that cultivates the fruit and speaks to the ‘right in principle and right in practice’ mantra more than early childhood development.
Parents and communities want the best for their children and understand that the early years of a child’s life are crucial. However, they may not have the means or the knowledge on how to ensure their next generation best thrives.
Last week, the latest offering from the world-renowned Lancet, Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale, showed that almost one in two – 43 per cent – of children under five in low-and middle-income countries are at risk of not achieving their cognitive potential. No country can risk losing nearly half of the brain potential of its youngest citizens – low- and middle-income countries least of all.
Advances in neuroscience show that experiences in early childhood have a profound impact on brain development and on subsequent learning and health. Children who are poorly nourished and nurtured, or those who do not receive early stimulation, are likely to learn less in school and go on to earn less as adults.
In Ethiopia, over 5 million children are stunted which has a serious impact on human development and economic growth. And currently, the most disadvantaged children in rural and hard to reach communities are either coming to grade 1 without having the necessary preparation or are enrolling late – under 40 per cent of children in Ethiopia have access to pre-school provision. Once in primary education, many are at risk of dropping out of school too early.
The good news is that early childhood development interventions, including parenting and care programmes, cost as little as 50 cents (US$) per child per year, when combined with existing services such as health – according to the Lancet Series. And much of what needs to be done at the community level can be achieved by mothers and fathers, grandparents, siblings and caregivers.
The findings in the Series underscore the importance of increased global dedication to early childhood development. Earlier this year, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake signalled a renewed commitment to prioritizing investments in the youngest children when they announced a new alliance urging global and national leaders to step up and accelerate action and funding for nutrition and early childhood development (ECD) programmes. The Lancet estimates that individuals who suffer a loss of about a quarter of average adult income per year, while countries may forfeit up to as much as two times their current GDP expenditures on health or education. Consequences of inaction impact not only present but future generations.
When children have the opportunity to develop their cognitive capacity, they will pass similar or even better opportunities to their children when they grow up. Increasing investment in Ethiopia’s young children can break the vicious cycle of intergenerational poverty.
Therefore, prioritizing ECD at the national level is a way for governments to stimulate economic growth. Evidence suggests that every dollar invested in quality ECD programmes brings a return of between US$6 and US$17. Moreover, research by
Nobel Laureate James Heckman found that the rate of return for investments in quality early childhood development for disadvantaged children is 7-10 per cent per annum through better outcomes in education, health, sociability, economic productivity and reduced crime.
This year, the importance of interventions in early childhood was also recognized by the inclusion of an ECD target in the Sustainable Development Goals – indeed, this is the first time ECD has been explicitly included in global development goals. SDG Target 4.2 aims to increase the percentage of children under 5 years of age who are developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial well-being.
For many children, lack of educational support at home is one of the biggest obstacles to reaching their full potential. In light of differing needs of families, a range of early childhood education services are offered in Ethiopia, including kindergarten, pre-primary class (‘O-class’) and several school readiness programmes. Parenting education programmes are also provided so families can learn about the importance of early nutrition, hygiene, care and stimulation.
The evidence presented this past week, combined with the current momentum globally, speaks for itself. We are well versed in the elements that affect the development of children’s brains – good nourishment, stimulated minds, and protection from violence. It is now vital that we use this growing body of evidence to effect real changes for children, at both the community and policy levels.
Early child development has to be put on the agenda for children’s rights. In Ethiopia, UNICEF, with the support from partners, takes an integrated approach to addressing early childhood development within Ethiopia’s Early Childhood Care Education Policy.
We owe it to our future generations to prioritize and invest in young children. It is our moral, economic, and social imperative to enable all children to reach their full potential.
NEW YORK/ ADDIS ABABA, 14 October 2016 – Five in six children under two years old are not fed enough nutritious food for their age, depriving them of the energy and nutrients they need at the most critical time in their physical and cognitive development, according to a new UNICEF report.
“Infants and young children have the greatest nutrient needs than at any other time in life. But the bodies and brains of millions of young children do not reach their full potential because they are receiving too little food, too late,” said France Begin, Senior Nutrition Adviser at UNICEF. “Poor nutrition at such a young age causes irreversible mental and physical damage.”
