UNICEF, WHO: Lack of sanitation for 2.4 billion people undermining health improvements

A South Sudanese refugee takes a shower with water poured from a jerry can

A south Sudanese refugee Nvakuache Tut takes a shower by the way of water poured from a jerry can. 26, June 2014 Burbie South Sudanese Refugees Reception Centre Gambella Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

Final MDG progress report on water and sanitation released 

NEW YORK/GENEVA, 30 June 2015 – Lack of progress on sanitation threatens to undermine the child survival and health benefits from gains in access to safe drinking water, warn WHO and UNICEF in a report tracking access to drinking water and sanitation against the Millennium Development Goals.

The Joint Monitoring Programme report, Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment, says worldwide, 1 in 3 people, or 2.4 billion, are still without sanitation facilities – including 946 million people who defecate in the open. 

“What the data really show is the need to focus on inequalities as the only way to achieve sustainable progress,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene programmes. “The global model so far has been that the wealthiest move ahead first, and only when they have access do the poorest start catching up. If we are to reach universal access to sanitation by 2030, we need to ensure the poorest start making progress right away.”

Access to improved drinking water sources has been a major achievement for countries and the international community. With some 2.6 billion people having gained access since 1990, 91 per cent of the global population now have improved drinking water – and the number is still growing. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 427 million people have gained access – an average of 47,000 people per day every day for 25 years.

The child survival gains have been substantial. Today, fewer than 1,000 children under five die each day from diarrhoea caused by inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene, compared to over 2,000 15 years ago.

On the other hand, the progress on sanitation has been hampered by inadequate investments in behaviour change campaigns, lack of affordable products for the poor, and social norms which accept or even encourage open defecation. Although some 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, the world has missed the MDG target by nearly 700 million people. Today, only 68 per cent of the world’s population uses an improved sanitation facility – 9 percentage points below the MDG target of 77 per cent. 

“Until everyone has access to adequate sanitation facilities, the quality of water supplies will be undermined and too many people will continue to die from waterborne and water-related diseases,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director of the WHO Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. 

Access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene is critical in the prevention and care of 16 of the 17 ‘neglected tropical diseases’ (NTDs), including trachoma, soil-transmitted helminths (intestinal worms) and schistosomiasis. NTDs affect more than 1.5 billion people in 149 countries, causing blindness, disfigurement, permanent disability and death.

The practice of open defecation is also linked to a higher risk of stunting – or chronic malnutrition – which affects 161 million children worldwide, leaving them with irreversible physical and cognitive damage.

“To benefit human health it is vital to further accelerate progress on sanitation, particularly in rural and underserved areas,” added Dr Neira.

Rural areas are home to 7 out of 10 people without access to improved sanitation and 9 out of 10 people who defecate in the open. 

Plans for the new Sustainable Development Goals to be set by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 include a target to eliminate open defecation by 2030. This would require a doubling of current rates of reduction, especially in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, WHO and UNICEF say. 

WHO and UNICEF say it is vitally important to learn from the uneven progress of the 1990-2015 period to ensure that the SDGs close the inequality gaps and achieve universal access to water and sanitation. To do so, the world needs:

  • Disaggregated data to be able to pinpoint the populations and areas which are outliers from the national averages;
  • A robust and intentional focus on the hardest to reach, particularly the poor in rural areas;
  • Innovative technologies and approaches to bring sustainable sanitation solutions to poor communities at affordable prices;
  • Increased attention to improving hygiene in homes, schools and health care facilities.
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Ethiopia boosts its efforts to end child marriage and FGM/C by 2025 at the National Girl Summit 

By Wossen Mulatu

National girl summit 2015

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

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

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

National girl summit 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos, videos and other resources can be found here

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National Girl Summit to Reiterate Ethiopia’s Commitment to End FGM/C and Child Marriage

A Muslim girl prays at the mosque at the Semera Girl's Boarding School

Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting don’t just cause physical and emotional pain. The practices reflect the value of girls and women in society that have been passed from generation to generation. Such values in turn limit their contribution in society thereby sustaining the cycle of poverty.

