In Ethiopia, Nationwide Polio Vaccination Campaign Reaches 13 Million Children

Somali Region, Ethiopia, 12 May, 2014 – Ethiopia kicked off a polio vaccination campaign on 3 October 2013, targeting 13 million children across the country following an emergency response that began in the Dollo Ado refugee camps in June 2013.

In July 2013, Ethiopia Reports First Wild Poliovirus Case Since 2008.

Ayan Yasin, a four-year-old girl, was one of the first confirmed polio cases in Ethiopia. Ayan lives with her father and mother, a typical pastoralist family, in their house, made of tin, wood and woven bed sheets in a remote secluded area three kilometers from Geladi Woreda in Ethiopia’s Somali Region. Living next to the Somalia border means that the family move frequently between Ethiopia and Somalia – making routine immunisation practices difficult.

When Ayan fell sick, her father took her to the nearest hospital in Somalia where he was told there was very little hope. After many visits to various health posts, Hergeisa Hospital finally confirmed she had Polio. “We call this illness the disease of the wind. We know that there is no cure for it, and that it can paralyse and even cause death. My daughter hasn’t died but it has disabled her forever,” says her father.

Polio vaccines arrive in Warder

Bukhari Shiekh Aden of UNICEF helps in moving polio vaccines of an airplane which just arrived in Warder district, Somali region of Ethiopia for a campaign as a response of a recent polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Sewunet

Close to 50,000 health workers and volunteers and 16,000 social mobilisers have been deployed all over the country as part of a campaign that includes remote and hard to access areas. With the support of the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO), UNICEF has procured vaccines to support immunisation efforts particularly for children and the refugee population being hosted in the Somali Region. In total, 135,000 vials or 2.7 million doses of bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) were procured to immunise 2.43 million children with a polio vaccine – a critical input to immunisation activities in the Somali Region and Polio high-risk areas. The support from ECHO has also helped to airlift the Polio vaccine to hard-to-reach zones of Afder, Gode and Dollo in the Somali Region.

Synchronised cross-border polio outbreak preparedness and response

Supplementary Immunisation Activities (SIAs) were conducted in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Djibouti to accelerate progress towards ending Polio in the Horn of Africa. The synchronised SIAs were an outcome of the Horn of Africa Countries Cross-Border Polio Outbreak Preparedness and Response Meeting in Jigjiga, from 21 to 23 May 2014, where Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti agreed to strengthen cross-border collaboration to eradicate polio from the Horn of Africa.

To reinforce support and strengthen Polio eradication efforts in the Somali Region, a high-level delegation consisting of Dr Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health, Mr Abdufatah Mohammed Hassen, Vice President of Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State and Head of the Somali Regional Health Bureau, Dr Pierre M’Pele-Kilebou, WHO Representative to Ethiopia, and Dr Willis Ogutu, Head of UNICEF programme in Somali Region, visited Warder in Dollo Zone, the epicentre of the wild polio virus outbreak in Ethiopia, on 14 June 2014. The delegation, together with the Warder Zonal Administration, launched the ninth round of Supplementary Immunisation Activities (SIAs) in the outbreak zone and formally inaugurated the Zonal Polio Outbreak Command Post, which had been established in April 2014 to improve coordination of response activities.

Polio vaccination in the Somali region of Ethiopia, as a response of a recent polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa

Polio vaccination in the Somali region of Ethiopia, as a response of a recent polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

Sustained interventions to ensure long-term success

While the campaigns to vaccinate children against Polio in the Somali Region have been going well, ensuring long-term success in eliminating the disease will require sustained interventions.

Abdufatah Mohammud Hassen believes the best solution is to immunise every child and ramp up routine immunisation activities in the region. “The campaigns are just to stop the emergency but the main thing that we are doing is to reach every child by strengthening the routine EPI and ensuring that the health facilities have the capacity to respond to the demands of the public”

With the help of developing partners like ECHO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rotary International and the Crown Prince of Dubai, UNICEF together with the Ministry of Health is continuing its efforts so that young children like Ayan Yasin living in the region are protected from the disabling symptoms of the Polio disease.

