Ethiopia to run united to create the future we want

United Nations banner for UN at 70

United Nations banner for UN at 70 at the launching of Great Ethiopia Run’s Plan International Ethiopia children races and Running for a Cause campaign, Addis Ababa Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

The UN turns 70 this year. The UN agencies in Ethiopia are preparing for the historic moment to celebrate the achievements of the organisation while recommitting itself to support the country in tackling problems associated with, poverty, education, health, children, refugees, conflict prevention and climate change. As part of the celebration the UN is partnering with the Great Ethiopian Run to stage an annual run with a theme “Unite to create the future we want” in which 40,000 people are expected to participate. The annual running carnival is Africa’s biggest 10km race and it continues to attract more people around the world each year. Representing the UN, George Okutho, United Nations Resident Coordinator (a.i.) speaking today at the launching of Plan International Ethiopia children races and Running for a Cause campaign said, “sport is a vehicle for development and we view our partnership as an important means of getting our message across to a wider audience and hence, encouraging positive change in Ethiopia.”

A girl stands in the crowd wearing 2015 GER childrens race t-shirt

A girl stands in the crowd wearing 2015 GER children’s race t-shirt at the launching of Great Ethiopia Run’s Plan International Ethiopia children races and Running for a Cause campaign, Addis Ababa Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

This year’s children race theme is “I Am A Girl Child Do Not Make Me A Child Mother.” In Ethiopia, one in every five girls and is prevalent across all the regions. In Amhara nearly half of the girls are married before the age of 18.

As announced in June this year Haile Gebreselassie, the legendary long-distance track and road running athlete, will lead 40,000 participants as his last local race at the 15th edition of the Great Ethiopian Run taking place on Sunday 22 November 2015.

“I am running my last race here in Ethiopia and I would like to be a champion for ending a child marriage. In rural areas, the problem is still highly persistent.” Relating to his own life, Haile said, “My mother had me when she was 14 and this has to stop.”

The UN in Ethiopia supports the Great Ethiopian Run annually not only to promote important social messages but also to raise funds to charities. Under the annual official fundraising campaign “Running for a Cause”, the UN and Great Ethiopian Run target to raise 1.4 million birr this year. The fund will be used for social protection and welfare programmes run by local charities that are selected by the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs. The UN also worked with the Great Ethiopian Run to organise regional races in the regional capitals to promote the MDG goals and will continue to promote the new post MDG, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Including high officials from partners, renowned personalities including, Chachi Tadesse, Seleshi Demissie (Gash Abera Molla) and Nibret Gelaw (Eke) stressed the importance of running for a cause and pledged to support the UN, the Great Ethiopian Run and partners in their humanitarian work.

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Girls’ Empowerment Race in Samara to end Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)

Children race held on the event Girl's Empowerment Regional race

Start of the Children race held as part of Girl’s Empowerment communication campaign in Gonder, Amhara region, Ethiopia © UNICEF Ethiopia 2015/Tesfaye

Addis Ababa, Samara, 1 October 2015 – UNICEF Ethiopia, in partnership with the Afar Bureau of Women Children and Youth Affairs (BoWCYA), the Afar Sport Commission and the Great Ethiopian Run, is organising a mass participation 5 km race in Samara on Sunday 4 October 2015, to promote Girls’ Empowerment. The theme of the run in Samara is “Ending Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting.”

Despite a steady reduction in Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) nationally over the past decade, most recent official data from the 2011 Welfare and Monitoring Survey indicates that one in every four girls (23 per cent) is subjected to the practice. In the Afar Region, there has also been a steady decline, however, still an alarming 60 per cent of girls under the age of 14 years are subjected to female genital mutilation/cutting, placing the region second after Somali.[i]

In Afar, girls are subjected to an extreme form of the practice – infibulation – which involves total cutting of the genitalia followed by stitching. This practice usually happens when girls are between seven and nine years old, but in some districts in Afar this practice even occurs when girl babies are only a few days old. 

The Government, recognising that the abandonment of female genital mutilation requires a human-rights based approach and coordinated joint action by all actors, has adopted a National Strategy and Action Plan on Harmful Traditional Practices against Women and Children (2013) and established a National Alliance to End Child Marriage and FGM/C.