UNICEF data show that poor nutritional practices– including the delayed introduction of solid foods, infrequent meals and lack of food variety – are widespread, depriving children of essential nutrients when their growing brains, bones and bodies need them the most. The findings reveal that:
Young children wait too long for their first bites. One in five babies hasn’t been fed any solid foods by the age of 11 months.
Half of children aged six months to two years are not fed the minimum number of meals for their age, increasing their risk of stunting.
Less than one-third of children in this age group eat a diverse diet – meaning from four or more food groups daily – causing deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.
Almost half of pre-school aged children suffer from anaemia.
Only half of children aged six to 11 months receive any foods from animal sources – including fish, meat, eggs and dairy – which are essential to supply zinc and iron.
The high cost of foods from animal sources makes it difficult for the poorest families to improve their children’s diet. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, only one in six children from the poorest households aged six to 11 months eats a minimally diverse diet, compared to one in three from the richest households.
Improving nutrition for young children could save 100,000 lives a year.
Making nutritious foods affordable and accessible to the poorest children will require stronger and more targeted investments from governments and the private sector. Cash or in-kind transfers to vulnerable families; crop diversification programmes; and fortification of staple foods are key to improving nutrition for young children. Community-based health services that help caregivers learn better feeding practices, and safe water and sanitation – absolutely critical in preventing diarrhoea among children – are also vital.
“We cannot afford to fail in our fight to improve nutrition for young children. Their ability to grow, learn and contribute to their country’s future depends on it,” Begin said.
Ethiopia has experienced rapid, sustained improvement in under-nutrition during the past 15 years. For example, the country has seen a steady reduction in stunting – the fastest rate of improvement in Africa – and a decline in the percentage of underweight and wasted children. Yet, Ethiopia remains in a precarious situation, with large absolute numbers of affected children: 5.3 million children are stunted and 1.2 million children suffer wasting. UNICEF’s nutrition programme collaborates with the Government of Ethiopia to reduce these numbers further, working on multi-sectoral coordination to improve the nutrition of all children, pregnant and lactating women and their families
The Government of Ethiopia recognizes that addressing malnutrition is essential to achieving sustainable development. It therefore has issued the Seqota Declaration to end child malnutrition by 2030. The Declaration lays out a plan to stop the cycle of under-nutrition by bringing together all sectors of the Government, paying particular attention to the importance of nutrition during pregnancy and in the first years of a child’s life.
Over the past decade, Ethiopia has seen a steady reduction in stunting from 58 per cent in 2000 to 40 per cent 2014, in the percentage of underweight children from 41 per cent to 25 per cent, and in wasting from 12 per cent to 9 percent (Mini EDHS: 2014)
These trends indicate an improvement in chronic malnutrition over the past 15 years. Yet, 28 per cent of child deaths in Ethiopia is associated with under-nutrition. In addition to this high contribution to the under-five mortality rate, high prevalence of various forms of malnutrition among vulnerable groups in Ethiopia has serious implications for social development and economic growth. In a study conducted in 2009, the total annual cost of under-nutrition was estimated at US$2,775,000, equivalent to 17 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2009.
UNICEF’s strategies for nutrition ensure the achievements of results in four areas: 1) upstream nutrition policy support and multi-sectoral engagement; 2) improved nutrition knowledge and caring behaviours; 3) strengthening of systems for nutrition service delivery; and 4) strengthening partner capacities to respond to nutrition in humanitarian crises.
To accelerate the reduction of chronic and acute malnutrition, UNICEF is working in partnership with sectoral government counterparts, including in health, agriculture, education, social protection, trade and industry, and women, children and youth affairs.
UNICEF also works with United Nations agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO); UNICEF National Committees; donors such as the aid agencies of Canada, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Union; civil society organizations; and local and international academic institutions.
NEW YORK/ADDIS ABABA, 04 October 2016 – Children are more than twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty, according to a new analysis from the World Bank Group and UNICEF. Ending Extreme Poverty: A Focus on Childrenfinds that in 2013 19.5 per cent of children in developing countries were living in households that survived on an average of US$1.90 a day or less per person, compared to just 9.2 per cent of adults. Globally, almost 385 million children were living in extreme poverty.