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UNICEF provides much needed clean water to new refugees from South Sudan and the local communities hosting them

By Elissa Jobson

Refugees cross the Baro river

South Sudan refugees cross the Baro river, which is the border between South Sudan and Ethiopia. Crossing the river means that they have reached Burebiey entry point in Gambella, Ethiopia . ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

GAMBELA, ETHIOPIA, 27 JUNE 2014 – The swollen Baro river marks the border between Ethiopia and it western neighbour, South Sudan. It’s fast-flowing waters are all that stand between those fleeing the brutal civil war in their home country and safety in Gambella. Dotted along the banks on the South Sudanese side are men, women and children, clutching their meagre possessions, waiting to be transported across the muddy-brown waterway in white plastic canoes. With battered suitcases and woven baskets on their head, those refugees – dusty, exhausted and in need of food and water – who have successfully made the river-crossing trudge towards Burebiey and the UNHCR registration tent, half a kilometre away.

Deng Gatek spent three days waiting to cross the Baro as he tried to scrape together the 30 birr (USD$1.5) fee he needed to secure passage for himself, his wife and his four children. He silently fills his yellow plastic jerry can with crystal clear water from UNICEF’s EM-Wat (emergency water) facility.

“We walked through the bush with hyenas and snakes. Many bad things happened,” Mr Gatek recalls, weariness and relief etched on his face. He can’t remember how many days the journey took from his home in Walang, in Jonglei State, to the border. “It was difficult to find water on the way. When we arrived at the border we were able to drink the river water. The water from the tap is much better than the river water – there is no dirt in it. I can take clean water to my wife and children now. They are at the registration centre,” he adds, pointing to a clutch of tents in the distance.

WASH Gambella region South Sudanese refugees  reception centre

David Luk Both, himself a refugee from South Sudan, is in charge of the EM-Wat treatment plant. Here he tests quality of the water pumped out of the river before going through the process making it ready for drinking. 26, June 2014 Burbiey South Sudanese Refugees Reception Centre in Gambella, Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

David Luk Both, himself a refugee from South Sudan, is in charge of the EM-Wat treatment plant. Before the fighting broke out he had worked as a technician for MSF Holland for seven years. “The water is pumped from the river Baro into two 12,000 litre sedimentation tanks,” Mr Both explains. “The water sits in the tank until all the debris and mud has sunk to the bottom; aluminium sulphate is added to help the process. The pH of the water is tested to check the levels of acidity before it is pumped into a chlorination tank that kills all the bugs and germs in the water. It is then ready to drink.”

If needed, Mr Both and his team can provide up to 36,000 litres of clear water a day. “The refugees come all day to the taps. If I don’t treat the water they can’t drink it. I’m very happy because I’m helping my people,” he says.

Conflict prevention

More than 147,000 South Sudanese asylum seekers have arrived in Gambella since fighting erupted in Juba in December last year. This has placed a tremendous burden on local authorities which were already stretched – Gambella is one of the poorest regions in one of the most food insecure countries in the world, and was host to around 76,000 refugees from South Sudan before the current influx began.

Pel Puoch is head of the Water, Energy and Resources Office in Mokoey woreda (district). Nyien Nyang town, close to Leitchor refugee camp, is under his responsibility. “Before the provision of shallow wells in Leitchor camp, the refugees had started to use the water pumps in Nyien Nyang. This created a burden for the community,” Mr Puoch says. “UNICEF immediately understood the problem and increased its support to the wordea and the burden has been greatly reduced.”

This year UNICEF has installed 9 pumps in Nyien Nyang. There are 35 in total, serving a population of around 18,000, nearly half of which were constructed by UNICEF, including two at the local the hospital.

