Media Get-Together with UNICEF National Ambassadors -Abelone Melesse and Hannah Godefa

By Wossen Mulatu

Hannah Godefa and Abelone Melesse

Media meets UNICEF Ethiopia National Ambassadors-Hannah Godefa and Abelone Melesse on Friday, 24 July 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

ADDIS ABABA, 24 July 2015 Today, UNICEF’s Media and External Relations Section has organised the third media get-together with UNICEF National Ambassadors to Ethiopia – Hannah Godefa and Abelone Melesse. Also present on the occasion as guests of honour were the fathers of Abelone and Hannah- Ato Solomon Melesse and Ato Godefa Assegahen respectively.

Since their appointment as UNICEF National Ambassadors, Hannah and Abelone have shown a true commitment to the issues of women and children by involving in different advocacy activities both in Ethiopia and abroad. At the media get- together, both Hannah and Abelone shared their current activities in relation to the rights of women and children including their recent field visit to Amhara region to see UNICEF- supported child protection and health activities.

At the occasion, the media had the opportunity to ask questions to Abelone and Hannah on their role as ambassadors, their inspiration and their future plan. The media also forwarded their questions to their fathers on how they have raised their daughters and how they support them.

Speaking of her visit to Amhara region, Hannah said the most fulfilling part of her visit was the interaction she had with the women and children in the community. “I have talked to women who were faced with child marriage instead of going to school- it’s really heartbreaking.”

Seventeen year old Hannah became a UNICEF National Ambassador in 2013. This year, Hannah has participated at the World Education Forum 2015 (WEF) from 19 to 22 May in the city of Incheon, Republic of Korea. Hannah joined the “Leaving no one behind – how education can drive inclusive development?” panel co-hosted by the UNICEF Executive Director and David McKenzie of CNN. On 16 June, Hannah became a panelist or the 29th session of the Human Rights Council’s panel discussion on girls’ education held in Geneva.

Abelone on her part said, “My visit to Dera woreda in Amhara region has been an eye opener to see the progress made in the health sector in Ethiopia. I have witnessed how the health extension workers reach the most vulnerable population through promotive, preventive and basic curative health and nutrition services. My goal is to advocate especially for maternal health though my songs as a rap singer.”

Nineteen year old young rap star Abelone Melesse became a UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia in 2014. This year, Abelone has attended a number of meetings and conferences in her new capacity as an Ambassador. On International Women’s Day, Abelone was invited by Ethiopian Women’s Association in Norway joined by high level Norwegian politicians where she had the opportunity to deliberate a speech and perform her songs on behalf of the women in Norway and in Ethiopia. Abelone also officially released her new single entitled “Jewels of the world” – a song which she has dedicated to UNICEF at the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The song written by Abelone herself has received more than 10,000 views on Youtube 7,150 views on Facebook  and 70,106 views on DireTube.

Note to the media

How can UNICEF support the media? Our UNICEF Ethiopia website has many different resources, including: publications, photos, press releases, speeches, contact information, guidelines and other information useful for the media. In addition, we are present in many socialmedia platforms such as FacebookTwitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, Delicious and Youtube 

In addition, the Media and External Relations Section facilitates individual interviews with specialists and experts on different programmes in different languages including: English, French, Arabic, German, Swahili, Dutch, Italian and many Ethiopian local languages. We also organise media round tables with senior staff and programme specialists, respective government officials and partners on different topics affecting women and children.

Regular media field visits will continue to be organised to visit UNICEF-supported project sites in Addis Ababa as well as in the regions.

We wish to thank those who were able to join us and look forward to our continuous collaboration in 2015 and beyond.

Posted in Abelone Melese, Goodwill Ambassadors, Hannah Godefa, Media and External Relations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Water for agriculture: managing the land and rains in the Ethiopian highlands

21 July 2015

By Andrew Dansie, DPhil Researcher at Oxford University who joined the REACH diagnostic field visit to Ethiopia, June-July 2015.

A seemingly never-ending line of activity crosses the wall of the Gum Selassa dam to the village of Adi Gudem. It is Saturday and women, men and children are ferrying goods, mainly in the form of livestock, to market. Those that have made the longer journey from the east, climbing up from much drier rift valley of the Afar region, are easily spotted with camels in tow.

Adi Gudem is situated 40km south of Mekele in the Tigray region of the northern Ethiopian highlands at an elevation of 2,100m. The Gum Selassa dam is a micro dam built in the mid-nineties with a 12m high earthen dam wall and a reservoir of around 45 hectares when full. Built to provide water for agriculture, two main channels serve approximately 300 irrigators downstream.