The Government of Afar with UNICEF and other partners is implementing interventions to address FGM/C around 3 pillars: prevention, protection and provision of services. Regarding prevention, girls’ empowerment programmes are underway through girls clubs, incentives to keep girls in school and social mobilisation activities, including this race. In addition, religious leaders and communities are working together in social mobilisation initiatives through community conversations and public declarations on the abandonment of the practice coupled with health extension workers’ awareness-raising efforts with communities on the negative health impact of the practice. Police, judges and prosecutors are being trained and specialised police units have been established to better respond to cases of FGM/C and to provide protection and child-friendly justice to girls. Health practitioners are increasingly providing services to girls who are suffering from complications resulting from FGM/C.

Through the ‘UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Accelerating Change’,  UNFPA and UNICEF support the Government of Ethiopia and other partners such as the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA) and Rohi Weddu to strengthen legislation outlawing the practice and to carry out activities enabling communities to make a coordinated and collective choice to abandon FGM/C.

FGM victim Ten year old Sadiye Abubakar in Mille, Afar, Ethiopia

Ten year old Sadiye Abubakar, admitted to Barbara May Hospital in Mille, Afar with her mother Sofya, unable to pass urine for more or less a month. ©Ethiopia/2013/Colville-Ebeling

“FGM/C is a violation of a girl’s right to health, well-being and self-determination,” says Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “FGM/C may cause severe pain and can result in prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and even death. FGM/C is also harmful to new-borns due to adverse obstetric outcomes, leading to perinatal deaths.  The challenge now is to let girls and women, boys and men speak out loudly and clearly and announce they want this harmful practice abandoned,” she added.

A total of 2000 adults and 500 children are expected to participate in the mass mobilisation race, while over 5000 thousand spectators are expected to attend the community outreach programme. In addition, a photo and art exhibition, which is open to the public, and a media roundtable discussion will take place on the eve of the race. 

The events will be attended by high-level government dignitaries, representatives from the UN, NGOs, CSOs and members of the media. In addition, Thomas Gobena also known as “Tommy T”, international bass player for Gogol Bordello Band and who will be appointed as a National Ambassador to UNICEF Ethiopia this month will attend the activities in Samara. Other renowned artists and sport personalities will also attend the event to support the messaging around Girls’ Empowerment.

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Men to protect women from any form of violence says Aster Aweke

By Wossen Mulatu

11 September 2015: On Ethiopian New Year’s Eve, Aster Aweke, one of Ethiopia’s greatest music icon, and UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia, delivered a strong message on girls’ and women empowerment to thousands of fans gathered at her concert in Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa.

“My wish for the new year is for girls to succeed in their education and reach their full potential equally as boys,” said Aster during her performance. “All of you men have the responsibility to protect women from violence. Please do not standby and keep silent when you see women being abused and their rights violated because they are your mothers and your sisters and you should protect them!”

asterHer messages on girls’ empowerment comes at a right time when the Government of Ethiopia took a heroic step by making a ground-breaking commitment to end Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) including child, early and forced marriage and Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) in the country by 2025. To this end, UNICEF and its partners are supporting the Government to improve the quality of lives of Ethiopian girls and women and, ultimately, to accelerate progress for the country at large. In addition, this feeds into the proposed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, as part of the Post-2015 development agenda.

Since her appointment as a national ambassador in 2010, Aster has supported different UNICEF activities and campaigns that benefit the women and children of Ethiopia by participating in high-level meetings and campaigns.

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Gonder and Samara to spearhead Girls’ Empowerment Races

Addis Ababa, Gonder, 17 September 2015 – UNICEF Ethiopia, in partnership with the Amhara Bureau of Women Children and Youth Affairs (BoWCYA), the Gonder City Administration Culture, Tourism and Sport Department and the Great Ethiopian Run, are organising a mass participation 5 km race in Gonder on Sunday 20 September 2015, and in Samara on 4 October 2015, to promote Girls’ Empowerment.

A total of 5,000 adults and 1,250 children are expected to participate in the running events, while over 10,000 thousand spectators are expected to attend the event and the messaging. Besides, two community outreach programmes are planned in both locations and expect to reach thousands. In addition, a photo and art exhibition and media roundtable discussion will take place on the eve of the race.

The twoPoster- Great Ethiopian Run in Gondar races will focus on themes relevant to each region. In Gonder, the focus will be on “Ending Child Marriage” while in Samara, the emphasis will be on “Ending Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting (FGM/C).”