“The focus of all the NGOs and UN agencies has been on the refugees. At UNICEF, our focus is always on both the host community and the asylum seekers,” says Basazin Minda, WASH officer. “We identified the burden on the local services at an early stage and decided to increase the number of shallow wells in the area in order to create a balance between the host community and refugees.” He believes that the creation of the additional shallow wells and pumps has prevented potential conflicts over this precious resource between the indigenous community and the refugees they have provided sanctuary too.

A new lease of life

Mr Puoch has seen many benefits from the construction of water pumps in the heart of the community. “Having the pumps close to their homes means that the women will save time collecting water. Previously, when they had to go to a faraway pump they would not use the water for hygiene. But because they can access water in the local area at any time, sanitation has improved,” he insists.

“When the pumps were some distance away they would break often. Now they are close to the homes the community takes better care of them.

At Dobrar village, Nyarout Jok, a mother of four, uses the UNICEF water pump twice a day.

At Dobrar village, Nyarout Jok, a mother of four, uses the UNICEF water pump twice a day. It’s just 300m away from her home and fetching water now takes less than 20 minutes a day. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

At Dobrar village, Nyarout Jok, a mother of four, uses the UNICEF water pump twice a day. It’s just 300m away from her home and fetching water now takes less than 20 minutes a day. Before the tap was installed she had to walk over a kilometre each way to the nearest water source, which took at least an hour. “I use the extra time to grind flour and take care of my children,” she says. “I have also returned to education. I’m a grade 5 student.”

So why did she decide to go back to school? “I need to do my own job,” she says. “I will be able to earn my own income and I will become more confident. I want to be either a doctor or an engineer.”

Click here for latest update on South Sudan refugees status in Ethiopia.

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Education in adversity: South Sudanese refugee children insist on their right to attend school

By Elissa Jobson

Child protection Kule Refugee camp  1 and 2

Crowd of around 100 children, some as young as 6 or 7 years of age, who have gathered outside the chicken-wire fence of the school compound in Kule refugee camp demand to be allowed onto the school’s premise 23, June 2014 Kule South Sudanese refugee camp Gambella Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

GAMBELLA, ETHIOPIA, 25 JUNE 2014 – “School is good for the boy and the girl,” sings ten-year old Nyanget Tohok, her voice, cutting through the midday humidity, rings out clean and clear. “SCHOOL IS GOOD FOR THE BOY AND THE GIRL,” chorus the crowd of around 100 children, some as young as 6 or 7 years of age, who have gathered outside the chicken-wire fence of the school compound in Kule refugee camp.

They have not come for lessons. They are not there to collect their schoolbooks. They are there to demand their right to an education. “We are singing for school,” says Nyanget. “We need to learn but there is no space.” The school only has room for 1,200 children but more than 6,000 students registered and are waiting to enrol when the space allows. The exiting places were allocated on a first come, first served basis.

“When we don’t come to school we cannot be happy. We have seen our friends coming to school but we are not given a chance to learn,” laments Majiok Yien, aged 9. This young boy wants to be an English teacher but his dream has been violently interrupted by the civil war raging in South Sudan, which forced him and his family to seek refuge in Ethiopia.

On land provided by UNHCR and the Ethiopian Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA), four 6m x 4m classrooms have been built by Save the Children with vital support from UNICEF. The school operates two shifts: one in the morning from 8am to 12pm and a second from 1.30pm-5.30pm. The class sizes are huge – 150 children each – and the whole curriculum is being taught by just 10 teachers, all recruited from the refugee community.

Returning to normality

Education

South Sudan Refugee Students attend a class in a makeshift classroom 25, June 2014 Kule South Sudanese refugee camp Gambella Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

“School is important for the children. When they are in school they forget what they have seen in the war. School is the first priority to help remind them of normal life,” explains School Director Lam Chuoth Gach, himself an exile from South Sudan’s bloody conflict. The students have been through a terrible ordeal, he adds. They have seen people – for some their parents and siblings – killed directly in front of them. They remember the sounds of the bullets and the long, arduous journey to safety in Gambella. “When we started classes it was difficult to bring their attention to the teaching but now they are listening,” Mr Gach continues. “That is why are worried about the children who are not yet in school.”