Micro dams such as Gum Selassa are being built in Ethiopia to reduce the variability of water availability for agriculture, but are facing severely reduced life expectancy due to sediment filling up the dams, leaving less and less water storage capacity every year. Vast agricultural land use has long replaced native vegetation in the region, which combined with short duration but high intensity rainfall, contributes to the sedimentation problem.

Overlooking the Aba Gerima Learning Watershed with broadened agricultural diversity and terracing reducing sediment flow to Lake Tana. © A. Dansie At the Gum Selassa dam, there is no respite for the camels as they pass by. The reservoir is dry, containing only accumulated sediment which supports a burst of green vegetation, contrasting with the rich brown of the freshly-tilled fields in the surrounds. A number of crops are grown in these fields but the largest by far is teff, a native grain and the staple food of Ethiopia. The grain is ground and fermented then cooked as flat, spongy ‘pancakes’ called injera. Slightly sour in taste but nutritionally high in value and packed with iron, injera forms the base of every Ethiopian meal.

The tilled fields mark the beginning of the wet season with farmers anticipating the first of the rains that come over a short two-month burst. The skies then remain largely dry until the same cycle is, assumedly, repeated the following year. The vast majority of farmers practice subsistence farming. Their small land plots produce enough for feeding themselves but not much, if any, surplus to be sold or stored for years of low yields or crop failure. Read more on the REACH website

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Since 2014, ART clients in Ethiopia have been getting their CD4 status in 20 minutes

By Tesfaye Simerta

Ayele Feyisa Laboratory technical take sample of blood

Ayele Feyisa Laboratory technician takes sample blood at Chancho health centre, Oromia special zone surrounding Finfinne Sululta woreda, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

CHANCHO TOWN, OROMIA REGION, ETHIOPIA, 23 October 2014 – The Chancho Health Centre, 45kms north of Addis Ababa, is where Rediet* goes for her follow-ups, having discovered she was HIV positive back in 2013. Today, there are lots of people waiting alongside Rediet to utilise the laboratory services. Chancho is one of the health centres that the Ethiopian Government – supported by the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), UNITAID and UNICEF – is using to advance access to Point of Care Technologies (POCT). These provide results on the same day, in order to make HIV testing and treatment more effective, efficient and easier for both health care workers and patients.

Now, Rediet is a mother of a one-year-old baby girl and is still following up on her status regularly.

“Now I have stopped having to wait to hear my CD4 count status at the Fiche Hospital, far from here,” said Rediet, who used to have to travel to Fiche Town to get the test done. “When I went to Fiche, I was paying transport expenses for a round trip, but here it is accessible – about an hour and half walking distance from my home. Previously, when my blood sample was sent to Fiche Hospital, I was not able to know my CD4 count status for a month or more and could not receive treatment. Now that the machine has arrived in the Health Centre, I get my results just after 20 minutes of testing, receive my treatment here and then go home.”

According to Mr Asfaw Referra, Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) Focal Person at the Chancho Health Centre, there are now around 500 clients using the CD4 count of POCT, of which one in ten are children. “Clients are very happy about this machine, since they can discover their CD4 count status just after 20 minutes,” he told us. “There were clients whose CD4 counts had dropped as low as 93. As they start their ART treatment immediately after we know their CD4 count, however, we are very excited when these people show signs of improvement.”

In addition, before the POCT machine was introduced to the Chancho Health Centre, the number of clients allowed to give blood samples was restricted.

Aduna Lema is one of the many client in Chancho health center“The sample we used to take to Fiche hospital was restricted to between 10 and 15,” Abebe Gelme, Chancho Health Centre Laboratory Technician, informs us. As a result, Chancho Health Centre was forced to transport the samples every week. “Despite the large demand, we appointed only 10 to 15 clients to give their blood sample to our Health Centre up until 9 am every Friday morning, since the collected blood samples had to be taken to Fiche right away.”

Some clients coming from far away could not reach to the Health Centre before 9am and missed their chance. They were then appointed to come back again the following week. Often, they did not get the opportunity to have their blood samples taken and felt helpless.

“I know a client whose CD4 count was found to be eight,” Abebe told us. “Now, thanks to the POCT machine, I can have the data and tell the exact status of my client’s CD4 count with confidence.”

The POCT services are now becoming popular, both at the government level and at the grassroots level.

“The Oromia Regional Health Bureau is committed to working with partners,” Asfaw Endebu, Woreda Health Office Head, told us with great pride. “The woreda cabinet knows about the service provided at this Health Centre and we have recently started introducing it to the Health Workers and Health Extension Workers. We are informed about the availability of the machine, and that is why other HCs and HPOs refer cases to this centre.”