In Ethiopia, one in every five girls is married before the age of 18 and this practice is prevalent across all the regions. In Amhara nearly half of the girls are married before the age of 18 (44.8 per cent, EGLDAM, 2008). Nearly 60 per cent of cases of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is practiced in the Afar Region.

“UNICEF strongly believes that by 2025, Ethiopia will no longer have cases of child marriage, but this will only happen if we all work together – the government, civil society, religious and community leaders, women, men, boys and the girls themselves,” said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia.

The event will be attended by high-level government dignitaries, representatives from the UN, NGOs, CSOs and members of the media. In addition, Abelone Melesse, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia, and renowned artists and sport personalities including Haregwoine Assefa and athlete Gebeyaneshe Ayele respectively (winner of the 15 km Dasani Road Race in Addis Ababa in June and winner of Millennium half marathon in Accra Ghana two weeks ago) will be attending the activities in Gonder to support the messaging around Girls’ Empowerment.


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Nearly 50 million lives saved since 2000; millions more can be saved by 2030: UNICEF

New-born shows an improving health status after being treated at Yekatit 12 Hospital Medical College, in Neonatal intensive care unit.

Premature newborn health is improving after being treated at Yekatit 12 Hospital Medical College, in Neonatal intensive care unit. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mersha

NEW YORK/Addis Ababa, 9 September 2015 – The rate of decline in mortality among the world’s youngest children has more than doubled over a generation, and an additional 38 million lives could be saved by 2030 if progress accelerates further, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) world leaders are set to approve later this month.

Since 2000, when governments committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the lives of 48 million children under the age of five have been saved. This remarkable progress is the result of sustained action by leaders – to make saving children’s lives a policy and a political priority, to improve and use data about child survival, and to scale up proven interventions.

The number of children who die from mostly preventable causes before they turn five now stands at 5.9 million a year – a 53 per cent drop since 1990. At 3.9 percent the global annual rate of reduction of under-five mortality between 2000 and 2015 was more than twice as high as what it was in the 1990s.

Some of the world’s poorest countries have demonstrated that substantial reductions in child mortality can be achieved despite formidable obstacles:

  • 24 out of 81 low- and lower-middle income countries, including Cambodia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Uganda, achieved the MDG of reducing the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds or more.[1]
  • Between 2000 and 2015, twenty-one sub-Saharan African countries reversed a rising mortality trend or at least tripled their pace of progress compared to the 1990s.

Low income countries are: Cambodia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania. Lower-middle income countries are: Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Egypt, El Salvador, Georgia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan; Nicaragua; Timor-Leste; Yemen.

To reiterate the agenda, A Call to Action Summit took place from 27-28 August 2015 in New Delhi, India with the aim of ending preventable deaths of children and mothers by 2035. This was a prelude to the United Nations Summit for the adoption of post-2015 development agenda that will be held as a high-level plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly in September 2015.The two-day Leadership Summit was a confluence of health ministers from over 10 priority countries that committed to the global Call to Action for Child Survival in June 2012 including Ethiopia.

At the Summit, Ethiopia was represented by His Excellency Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu accompanied by the technical team, including representatives from CSOs. In addition, Abelone Melese, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia, deliberated a speech and recited two songs entitled, “Welaj Enat” and “Happy Birthdays” to the participants of the Summit.

Dr. Kesete presented the progress accomplished by the Government of Ethiopia during the last decade and the new priorities- Ensuring “Quality” & Equity” in health care. He said, “The Government of Ethiopia is committed to end preventable maternal and child deaths. This will be possible through unwavering political commitment, community ownership, and universal health

coverage of high impact interventions. To consolidate the gains that were made during the MDGs and accelerate the progress towards the noble cause of ending preventable maternal and child deaths, the Ministry of Health has developed a 5-year-Health Sector Transformation Plan (HSTP) 2015-2020. The plan has set out ambitious goals to be achieved in this period. I would like to state four of the transformational agendas that were set out in this plan. Ensuring “Quality” & Equity” in health care: Equity and quality are the core goals of the health sector transformation plan, which aspires to build a high performing health system”.

UNICEF will continue to support the Government of Ethiopia to sustain the gains made on Child Survival and ensure that the unfinished business of neonatal and maternal mortality are rapidly addressed.