The good news is that things are changing. In communities across Ethiopia more and more people are saying no to FGM/C, child marriage and other harmful traditional practices. But there is much more to do.

In July, 2014 at the Girl Summit in London, the Government of Ethiopia committed to achieving the total elimination of FGM/C and Child, Early and Forced Marriage by 2025 through a strategic, multi-sectorial, girl-centred and evidence-based approach.

On 25 June, 2015 the government of Ethiopia will host a National Girl Summit to reiterate its commitment. The summit will provide an opportunity for key actors including girls to renew their vow to end the practices through concerted actions. We can end FGM/C and child marriage within a generation – but only if we work together.

Let girls be girls!

During and around the summit, together with partners we will bring our messages to social media using #GirlSummit follow us and join the conversation.

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Runaway Child Bride on a New Beginning

By Bethlehem Kiros

Girls socialize in their dorm rooms at the Semera Girl’s Boarding School

Girls socialize in their dorm rooms at the Semera Girl’s Boarding School, a school that serves as a safe haven for many girls that escape their home villages after being forced to marry at a young age, in Semera, Afar Region, Ethiopia, 8 January 2015. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Bindra

AFAR Region, 8 January 2015 – At the Semera Girls’ Boarding School, Zahara Abdu is granted a new lease on life. Three years ago, at the age of 13, she was forced to marry a man who is decades older than her. “I was his third wife, and he has children that are older than me,” says Zahara. Refusing to take others’ choice for her life, she chose to flee and, fortunately wound up at the boarding school where she is now attending the 7th grade.

Next to the Amhara region, Afar has the highest rate of child marriage in Ethiopia. One of the reasons for this is the availability of few schools especially after finishing the Alternative Basic Education (ABE) which runs from grade 1-4 in their locality which limits girls’ option and directly justifies early marriage as the only viable. This fact is well entwined with an aged Afari tradition known as absuma which entitles a man full right to marry his cousin, specifically the daughter of his paternal aunt. Zahara was promised to several cousins already, in the name of absuma, but none of them took advantage of this traditional practice. “They are all educated which is probably why they didn’t demand to marry me,’’ explains Zahara.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

However, this did not stop Zahara’s father from finding her another man. She was not aware of the arrangement until the last minute and was attending 4th grade in her local ABE. When she found out, she tried to reason with her father who only turned a deaf ear to her plea. Distraught and out of options, Zahara followed her instincts and ran away at the night of her wedding. She sought refuge among her friends where she learned about the possibility of escaping to the Semera Boarding School. “There are three girls in my neighborhood who go to the school and they told me that the administration welcomes girls who are in a situation like mine,’’ she recounts. “They also promised to take me with them when their school break ends.’’

After twenty-seven days of hiding, her family found her in one of her friend’s house and dragged her back to her husband’s village, where his other two wives and children also live. Regarding what happened next, she says, “I knew what would await me, so I ran away again that very night.’’ To minimize the risk of being caught again, this time, she chose to stay out in the wilderness, surviving on the food and water her friends brought her. In the meantime, her friends were secretly raising money from other girls in the village for her trip to Semera, the capital of the region. Zahara recalls that her older sisters, who were both married at the time, were also part of the plan of her escape.

A Safe Haven

Zahara Abdu, 17, poses for a photo in her dorm at the UNICEF-supported Semera Girl’s Boarding School

Zahara Abdu, 17, poses for a photo in her dorm at the UNICEF-supported Semera Girl’s Boarding School, a school that serves as a safe haven for many girls that escape their home villages after being forced to marry at a young age, in Semera, Afar Region, Ethiopia, 8 January 2015. Zahara escaped from her village after her forced Absuma marriage to her cousin. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Bindra

After quite an ordeal of sleeping in the open desert, Zahara joined her friends on their trip back to school. The school administration referred her case to the regional Bureau of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (BoWCYA) and a decision was reached immediately to admit her to the school. Zahara is among the several girls in Semera Boarding School who have run away from their coerced marriages, often to men that are significantly older than them. In order to make education accessible to orphan or vulnerable girls from remote pastoralist communities, the school was built in 2009 by the regional government with the support of UNICEF. It currently provides education from grades 5 through 8 and mainly enrolls graduates of ABE, which is the most common form of education in pastoralist communities of Ethiopia.