Children are disproportionately affected, as they make up around a third of the population studied, but half of the extreme poor. The youngest children are the most at risk – with more than one-fifth of children under the age of five in the developing world living in extremely poor households.
“Children are not only more likely to be living in extreme poverty; the effects of poverty are most damaging to children. They are the worst off of the worst off – and the youngest children are the worst off of all, because the deprivations they suffer affect the development of their bodies and their minds,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “It is shocking that half of all children in sub-Saharan Africa and one in five children in developing countries are growing up in extreme poverty. This not only limits their futures, it drags down their societies.”
The new analysis comes on the heels of the release of the World Bank Group’s new flagship study, Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality, which found that some 767 million people globally were living on less than $1.90 per day in 2013, half of them under the age of 18.
“The sheer number of children in extreme poverty points to a real need to invest specifically in the early years—in services such as pre-natal care for pregnant mothers, early childhood development programs, quality schooling, clean water, good sanitation, and universal health care,” said Ana Revenga, Senior Director, Poverty and Equity at the World Bank Group. “Improving these services, and ensuring that today’s children can access quality job opportunities when the time comes, is the only way to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty that is so widespread today.”
The global estimate of extreme child poverty is based on data from 89 countries, representing 83 per cent of the developing world’s population.
Sub-Saharan Africa has both the highest rates of children living in extreme poverty at just under 50 per cent, and the largest share of the world’s extremely poor children, at just over 50 per cent. South Asia has the second highest share at nearly 36 per cent—with over 30 per cent of extremely poor children living in India alone. More than four out of five children in extreme poverty live in rural areas.
In addition, the report reveals that even at higher thresholds, poverty also affects children disproportionately. About 45 per cent of children are living in households subsisting on less than $3.10 a day per person, compared with nearly 27 per cent of adults.
UNICEF and the World Bank Group are calling on governments to:
Routinely measure child poverty at the national and subnational level and focus on children in national poverty reduction plans as part of efforts to end extreme poverty by 2030.
Strengthen child-sensitive social protection systems, including cash transfer programs that directly help poor families to pay for food, health care, education and other services that protect children from the impact of poverty and improve their chances of breaking the cycle in their own lives.
Prioritize investments in education, health, clean water, sanitation and infrastructure that benefit the poorest children, as well as those that help prevent people from falling back into poverty after setbacks like droughts, disease or economic instability.
Shape policy decisions so that economic growth benefits the poorest children.
UNICEF and the World Bank Group are working with partners to interrupt cycles of poverty and to promote early childhood development – with programs ranging from cash transfers, to nutrition, healthcare and education.
Ethiopia specific information:
There are 13 million Ethiopian children who live in poor households, 2 million of whom live in extreme poverty.
Children are more severely affected by poverty (32.4 per cent) and extreme poverty (5.2 per cent) than adults (29.6 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively).
The poorest children are found in households whose head is employed in the informal sector. 13.1 per cent of these children live in extreme poverty.
Afar Region – Ethiopia Ms Leila Pakkala and Ms Valerie Guarnieri, UNICEF and WFP Regional Directors for Eastern and Central Africa, have visited the ongoing government-led drought response where UNICEF-WFP are closely collaborating. The drought is affecting six regions in Ethiopia, and 9.7 million people are in need of urgent food relief assistance including approximately 5.7 million children who are at risk from hunger, disease and lack of water as a result of the current El Niño driven drought.
In Afar Region, where an estimated 1.7 million people are affected by the drought, including 234,000 under-five children, the Regional Directors visited UNICEF/WFP/Government of Ethiopia supported programmes. These included the targeted supplementary feeding programme (TSFP) and an outreach site where one of Afar’s 20 Mobile Health and Nutrition Teams (MHNTs) provides preventive and curative health, nutrition and WASH services to a hard-to-reach community in Lubakda kebele.
The Mobile Health and Nutrition Team provides Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) and targeted supplementary feeding programme (TSFP) services to remote communities. The TSFP is integrated with MHNT services that address under five children and pregnant and lactating women with moderate acute malnutrition, and link them to TSFP when they are discharged from OTP. This solves the challenge in addressing the SAM–MAM continuum of care and preventing moderate acute malnourished children deteriorating into severe acute malnutrition.