With the support of partners, 45 sites with high patient volume, like Chancho Health Centre, have received POCT machines at the initial stage. This ensures that women, like Rediet, and children in remote areas especially will not have to spend time and resources in order to discover their results. This will remove delays and enable more individuals to receive the treatment they need.

*Name changed to protect identity

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The Girl Summit: progress after one year

Originally posted on UNICEF Connect - UNICEF BLOG:

Hamamatou (15) from Niger is the recipient of a UNICEF-supported girls' scholarship that is helping her stay in school.  Hamamatou (15), from Niger, is the recipient of a UNICEF-supported girls’ scholarship that is helping her stay in school. © UNICEF/PFPG2014P-0868/Lynch

Not too long ago UNICEF staff in Uganda shared a story about a girl they called Alice. Alice has spoken at a conference in Uganda recently about how, at 10-years-old, she was forced to drop out of school to prepare for marriage.

But marriage at the age of 10 was only the first injustice. The second? Before marriage, she had to undergo the ritual of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). She was cut in a ceremony with a knife that was used on ten other girls. Disturbing? Yes. Dangerous? Very.

Among the many reasons why we as UNICEF continue to scale up our work to end harmful practices such as child marriage and FGM/C are stories like Alice’s. Alice is a young woman from the north of Uganda where FGM/C is…

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From the Sheikh and Imam to the Nomad: Engaging a Network of Allies to End Polio in Ethiopia’s Somali Region


By Jasmine Pittenger, UNICEF consultant and writer

For many nomads in Ethiopia’s Somali Region, home is a hand-sewn tent.

For many nomads in Ethiopia’s Somali Region, home is a hand-sewn tent. To reach families that are constantly on the move, it is essential to tap into the nomads’ own communication networks. This house-marked tent shows children were reached with the polio vaccine during the campaign. Awbare woreda of the Somali Region, November 2014. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Rozario.

The patches that make up the nomad’s tent say it all. Yellow, orange and red cloth is sewn together with broad stitches — even a pair of trousers is sewn into the mix. Yet the tent is greater than the sum of its parts. It protects a large family from scorching desert sun, from cold nights and rain.

When a polio outbreak struck the Horn of Africa in 2013, WHO and UNICEF with the help of the European Union had to find a way to reach every last child across Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. It was a daunting task to deliver multiple doses of OPV (Oral Polio Vaccine) into the mouths of some of the world’s hardest-to-reach children – from war-torn parts of Somalia to the diverse landscapes of Kenya and Ethiopia. Among the very hardest-to-reach are nomads in Ethiopia’s Somali region, which shares a porous 1,600 kilometer border with Somalia. Here, over 80 per cent of the 5 million people are nomadic, herding cattle, camels and goats across broad stretches of desert in search of water and pasture. For many families, home is a tent sewn together from patches of cloth and carried from one watering hole to another on the back of a camel.

To end the outbreak, it was crucial to deliver messages to families constantly on the move. Yet only 11 per cent of people here have access to newspapers or radio. How, then, do you inform families about polio’s risks and the need for children to take OPV? What is the patchwork that makes up this particular community? How do the nomads themselves pass on life-saving information, and receive it? And who is in a position to mobilize families?

One answer is with the Sheikhs and Imams. The Somali Regional Health Bureau and UNICEF reached out to the Somali Region’s IASC (Islamic Affairs Supreme Council). This part of Ethiopia is close to 100 per cent Muslim, and the IASC Sheikhs and religious leaders, are amongst the most respected and influential personalities amongst nomadic communities here. The communities have faith and belief in what they say, and seek out their teachings even as they’re on the move. Once the highest-level Sheikhs and Imams became engaged in warning parents about polio’s risks and the need for OPV, Islamic leaders at all levels got on board.

“We have partnered with UNICEF and WHO because we believe this is a noble cause that is completely in line with our religion, Islam,” says Sheikh Abdel Rahman Hassan Hussein, President of the IASC in Jigjiga, capital of the Somali region. “From the city to the most remote villages, you will find every person working in this project motivated and doing his/her best. They know they are doing something that almighty Allah will reward them for, at the last day. They know they are saving the lives of children and their future by protecting them from this disease, polio. We take every occasion to tell people about this – from Friday prayers to feasts.”

Another answer: children themselves. Messages about polio and OPV are also being taught in schools, including the religious schools or madrassas that many children attend.