“Saving the lives of millions of children in urban and rural settings, in wealthy and poor countries, is one of the first great achievements of the new millennium — and one of the biggest challenges of the next 15 years is to further accelerate this progress” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt. “The data tell us that millions of children do not have to die — if we focus greater effort on reaching every child.”

Simple, high-impact, cost effective solutions that contributed to this dramatic reduction of under-five deaths include skilled antenatal, delivery and postnatal care; breastfeeding; immunization; insecticide-treated mosquito nets; improved water and sanitation; oral rehydration therapy for diarrhoea; antibiotics for pneumonia; nutritional supplements and therapeutic foods.

Despite this impressive progress, the world has not met the MDG target of reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds.

Between 1990 and the end of 2015, an estimated 236 million children will have died from mostly preventable causes before turning five. Today, leading causes of under-five deaths include prematurity; pneumonia; complications during labour and delivery; diarrhoea; and malaria. Under-nutrition contributes to nearly half of all under-five deaths.

The SDGs challenge countries to significantly increase their efforts to bring rates of under-five mortality down to 25 deaths (or fewer) per 1,000 live births by 2030. By picking up the pace, especially in countries that are lagging, the world stands to save the lives of 38 million more children under the age of five.

About A Promise Renewed

Since its initiation in 2012, A Promise Renewed has focused on promoting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 of reducing the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, and continuing the effort until no child or mother dies from preventable causes. Partners that support A Promise Renewed have committed to five priority actions:

  1. Increasing efforts in the countries facing the greatest challenges on under-five mortality;
  2. Scaling up access to underserved populations everywhere;
  3. Addressing the causes that account for the majority of under-five deaths;
  4. Increasing emphasis on the underlying drivers of child mortality, such as women’s education and empowerment;
  5. Rallying around a shared goal and using common metrics to track progress.

Download the report

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ECHO’s support realises a safe space for South Sudan refugee children to be children

By Charlene Thompson

Children in one of the child friendly spaces in the Kule Refugee Camp

Children in one of the child friendly spaces in the Kule Refugee Camp ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Thompson

Gambella, Ethiopia 31 October, 2014 – There’s an exciting game of volleyball being played and both the participants and spectators are intently focused on the next move. A young boy serves and the ball hits the net; he doesn’t quite get it over but the children are laughing.

It’s a scene that could have taken place on any playground, with any group of children but this game is being played in the Kule Refugee Camp in Gambella, Ethiopia and all of the children here fled the war in South Sudan. This volleyball game is being played in one of the child friendly spaces (CFS) developed by UNICEF and Plan International with the financial support of ECHO and in partnership with Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) who manage the camp.

“This child friendly space is providing a safe area for children in this camp where they can play and learn and be themselves,” said Chuol Yar, a 27 year old refugee who is one of the camp’s community child protection workers. “This is a place where they can come and feel protected and love themselves. If they cannot do this here, then we are not doing things well,” he added.

According to UNICEF, child friendly spaces are designed to support the resilience and well‐being of children and young people through community organised, structured activities conducted in a safe, child friendly, and stimulating environment. Through the partnership between UNICEF and Plan International, 31 community child protection workers (14 female and 17 male) were trained in June and are currently providing support to children in two permanent and three temporary child friendly spaces in the Kule Camp.

They received training in principles of child friendly spaces, management of child friendly spaces, developing activities for children and monitoring and response to the needs of children.

The child friendly spaces in the Kule Refugee Camp cater to children from 3-18 years of age and they provide play areas for football, volleyball, jump rope and other outdoor activities. In addition, there are traditional storytelling sessions, dramas that are performed by the children, singing, reading materials and spaces where adolescents can engage in peer discussions.

South Sudan refugee children play in child friendly centre in Gambella Ethiopia

South Sudan refugee children play in child friendly centre in Gambella Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

The community child protection workers also visit homes in the Kule Camp to encourage parents to send their children to the child friendly spaces.

“I let the parents know all of the activities that we have in the child friendly spaces and tell them that it is a protected space where the children can play safely,” said David Riang, another community child protection worker at the refugee camp. “The parents usually agree and send the children to the child friendly spaces,” he said as his colleague Chuol quickly added “I tell them without play children cannot learn. Play is important for a child’s mental development.”