The Directors also visited a multi-village water scheme for Afar pastoralist communities in Musle Kebele, Kore Woreda (district) which suffers from chronic water insecurity.
“Valerie and I are hugely impressed by the work of the WFP and UNICEF teams in Afar,” said UNICEF’s Pakkala. “The quality of the work being done in such difficult circumstances – from the mobile health and nutrition teams, to WASH, protection, education and advocacy – is remarkable. We were also immensely impressed with the national level partnership between UNICEF and WFP, and our credibility with government and donors. The relationship and collaboration is a model for other countries to learn from and emulate.”
“Ethiopia is showing us that drought does not have to equal disaster,” said Valerie Guarnieri of WFP. “We can clearly see the evidence here that a robust, government-led humanitarian response – supported by the international community – can and does save lives in a time of crisis.”
UNICEF and WFP continue to support the Government in responding to the current drought with a focus on the most vulnerable and hard to reach communities by using proven context specific solutions and approaches.
28 million forcibly displaced by conflict and violence within and across borders
Across the globe, nearly 50 million children have been uprooted – 28 million of them driven from their homes by conflicts not of their making, and millions more migrating in the hope of finding a better, safer life. Often traumatized by the conflicts and violence they are fleeing, they face further dangers along the way, including the risk of drowning on sea crossings, malnourishment and dehydration, trafficking, kidnapping, rape and even murder. In countries they travel through and at their destinations, they often face xenophobia and discrimination.
A new report released today by UNICEF, Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children, presents new data that paint a sobering picture of the lives and situations of millions of children and families affected by violent conflict and other crises that make it seem safer to risk everything on a perilous journey than remain at home.
“Indelible images of individual children – Aylan Kurdi’s small body washed up on a beach after drowning at sea or Omran Daqneesh’s stunned and bloody face as he sat in an ambulance after his home was destroyed – have shocked the world,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “But each picture, each girl or boy, represents many millions of children in danger – and this demands that our compassion for the individual children we see be matched with action for all children.”
Uprooted shows that:
Children represent a disproportionate and growing proportion of those who have sought refuge outside their countries of birth: they make up about a third of the global population but about half of all refugees. In 2015 around 45 per cent of all child refugees under UNHCR’s protection came from Syria and Afghanistan.
28 million children have been driven from their homes by violence and conflict within and across borders, including 10 million child refugees; 1 million asylum-seekers whose refugee status has not yet been determined; and an estimated 17 million children displaced within their own countries – children in dire need of humanitarian assistance and access to critical services.
More and more children are crossing borders on their own. In 2015, over 100,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in 78 countries – triple the number in 2014. Unaccompanied children are among those at the highest risk of exploitation and abuse, including by smugglers and traffickers.
About 20 million other international child migrants have left their homes for a variety of reasons including extreme poverty or gang violence. Many are at particular risk of abuse and detention because they have no documentation, haveuncertain legal status, and there is no systematic tracking and monitoring of their well-being – children falling through the cracks.
According to Uprooted, Turkey hosts the largest total number of recent refugees, and very likely the largest number of child refugees in the world. Relative to its population, Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees by an overwhelming margin: Roughly 1 in 5 people in Lebanon is a refugee. By comparison, there is roughly 1 refugee for every 530 people in the United Kingdom; and 1 for every 1,200 in the United States. When considering refugee-host countries by income level, however, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Pakistan host the highest concentration of refugees.
The report argues that where there are safe and legal routes, migration can offer opportunities for both the children who migrate and the communities they join. An analysis of the impact of migration in high-income countries found that migrants contributed more in taxes and social payments than they received; filled both high- and low-skilled gaps in the labour market; and contributed to economic growth and innovation in hosting countries.
But, crucially, children who have left or are forcibly displaced from their homes often lose out on the potential benefits of migration, such as education – a major driving factor for many children and families who choose to migrate. A refugee child is five times more likely to be out of school than a non-refugee child. When they are able to attend school at all, it is the place migrant and refugee children are most likely to encounter discrimination – including unfair treatment and bullying.