Jael Shisanya, Education Adviser for Save the Children feels that the teachers are doing a good job under extremely difficult circumstances. “They are lesson planning and they have written a timetable but the challenge we have is that the numbers of students are overwhelming. We don’t have adequate space,” she says pointing to the four tents made of wooden poles and plastic sheeting that serve as classrooms. Early childhood education is taking place under a tree which doubles as a church on Sundays, Ms Shisanya says, but if classes are to continue during the imminent rainy season a more suitable location will have to be found. “Funding is an issue. We could do much more. We could build better structures. But we need more money for education,” she insists.

“The children are eager to learn and the community itself is yearning for school. ‘We can look for food but we can’t easily get education for our children,’ the parents tell me. They don’t want their children to forget what they have learnt,” Ms Shisanya says.

Adolescents not catered for

Education

14 year old Buya Gatbel. He is one of the lucky few who have secured a coveted place in a makeshift classroom in Kule South Sudanese refugee camp Gambella Ethiopia, 25 June 2014 . ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

For the children themselves, education is a lifestyle, an essential part of their weekly routine. “I need to go to school. On Sunday I must go to church and on Monday I must go to school,” asserts 14 year old Buya Gatbel. He is one of the lucky few who have secured a coveted place. Buya is happy to be in school but he wishes that the situation was better. “There are no desks. The classroom is very small. We need pens, uniforms, bags and umbrellas for when it rains. There are no exercise books or text books and many children are outside. You need to build more schools, and build a library,” he says.

Currently the school is only teaching grades one to four. “I’m studying grade four but it is not really my grade,” Buya explains – in South Sudan he was in grade eight. His best friend, Changkuoth Chot, aged 18, is in the same boat. “I want to go to grade eight but it is better to be in grade four than to not be in school,” he says.

Ms Shisanya is particularly concerned about those adolescents that are not currently in education: “Teenagers are saying they are so depressed. There is no work.” There is no school.” Tezra Masini, Chief of the UNICEF Field Office in Gambella, is also worried. “Donors are more interested in providing education for younger children but it is protection issue for the older ones. If we don’t provide them with school they may go back to South Sudan to fight.”

Dech Khoat, age 19, bears these fears out. He joined the rebel White Army when the conflict began in December last year. “I’ve come for a rest from the fighting,” he says. In the future I will go back but if I can continue my education I will stay in the camp.”

Click here for latest update on South Sudan refugees status in Ethiopia.

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Ethiopia commits to eliminating child marriage and FGM by 2025

The Government of Ethiopia has made a commitment to eliminate child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Ethiopia by 2025.

A panel at the Girl Summit Right to left: Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister, Ethiopia. Hina Jilani, Pakistan. Dr. Mustapha S. Kaloko, Commissioner for Social Affairs. Tony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director
His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Demeke Mekonnen announced a package of action at a global summit in London, hosted jointly by the UK government and UNICEF.

World Leaders from across Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe attended the first Girl Summit on July 22nd 2014. His Excellency DPM Mekonnen was speaking as part of a round-table discussion that included the Executive Director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake and the Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union Commission, Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko.

His Excellency DPM Mekonnen said:

“Our approach puts girls at the heart of our commitment, working closely with them, their families and communities, to end these practices for good and break the cycle of harmful traditional practices.”