School children

School children – like these, at a religious school near the border with Somalia – can be powerful advocates for polio eradication. Awbare woreda, Somali Region, 2014. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mohamed.

“How many drops of the polio vaccine must be taken, every time the vaccinators come, by each and every child in your home?” asks a teacher at a small IASC-run madrassa on the border with Somalia. “Two drops, two drops!” shout the school children. “How do you know when a child has been vaccinated?” “The finger! The mark on the pinkie finger!” Children clamor to show off where the ink-marks should go on their fingers. Children can be great transmitters of polio messages to their parents. Says 10-year-old schoolboy Hassan: “At home I tell my mother and father about the importance of immunisation to protect little ones under the age of five.”

Parents pay attention – especially when the messages their children bring home are backed up by their local Imams, clan leaders and female community mobilisers who work for polio eradication. In Lafa’isa kebele 04 in the Awbare woreda of the Somali Region, Mrs. Hibo Abdikarim Ibrahim, mother of one-and-a-half-year-old baby boy Mohamed-Amin Abdusalam Abdosh proudly shows his vaccination certificate:

Hibo Abdikarim Ibrahim proudly shows the vaccination certificate for her son

Hibo Abdikarim Ibrahim proudly shows the vaccination certificate for her son, Mohamed-Amin Abdusalam Abdosh, which is a record of his completed routine immunisation schedule. Lafa’isa kebele, Awbare woreda, Somali Region, November, 2014. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Rozario.

“I am so happy my child is fully immunized now. Every National Immunisation Day I also immunize him to protect him from polio. I learned all of this from our lady community mobilizers and we heard the same message in the mosque.”

From Sheikh and Imam to female community mobiliser to clan leader from madrassa student to mother and baby – this is how a movement is built. Each forms a piece of the patchwork to protect children from polio. Just like each dose of polio vaccine, generously funded by the European Union, strengthens the immunity of the community.

Yet there is still much to be done. In the last campaign, 5 per cent of children reached were “zero dose” – they had never before received even a single dose of OPV. This is both hopeful, we are reaching children never reached before, and potentially troubling – are there further pockets of zero dose children we have not yet reached, who are entirely unprotected from polio? And while OPV and Routine Immunisation can go a long way toward protecting children from ten life-threatening, vaccine-preventable diseases, ongoing threats to child health and survival in Ethiopia’s Somali region, and across the Horn of Africa, are great.

Like the patches that make up the nomad’s tent, no single square of cloth is enough on its own. When we join together, from the Sheikh and Imam to the nomad to the international community, the whole is much greater than its parts. Together we can keep building a tent of protection to end polio and improve child health in the Horn of Africa – and to wipe the virus from the face of the earth for good. This can only be done with generous contributions from donors such as the European Union who have enabled the programme to reach the hardest to reach with life-saving polio vaccine.

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Translate commitments to invest in children into action, UNICEF urges leaders at Financing for Development Conference

Rahmat and her baby Ne'ema Abdu-Dessie Zurie Woreda

Rahmat and her baby Ne’ema Abdu-Dessie Zurie Woreda © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Tsegaye

NEW YORK/ADDIS ABABA, 15 July 2015 – At the close of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, UNICEF challenges the international community to turn its promises to invest in children and young people into concrete action that reduces inequities and provides every child with a fair chance in life.

UNICEF welcomes the Addis Ababa Conference’s recognition that investing in children and young people is “critical to achieving inclusive, equitable and sustainable development”. This represents a significant shift away from the perception of children as passive recipients of social spending towards viewing them as agents of future growth and development. 

UNICEF also supports the Conference’s acknowledgement of the “vital importance of promoting and protecting the rights of all children, and ensuring that no child is left behind,” believing that this provides a strong basis for final negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director UNICEF, makes a remark at the Child Protection: Sustaining Investments in Childhood side event

Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director UNICEF, makes a remark at the Child Protection: Sustaining Investments in Childhood side event at FFD3 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

“Here in Addis Ababa member states have agreed on a global roadmap for development finance that recognises in much stronger words than previous agreements that investing in children is central to inclusive and sustainable growth,” said Yoka Brandt, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “The Addis Ababa Action Agenda puts a strong emphasis on equity, on reaching the most vulnerable. Combined with the Sustainable Development Goals, which also give clear priority to the interests of children and equity, we now have a robust, new global foundation for making the world fit for children.”