Outside the classroom, legal barriers prevent refugee and migrant children from receiving services on an equal basis with children who are native to a country. In the worst cases, xenophobia can escalate to direct attacks. In Germany alone, authorities tracked 850 attacks against refugee shelters in 2015.
“What price will we all pay if we fail to provide these young people with opportunities for education and a more normal childhood? How will they be able to contribute positively to their societies? If they can’t, not only will their futures be blighted, but their societies will be diminished as well,” Lake said.
The report points to six specific actions that will protect and help displaced, refugee and migrant children:
Protecting child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence.
Ending the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating by introducing a range of practical alternatives.
Keeping families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status.
Keeping all refugee and migrant children learning and giving them access to health and other quality services.
Pressing for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
Promoting measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization.
Ethiopia has a long history as both a sender and receiver of refugees, and its location in the Horn of Africa places it at the centre of one of the largest refugee-generating areas in Africa today. As of 1 July 2016, the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported a total of 741,288 refugees living in Ethiopia, of which nearly 60 per cent (57.2 per cent) are children. This is an increase of more than 600,000 since 2009 with the majority from South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. The volatility of this influx has put significant pressure on the government capacity to provide basic social services in affected areas. Host communities and refugees alike suffer from limited social services, including lack of schools, overstretched health facilities, shortage of water and sanitation facilities.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia. August 2016 – Ethiopia launched throughout the country on 4 August 2016 a permanent, compulsory and universal registration and certification of vital events such as birth, death, marriage and divorce.
The inauguration ceremony took place in the presence of the Ethiopian President Dr Mulatu Teshome, UNICEF Representative Gillian Mellsop as well as representatives of other ministries and development partners.
“The Government of Ethiopia has given great emphasis to vital events registration across the country by putting the appropriate policies in place, establishing a system up to the lowest administrative level and deploying massive resources in this endeavor,” said Teshome at the ceremony. “I am confident that, with the collaboration and commitment of all stakeholders, we will succeed in the operationalization of the system, just like we have succeeded in other development sectors in the country.”
Mellsop underscored in her address the importance of the registry in protecting children and combatting child trafficking.
‘’With no proof of age and identity, Ethiopian children become a more attractive ‘commodity’ to a child trafficker, and will not even have the minimal protection that a birth certificate provides against early marriage, child labour, or detention and prosecution of the child as an adult.”
Ethiopia ranks among the lowest in sub-Saharan countries on birth registration with less than 10 per cent of children under the age of 5 with their births registered.
The issue is especially urgent because 48 per cent of the 92 million-strong population is under the age of 18 – 90 per cent of whom are unregistered. The Government has committed itself to reaching at least 50 per cent of children with registration and certification services over the next two years.
UNICEF’s support to Ethiopia’s national civil registration is based on a recognition that birth registration is an important element of ensuring the rights and protection of children.
For children, being registered at birth is key to other rights such as access to basic social services, protection, nationality and later the full rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. Moreover, not only is vital events registration essential for compiling statistics that are required to develop policies and implement social services, it is also, as Mellsop points out, “a pre-requisite in measuring equity; for monitoring trends such as child mortality, maternal health and gender equality.”
UNICEF has supported the Government in putting in place a decentralized registration and certification system, which is informed by a legislative framework promulgated in August 2012.
UNICEF is a catalyst in creating this new system with support that includes the reform of the legislative framework, the development of a national strategy and its implementation across the country.
An important element of the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) system is its interoperability with the health sector. On this aspect, UNICEF has worked in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Health in its efforts to formalize the interoperability, culminating in the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two ministries.
The important of involving the Health Ministry is because it already has its own well organized and decentralized network stretching across the country. This arrangement allows the health facilities found in nearly every community to manage notifications of births and deaths.
The actual registration and certification of all vital events started on 6 August 2016 at the lowest administrative level of the kebele (sub-district).
With Ethiopia’s new conventional vital events registration system in place, there are better opportunities for accelerating vital events registration in Ethiopia, and realizing one of the fundamental rights of children – the right to be registered upon birth.