Zahara says that she went to the extent of defying her father’s will and putting herself through considerable hardship during her escape, because it was simply unthinkable for her to forgo her education. “I know my potential, and I can’t let anyone ruin the future which I believe I can have,’’ she declares. She adds that the school has become an ideal place for her to tap into that potential as she can focus entirely on her studies without worrying about marriage or household responsibilities. ‘’All we have to do here is maintain our personal hygiene and clean our rooms, which leaves us with ample time for our school work,’’ she explains. Consequently, Zahara managed to complete the 5th and 6th grades at the top of her class and hopes to maintain this status for the years to come.

Facing Social Denigration

Girls play at the Semera Girl’s Boarding School

Girls play at the Semera Girl’s Boarding School, a school that serves as a safe haven for many girls that escape their home villages after being forced to marry at a young age, in Semera, Afar Region, Ethiopia, 8 January 2015. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Bindra

In the last two and half years, Zahara visited her family twice, during her school breaks, and her relationship with them is now restored. On her first visit, she was accompanied by a BoWCYA representative who explained to her father about the importance of letting her go to school while gently laying out the legal repercussions for arranging underage marriage. “In the presence of the BoWCYA representative, my father gave his word that he will not force me to go back to my so-called husband,’’ states Zahara. Though she is safe, she fears that her younger sister who recently turned 13 might be given away soon. “My sister is really worried, so if it comes to that, I guess I’ll have to notify the authorities since my family does not listen to me,’’ she says with frustration. According to her, their society generally considers girls in her position – who defy social norms for the sake of education – as bad influences on other girls. “Uneducated people like my father just don’t see the worth of a girl’s education,’’ she complains. ‘’They belittle us saying that the reason we insist on going to school is to have the freedom to be with boys.’’

Zahara strongly believes that the only way she and her friends can gain the respect of their families and communities is if they prove themselves as successful adults. “I think if we finish school, get jobs and start giving back to them, they’ll start to recognize that we have something valuable to offer, besides giving birth to children,’’ she concludes.

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Happy Fathers Day

Today is Father’s Day, and we want to celebrate the strength of paternal bonds with this selection of beautiful images from our Flickr of fathers spending time with their children.

Model Farmer Wondossen and his son and sister outside their latrine in Romey Village-Amhara Region

Model Farmer Wondossen and his son and sister outside their latrine in Romey Village-Amhara Region ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2012/ Getachew

Father and son at the Derer Ebija Health Post

Father and son at the Derer Ebija Health Post where they have come to get the newly introduced PCV vaccine. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2011/Lemma

 

A young family wade across Shebele river in Gode Town in Somali region of Ethiopia

A young family wade across Shebele river in Gode Town in Somali region of Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ose

Ali Faraa, 57, walks his daughter Hussini ali Faraa, 8, to Awash city ABEC (Alternative Base Education Center)

Ali Faraa, 57, walks his daughter Hussini ali Faraa, 8, to Awash city ABEC (Alternative Base Education Center) ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ose

 

Ibro Bekeri Yusef feeds therapeutic milk F75 to his severely malnourished five-year-old daughter Khesna

Ibro Bekeri Yusef feeds therapeutic milk F75 to his severely malnourished five-year-old daughter Khesna ©UNICEF

A child sits on his father’s shoulders as they wait for food at a drought relief centre in the north-eastern town of Bati.

A child sits on his father’s shoulders as they wait for food at a drought relief centre in the north-eastern town of Bati. ©UNICEF

Posted in Child Protection, Education, Emergencies, Ethiopia, Health, Image, Media and External Relations, Nutrition, WASH | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Polio transmission deemed interrupted in Ethiopia

Polio transmission deemed interrupted in Ethiopia by 4th polio external assessment; final decision awaited by Horn of Africa Final Assessment on 17 June.

Assessment recommendations include sustaining polio achievements for “polio legacy” in Ethiopia.