However, UNICEF warns against complacency and calls upon the international community to build on the commitments made in Addis Ababa by:

  • Prioritising investments in basic universal services such as education, social safety nets, health care, immunisation, water and sanitation and child protection;
  • Identifying and targeting groups and communities with the greatest needs;
  • Progressively mobilising additional resources to address financing gaps in underfunded SDG priority areas with the greatest impacts for children such as nutrition, children protection and early childhood development;
  • Improving reporting on child-related spending including documenting how much funding goes to groups or areas with greater incidences of child deprivation.

“We must make sure that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children are at the heart of the SDGs, and at the heart of how we go about mobilising the financing that is needed to achieve these goals,” Brandt said. “We have a unique opportunity to translate commitments and promise and into action. To turn rhetoric into practical results for all children.”

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

Sustaining Achievements in Polio Eradication in Ethiopia and Africa

High level Vaccination Session During the Financing for Development conference

PDG Dr Tadesse Alemu, President of Rotary National Polio Plus Committee, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Dr Margaret Chan, UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibe, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ms Yoka Brandt and Ethiopian Minister of Health Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu poses for a group picture after vaccinating a group of children at Selam Health Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Sustaining the Achievements in Polio Eradication in Ethiopia: High level Vaccination Session During the Financing for Development conference ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Westerbeek

Addis Ababa | 14 July 2015. Ethiopian Minister of Health Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Dr Margaret Chan, The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) Chief Executive Officer Dr Seth Berkley and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ms Yoka Brandt participated in a high level polio vaccination event at Selam Health Centre in Addis Ababa. Also present at the event were UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibe, US Ambassador Ms Patricia M. Haslach, Brazil Ambassador Mrs Isabel Cristina, President and CEO of PATH Dr Davis Steve, and Rotary National Polio Plus Committee Chairperson PDG Dr Tadesse Alemu as well as national and international EPI partners, health workers and mothers with their children. “Strong leadership, political will and coordination are key to sustaining the gains made in interrupting polio transmission in Ethiopia and Africa,” said Dr Margaret Chan, commending Ethiopia’s aggressive response to the 2013 outbreak of wild polio virus. “Horn of Africa countries should continue to immunise all at risk age groups until the threat drops to zero and eradication is achieved. And this is possible only through high quality immunisation activities for all communities.” When the wild polio virus outbreak in the Horn of Africa spread to Ethiopia in August 2013, the Government of Ethiopia intensified vigilance, surveillance and mass immunisation campaigns, together with partners like WHO, UNICEF, USAID, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Rotary International. Fifteen supplementary immunisation campaigns were implemented with a focus on high risk areas. Cross-border coordination was heightened, with Horn of Africa countries coming together to implement synchronised response activities. It has been 18 months since the last case of wild polio virus was reported in Ethiopia, and 11 months since the last case in Africa. Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu said, “We will focus on equity and quality for every child and mother in Ethiopia,” adding, “The Government of Ethiopia continues to be committed to eradicating polio from Ethiopia, and Africa.” He further affirmed that “The Government of Ethiopia will continue to engage communities for active participation in routine immunisation, and will continue to build strong health partnerships.” With a view of sustaining the achievements in interruption of wild polio virus transmission, and strengthening the immunisation system, the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia, with support from partners, is currently implementing a two-year Routine Immunisation Improvement Plan 2014-2015. The plan pays special attention to low performing prioritised zones and accelerating efforts to support such vulnerable zones to improve performance, among other priority initiatives.

Sustaining the Achievements in Polio Eradication in Ethiopia

Ms Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF gives an anti polio drop to a child at Selam Health Centre. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

Ms. Yoka Brandt, asserted, “Immunisation, especially routine immunisation, is a core priority within UNICEF, and it will continue to be. With the availability of new innovations, new vaccines, and new research and evidence, we can go fast and far.” Immunisation is among the most cost effective interventions we can provide to our children. Yet, one in five children are not fully immunised worldwide. In Ethiopia and Africa, children in remote and marginalised communities are more likely to be missed. It is these same children that carry the highest risk of diseases that vaccines can prevent. Therefore we must refine our strategies to reach these children and include them in our services. Reaching every community is an approach that strives at inclusion of all communities, especially the marginalised children, ensuring resources and services are available and monitoring is in place. Dr Seth Berkley, highlighting GAVI’s commitment to strengthening routine immunisation, said, “Strong routine immunisation systems are a bedrock of healthy societies and are central to global plans for the eradication of polio. By working together, we are reaching more children than ever before with lifesaving vaccines and the GAVI partners are committed to supporting countries like Ethiopia to sustain and build on their progress on immunisation.” WHO, UNICEF, GAVI and other immunisation partners remain committed to support African governments in reaching every community with vaccination – the gift of life. Untitled

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