He said that Ethiopia would achieve its goal by 2025 through a strategic, multi-sectoral approach and highlighted four areas where the government has promised to take action:

  1. Through incorporating relevant indicators in the National Plan and the National Data Collection Mechanisms including the 2015 Demographic and Health Survey to measure the situation of FGM/C and Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) and to establish a clear bench mark
  2. Through enhancing the coordination and effectiveness of the National Alliance to End Child Marriage and the National Network to End FGM by engaging different actors with key expertise
  3. Through strong, accountable mechanisms for effective law enforcement
  4. And, through an increase of 10% in financial resources to eliminate FGM/C and CEFM from the existing budget.

The Minister of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, Her Excellency w/ro Zenebu Tadesse spoke about some of the achievements Ethiopia has made in recent years. She said the national rate of FGM has decreased by half among girls aged 14 and under, from 52% in 2000, to 23% in 2011 and the national prevalence of child marriage has declined from 33.1% in 1997, to 21.4% in 2010. 

Her Excellency Minister Tadesse said:

“I am proud of our achievements and I would like to share with you our experiences with the hope of inspiring other nations to take decisive, robust action.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“All girls have the right to live free from violence and coercion, without being forced into marriage or the lifelong physical and psychological effects of female genital mutilation. Abhorrent practices like these, no matter how deeply rooted in societies, violate the rights of girls and women across the world. I am hosting the Girl Summit today so that we say with one voice – let’s end these practices once and for all.”

The Summit brought together young people, community members, activists, traditional and faith leaders, government and international leaders, experts and champions committed to the rights and empowerment of women and girls.

Attendees heard from girls and women who have lived through child, early and forced marriage and FGM/C, and from inspiring individuals who are now campaigning for change so that others can enjoy greater opportunities in the future.

14-year-old year-old Yeshalem from the Amhara region of Ethiopia underwent FGM/C when she was aged three – and shortly after, she was married to a man 15 years older than her.

14 year-old Yeshalem from the Amhara region of Ethiopia underwent FGM/CYeshalem said: “After the wedding, I was immediately sent to live with my husband and his parents. My husband said to my family ‘she’s too young’ and eventually I was allowed to return to my own family.”

Her father tried to marry her again, but Yeshalem told her teacher and eventually her father allowed her to continue her education. Yeshalem is now in a girls’ club that empowers girls to involve teachers and the police when they hear about threats of child marriage.

“We also have a secret box in our school where you can write down if somebody in the community is going to be married early – or cut – and we can report it, and try to stop it.”

Her Excellency Minister Tadesse said:

Her Excellency, Ms. Zenebu Tadesse in a panel at the Girl Summit.“Yeshalem’s story and the thousands like her, is what is powering Ethiopia’s efforts to change societal attitudes and behaviours towards girls in Ethiopia. At this Summit, we must make it our collective duty to support Yeshalem and girls like her around the world – because they are the ones who are creating lasting change.”

In Ethiopia, according to the 2011 Welfare Monitoring Survey (WMS) report, 23 per cent of female children aged 0 to 14 years had undergone female genital cutting at national level. The regional distribution of FGM/C varies highly from the lowest 7 per cent in Gambela region to the highest 60 percent in Afar region. Next to Afar region, Amhara and Somali regions have the highest percentage of FGM/C, which is 47 per cent and 31per cent respectively. As a result of the ongoing commitment of the Government, Ethiopia is witnessing a number of promising results that are galvanizing stakeholders to intensify their efforts:

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Divergent Journeys – Child Marriage and Education

 By Indrias Getachew

Famia Abadir and Rasso Abdella are teenage girls living in Sheneni Village of Dujuma Kebele, located 20 kilometers outside of Dire Dawa town in Eastern Ethiopia. They both share dreams of attending university and working as professionals to advance the rights of girls and women. To succeed, however, they must overcome substantial hurdles. Poverty, traditional views on gender roles and the practice of child marriage threatens to derail their ambitions. Their experiences illustrate some of the challenges that girls, particularly in rural areas, face as they strive to achieve their right to an education.