By Shalini Rozario 

12 June 2015

Health Extension Worker administers Polio Vaccination

National Polio Vaccination Campaign. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2005/Heger

Addis Ababa. From 8-12 June 2015, the 4th Polio External Assessment took place in Addis Ababa, to review the progress to date of the polio outbreak response, and determine the quality and status of the outbreak in the country. The assessment team was led by WHO and included members from CDC, Core Group, the Gates Foundation, UNICEF and others. The assessment team looked in detail at key elements of the polio programme including surveillance, campaign quality, communication, vaccine supply and logistics and other factors contributing to the interruption of the polio virus transmission.

4th external polio assessment debriefing

His Excellency Dr. Kebede Worku, State Minister to the Federal Ministry of Health of Ethiopia along with Dr. Pierre Mpele-Kilebou, WHO Representative to Ethiopia; and Gillian Mellsop, Country Representative to UNICEF Ethiopia during the 4th external polio assessment debriefing on 12 June 2015. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Rozario

On Friday afternoon, 12 June, the external assessment team debriefed His Excellency Dr. Kebede Worku, State Minister to the Federal Ministry of Health of Ethiopia along with Dr. Pierre Mpele-Kilebou, WHO Representative to Ethiopia; Gillian Mellsop, Country Representative to UNICEF Ethiopia along with key polio partners, and reviewed findings of the week-long assessment.

The overall conclusion was that the assessment believes that transmission in Ethiopia has been interrupted and called for sustained government support to ensure sustained gains.

Since the onset of the Horn of Africa (HOA) polio outbreak in May 2013, Ethiopia responded intensively. Following confirmation of cases in Somalia and Kenya, the first confirmed WPV case in Ethiopia was in August 2013 in the Somali Region resulting in a total of 10 WPV type-1 (wild poliovirus type 1) cases in the Doolo Zone of Somali Region. The last WPV case was confirmed in January 2014 — nearly 17 months ago – an indicator of interruption of transmission due to the intensive vaccination response, which includes 14 vaccination campaigns reaching children in all corners of the country with OPV (oral polio vaccine), including 4 rounds of National Immunization Days (NIDs), targeting between 12 to over 14 million children. All campaigns were supported with intensified communication and social mobilization activities, and engaged partnerships for solid community awareness, knowledge and acceptance of OPV.

H.E. Dr. Kebede responded enthusiastically to the assessment outcome, and stated, “The outbreak was closed due to the frontline teams and practioners on the ground.” He expressed support and said to value the recommendations to strengthen routine immunization, surveillance and quality SIAs (campaigns), which will benefit children and the health system in general. H.E. Dr. Kebede expressed gratitude to the leadership of the regional governments, particularly in the Somali Region. He appreciated efforts of community leaders, including religious leaders of the Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, who played a key role in the outbreak response. Dr. Kebede thanked Dr. Pierre Mpele-Kilebou, for his commitment, and for his frequent visits to the outbreak epicenter, Doolo Zone of the Somali Region. He also welcomed Gillian Mellsop, as the new Country Representative to UNICEF Ethiopia and appreciated both partners for their contributions along with the other Polio Eradication Initiative partners such as CDC, Core Group, the Gates Foundation and Rotary International.

4th external polio assessment debriefing

Dr. Pierre Mpele-Kilebou, WHO Representative to Ethiopia; Gillian Mellsop, Country Representative to UNICEF Ethiopia and Macoura Oulare, Chief of Health, UNICEF Ethiopia catch up during the 4th external polio assessment debriefing on 12 June 2015. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Rozario

Dr. Pierre Mpele-Kilebou and Gillian Mellsop, congratulated the Ministry of Health on their achievements, expressed their support for the polio programme, and acknowledged the importance of drawing on the successes and lessons learned for the “polio legacy” in Ethiopia.

Final recommendations will be delivered to the Horn of Africa countries, government representatives and partners on 17 June 2015 in Nairobi at the Horn of Africa Outbreak Final Assessment Debriefing.