“No one told me to go to school,” recalls Rasso. “I used to spend my time in the hills with my friends shepherding goats. Some of my friends went to school in the mornings. They would write what that they had learnt in school on stones using charcoal. They would write the alphabet and when they asked me what ‘A’ is, I didn’t know. I told them that I wanted to go to school but I couldn’t afford to buy books. They agreed to share their books with me. That is how I was able to start school. I now go up the mountain to collect wood and prepare charcoal. I then go to town and sell it so I can buy my exercise books – that is how I am able to go to school.”

Kerima Ali, Gender and AIDS Expert at the Dire Dawa Bureau of Education (left) Famia Abadir (midle) and Rasso Abdela (right)

Kerima Ali, Gender and AIDS Expert at the Dire Dawa Bureau of Education (left) Famia Abadir (midle) and Rasso Abdela (right) ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014Getachew

Overcoming economic hurdles is a challenge facing rural girls in their efforts to learn, however, the age-old practice of child marriage complicates things further.

In 2011, the dire warning by a rural religious leader that girls who didn’t marry that year would not be able to marry for the next seven years, set off a spate of child marriages that resulted in over 80 girls marrying and dropping out of Dujuma Primary School. Famia, 15 at the time, was one of them.

“I was a young student, still a child,” recalls Famia. “I was going to study with my friends and my cousin told me to come to her place as the elders were gathering there because she was going to get married. She took me from my home and handed me over to her uncle’s son to get me married to him. I did not want to get married. My wish was to go to school and learn, but they abducted and raped me and that is considered marriage. I had no choice.”

Famia Abadir, nine months pregnant

Famia Abadir, nine months pregnant ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Getachew

Famia missed an entire year of school after she was abducted and raped, twice, in what turned out to be failed attempts to marry her against her will and the consent of her parents.

The events in Dujuma in 2011 led to a focused campaign of awareness creation and community mobilisation to end the practice of early marriage. Community discussions aimed at convincing community members about the importance of girls’ education were carried out throughout rural Dire Dawa. Awareness was also raised about the harm caused by child marriages with a view to fostering a consensus to end the practice.

Currently, school clubs are promoting gender equality and empowering the school community to respond in time to prevent child marriages through coordination with local government. Elders and religious leaders are also being engaged to convince the community to abandon the practice of early marriage.

According to local authorities, the efforts to end the practice of early marriage in Dujuma and other rural districts of the Dire Dawa Administrative Region have been successful. Indeed, Dire Dawa has the second lowest regional child marriage rate in Ethiopia after Addis Ababa. The practice is far more widespread in Amhara, Tigray and Benishangul Regions (EDHS 2011).

Transforming age-old customs, however, takes time. Returning to Dujuma in 2013, we found Famia to be nine months pregnant. Famia had left her husband and was once again living with her parents.

“After I give birth I will leave the baby with my family and return to my studies,” says Famia. “Getting married is what did this to me so it is better that I go back to school. Marriage was not good for me.”

Rasso, on the other hand, evaded all pressure to get married and was able to finish eighth grade at Dujuma Primary. Today, she is enrolled in high school in Dire Dawa town, living at the Girls’ Hostel set up by the Dire Dawa Bureau of Education with UNICEF’s support. The hostel enables girls from rural communities with no access to school to continue with their education.

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Abduction survivor Gelane Degefa is clear where her priorities lay 

By Elshadai Negash

February 1st 2012 was supposed to be a regular school day for then-15 year old Gelane Degefa*. She started her day in Lugiatebela village, Sebeta Awas district, Oromia region, 25kms from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa; early by making a 30min journey to kick off the day with biology lessons in high school. Three more one-hour classes later, the school day was over and she was on her way home when she spotted a familiar, but disturbing sight from a distance.

“It was Kebede Chala,” she says of her neighbour who had dropped out of school a few years ago to work on his parents’ farm. “I knew immediately that I was in trouble.”