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Young people are important actors in ending child marriage in Africa

Theme of the Day of the African Child 2015: “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”

Ubah Jemal, 15, makes a call before a meeting of the Girls Club in Jigjiga, Somali Region, Ethiopia

Ubah Jemal, 15, makes a call before a meeting of the Girls Club in Jigjiga, Somali Region, Ethiopia, 24 January 2015. Ubah is the vice president of the Somali Region Children’s Parliament, a position that enabled her to engage and empower girls in Jigjiga town, where she lives. In addition to heading the Girls Club in her own high school, she is responsible for setting up similar clubs in all the primary schools of her town. Ubah wants to pursue the field of medicine while continuing to serve in leadership position. “I want to become a doctor because it grants the opportunity to touch peoples’ lives directly, but ultimately, I want to become a leader, preferably a president,” she says. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Bindra

NEW YORK/ADDIS ABABA, 16 June 2015 – Child marriage remains a brutal reality for millions of girls across Africa, denying them the right to live healthy and fulfilling lives. 

Poverty, lack of education, gender stereotyping, discrimination and negative religious practices have resulted in millions of these girls being married off before their 18th birthday.

In Ethiopia, Child Marriage of girls is prevalent throughout the country and is clearly a gender issue, given the considerable difference between men and women in age at marriage. According to the Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey (EDHS) of 2011, the median age at first marriage for women is 17.1, almost a year below the legal age of marriage, whereas the median for men was six years older, at 23.1. 

“Child Marriage affects girls in various ways and denies their right to fully develop their potential and be in charge of their destiny,” said Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “Hence, Ethiopia is heading in the right direction due to the concrete actions taken by the Government and its developments partners including the adoption of a national strategy on Harmful Traditional Practices, the formation of a national alliance to end child marriage, the strong commitments made by the government at the July 2014 Girls Summit in London to end child marriage and FGM/C by 2025.” 

Haimanot Gashu (center), 12, stands outside the Goha Primary School in Goha Kebele, Dera Woreda, Amhara Region, Ethiopia

Haimanot Gashu (center), 12, stands outside the Goha Primary School in Goha Kebele, Dera Woreda, Amhara Region, Ethiopia, 28 January 2015. Married at the age of seven, she is currently under a lot of pressure from her mother to move in with her husband, as she is now considered old enough to run her own home. She currently lives with her uncle and aunt. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Bindra

UNICEF in collaboration with other stakeholders is currently supporting the government of Ethiopia in meeting their commitments. UNICEF will continue to support the scale up of programmes and interventions which have proven to have a positive impact on girls and women empowerment.  The programmes will also ensure that the various interventions deliver concrete results for the girls through proper monitoring and evaluation systems.

The magnitude of violations occasioned in a single act of marrying off a child cannot be underestimated. In the worst of cases, a girl who becomes pregnant when her body is not yet ready may die at childbirth. Her baby may also not survive: a double tragedy. Infants born to adolescent mothers are 60 per cent more likely to die in their first year, and are more likely to be malnourished.

 “We cannot downplay or neglect the harmful practice of child marriage, as it has long term and devastating effects on these girls whose health is at risk and at worst leading to death due to child birth and other complications,” said Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

 The African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa encourages governments across the continent to set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years. The Campaign also focuses on strengthening families and communities to protect their children, and ensuring they have access to key information and services of quality.

The Day of the African Child (DAC) will serve to shine a brighter spotlight on the contribution that young people are making to accelerate the movement towards ending child marriage at multiple levels. From young reporters who publish stories on child marriage, to young people who speak at international fora, to those who take part in discussions with their families, their peers and their communities about the benefits of delaying marriage and pregnancies and in action to end the practice – they are important agents of change. Their role can be further enhanced through the provision of life skills, quality education and training.

This year’s DAC will be 25 years since it was first marked, and will focus on ending child marriage in Africa. While the DAC commemorations are held on 16 June each year across countries in Africa, the official continental commemoration will take place in Soweto, South Africa, on 15 June 2015. 

The DAC also coincides with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), and an opportunity to reinforce the commitment by African governments to children’s rights, while examining the main achievements and challenges in the implementation of the ACRWC.

Hundreds of children from South Africa will be joined in Soweto by others from across Africa, to commemorate the DAC and further urge the African leadership to do more for children, especially in ending child marriage.

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