Kebede had persistently courted Degefa for more than 18 months before formally approaching her parents a year earlier to ask for her hand in marriage. “He used to say things like ‘what good would school be for you. I would provide you with everything if you marry me’,” she says. “I told him [Kebede] that I was too young to get married. My parents repeated the same thing when he asked them as well, but he refused to let go. My friends had overheard of his plans to abduct me. I told this to our headmaster. When he heard about this, he stopped bothering me for a while.”

A few minutes later, Kebede  and five of his friends grabbed her and tried their best to stifle her screams. “It was one of the worst days of my life,” she recalls. “But I was very fortunate. It was harvest collection season and some farmers heard my screams and came running to rescue me after we travelled for about 5km. When he and his friends were surrounded by the farmers, they ran away and I was able to escape.”

A Saudi returnee waits in the scorching heat to hop on a transport to take her back to her home area

Picture not related to story

But her aggressor did not stop then. “A few weeks later, he sent elders to my school to complain that we were preventing him from marrying Aleme,” says Beyene Kebede, Degefa’s Chemistry teacher. “Our school director reported this to the police. They gave us hope and told us to inform them if there are any incidents involving Mosisa. He did not bother her from then on and she has been attending school this year without any problems.”

Degefa was not the first girl Kebede tried to abduct and force into early marriage. “He tried to abduct my friend Mergia Abebe, a girl I personally worked hard to convince her parents to allow her to go to school,” says Degefa, who is a member of the Girls Club at her school. “Her parents tried to get marry her to Mosisa, but we worked very hard to convince her to change their mind. She was in the second grade then, now she is a top student and just earned top marks when progressing to grade six.”

By “we”, Degefa is talking about a youth club supported by UNICEF to assist highly vulnerable children and prevent the abduction of school girls. Part of a five-year joint programme with UNICEF and the United Nations Fund for Populations Activities (UNFPA) and funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy (RNE) to Ethiopia, the rights-based approach to adolescents and youth development in Ethiopia has worked to prevent girls like Degefa and Abebe from getting married early after abduction and in some cases stopped marriages after parents had agreed to marry to children to abductors.

“Abduction is a major harmful traditional practice in our area,” says Abegaz Tadesse, UNICEF/UNFPA Joint Programme coordinator in the Sebeta Awas district’s health office. “Many of the abductors are not prosecuted because it is expensive for the families to open and then follow a case to completion. What we are doing with this joint programme is strengthen the support to girls who go to school by using youth clubs to make them aware of their rights and quickly report any approaches by abductors.”

Shebere Telila* is another recipient of the support that youth clubs in the district’s schools provided. The 15-year old, who finished as a second best student in her class this year, was repeatedly approached by older boys who asked her mother for her hand in marriage. “I have dreams of growing up and becoming an engineer to build big buildings and large bridges,” she says. “Now is not the time for me to get married. My mother also knows this and would tell this to people who came to ask for marriage.”

One particular boy, however, did not heed to this and would even brag to her neighbours how he would wait for her one day when she returns from school and make her his. “Whenever someone in our neighbourhood told me about this, I would feel freightened,” she says. “My brother used to walk me to and from school for a while, but I knew that this could not be done forever.”

But rather than staying frightened, Telila, now a member of the youth club in her school; decided to confront her aggressor. “I went to our headmaster’s office with our class prefect to tell him everything,” she says. “Our headmaster then wrote a letter to our kebele [village] office and they instructed him to stop. They called him for a meeting and made him write a letter in front of his friends and family promising that he would not lay hands on me. When I saw that he signed the letter, I was relieved. On his face, I saw the same fear that he would put me through. I knew he would not defy his family and friends to do something to me. I knew I was a free person.”

Today, Telila makes the 30-minute commute from her home to school without any fear that a creepy teenager would emerge from the obscure mountains to attack her. At school, she takes time from studies to discuss her experience with younger girls and give them confidence on how to protect themselves. “Some of the members of our club have been victims and so we know the signs,” she says about the peer-assist mechanism in place at the youth club. “We also visit parents at home to encourage girls to come to school regularly and ask them not to marry their children at a young age.”

And what does she advise other girls who get approached by boys for early marriage?

“To be young and pretty is not a crime. Rather, being quiet when someone is pushing you to get married is the crime. Come out and tell everyone about your problems. Do not keep quiet until it is too late. Just do what I did and seek help. If you do, there is plenty of it available.”

*Names have been changed to protect identity of the girls.

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UNICEF Ethiopia Enhance Performance Through PPP Training

By Sacha Westerbeek 

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, June 2014: As an integral part of enhancing staff capacity in programming and planning, UNICEF Ethiopia rolled out a Programme Planning Process (PPP) exercise, which successfully trained 189 staff members in little over a year.

“Kudos to the Addis Office for investing in its own staff with this office-wide training initiative,” Lou Mendez, facilitator, said during the closing ceremony. “It makes the dreams of Ethiopian children more attainable.”

The training – facilitated by a pool of selected experts from the UN and UNICEF, with an in-depth understanding of UNICEF and global development – aimed to equip staff with the knowledge and skills necessary to apply systematic tools of analysis in the programming process. These included understanding the UN’s coherent human rights based approach to programming, gender equality and mainstreaming.

In the context of Ethiopia, the focus on advocacy, gender, equity, environmental sustainability and resilience proved very useful, with staff members given practical tools to help apply these principles, approaches and “lenses” in everyday programming. In particular,  the session on gender proved to be a real eye-opener to many.

“I’ll need to start from home – change myself first on the concept of gender,” one staff member exclaimed.

“I was looking at myself while taking this training,” said another participant. “It is not only about PPP, it is about my life.”

UNICEF Ethiopia staff engage in an interactive session at a PPP Training PPP training, which brought together national and international staff members from Addis Ababa and eight regional offices, covered key steps on how to plan, implement, manage, monitor and evaluate the country programme in the context of the UN delivering as one. Some key sessions underpinning this included – barrier and bottleneck analysis; role and capacity gap analysis of rights’ holders and duty bearers at all levels of society; causal analysis; strategic prioritisation and strategy formulation; results based management and constructing well designed country programmes.

The PPP training also gave implementation sessions focussed on Partnership Cooperation Agreements (PCAs), Harmonised Cash Transfer (HACT), Audits, and Annual and Midterm reviews. Practical sessions on moving from the Country Programme Document to the Country Programme Management Plan (CPMP) were also conducted, along with key elements of sound programme management.

To maintain programmatic relevance, the PPP content is progressively updated to reflect any changes made in the UN Programme Policy and Procedures Manual (PPPM). Importantly, a special session was held on the last day of each workshop to brainstorm and develop specific plans on how to apply the content of the PPP training after the completion of the course.

The facilitators of the training were astounded by the active participation of staff and their strong commitment to learning. An evaluation of the training exercise revealed that the PPP learning objectives were largely met, with more than 98.5 per cent of participants indicating that the objectives were met either totally or to a very high degree.

The facilitators also recommended that future PPP training needs to be initiated in a 2-3 hour session with section chiefs and resource persons, in order to discuss key topics and objectives. Additionally, PPP workshops should be followed by a one or half day orientation for senior managers, including section chiefs, operations managers and the heads of field offices. This will help to garner the support of senior managers in the application of PPP principles and processes.

“Over the last year, nearly half of UNICEF Ethiopia staff have acquired improved knowledge and skills for programme planning and implementation from the perspective of human rights, equity, gender, results-based management, environmental sustainability and humanitarian action.” said Raana Syed, who facilitated six PPP trainings in Ethiopia. “Together, they can make a great difference in the improved fulfilment and protection of the rights of girls, boys and women in Ethiopia – with a focus on the most vulnerable.”

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