In addition to the Kule Camp, UNICEF, with the support of ECHO, is supporting child friendly spaces at the Tierkidi Camp and at the Akobo border entry point. “The children in these camps have already experienced very difficult and tragic circumstances in their short lives. The aim of these child friendly spaces is to provide a safe space where a child can come and be a child,” said Tezra Masini, Chief of the UNICEF Field Office in Gambella.

For many of the community child protection workers this experience has also provided them with the opportunity to develop skills and actively participate in supporting their community. Many are from the same regions in South Sudan and having fled war also share similar experiences with the children. They communicate with the children in their local language and tell traditional stories and social teachings of their clan.

“My dream if God is willing is to become a medical doctor and support my community,” Chuol said and it is a sentiment expressed by other community child protection workers as well. “My dream is for our children to have a better future and hopefully return home one day to a peaceful South Sudan,” noted Bigoa Kuong, a 24 year old social worker who then quickly added with a broad smile, “and also a basketball court for the children to play.”

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In Ethiopia, a partnership to improve nutrition

By Christine Nesbitt

A joint EU-UNICEF programme reaches rural communities in Ethiopia to address undernutrition among mothers and children through monitoring, treatment and guidance.

GEMECHIS, Ethiopia, 24 August 2015 – Early in the morning, one-and-a-half-year-old Mikias Asnake laughs as his mother, Meseret Haile, bathes him at home in the Gemechis woreda (district), in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. Meseret is preparing to join a community conversation at the nearby Wolargi health post, to learn how to ensure the health of children and mothers in the community.

Meseret Haile, with her son Mikias on her back, prepares food at a community information session on nutrition at the Wolargi health post, in Ethiopia's Oromia region.

Meseret Haile, with her son Mikias on her back, prepares food at a community information session on nutrition at the Wolargi health post, in Ethiopia’s Oromia region. ©UNICEF Video

Meseret and her son Mikias are among approximately a million children and 600,000 pregnant and lactating women in four African countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mali and Uganda) targeted by Africa’s Nutrition Security Partnership (ANSP). In Ethiopia, the focus is on 20 woredas in the Amhara, Oromia and Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples (SNNP) regions. Ethiopia is nearing the end of a four-year national nutrition security programme supported jointly by the European Union and UNICEF, which builds on government-led efforts to reduce the rates of undernutrition among children under 5 years old and mothers.

With a population of more than 30 million people, Oromia is Ethiopia’s largest region, and more than 80 per cent of its residents live in rural areas. Health Extension Worker Binti Mohammed is one of those helping to improve infant and young feeding practices, as well as maternal and adolescent nutrition.

Key aspects of the community-based nutrition programme are monthly growth monitoring and promotion, community conversations, iron folate supplementation for pregnant mothers as well as promoting local complementary food production.

Community outreach

“Before the nutrition programmes started, there was a lack of awareness in the community,” Binti says. “Some people didn’t know they could feed their children well using locally available ingredients.”

Today, the Government’s Heath Extension Programme deploys more than 36,000 health extension workers, who provide community-based health promotion and disease-prevention services, mostly to people in rural areas.

Binti explains that women bring their children to the health post on a monthly basis for growth-monitoring sessions and nutrition counselling. If the child is doing well, Binti encourages the mother to continue feeding her child properly. If the child is moderately underweight or has not gained enough weight since the previous growth-monitoring session, she will counsel the mother on possible causes and solutions. Inadequate household food security, poor child feeding practices, inadequate access to sanitation and safe water, recurring drought and harmful social and traditional practices all contribute to malnutrition in Oromia.

Health extension worker Binti Mohammed counsels a woman, who is holding her infant, on best nutrition practices

Health extension worker Binti Mohammed counsels a woman, who is holding her infant, on best nutrition practices, at the health post in the village of Wolargi, in Gemechis, a woreda (district) of Oromia Region © UNICEF/NYHQ2014-3628/Nesbitt

Changing behaviour

Reflecting on the past situation, Binti notes, “There is a big change. Previously, if their children became malnourished, people would take them to traditional healers and wait until they were close to dying. They never took them to a health facility. Now, since we saved children here at the facility, people have started bringing malnourished children from every village to the health post.”

At the Wolargi Health Post, Meseret attends the dialogue with community members exploring best practices for feeding children in their community, followed by a practical demonstration.

“We started in the morning with a community conversation, and then the health worker showed us how to prepare nutritious food for our children,” she says. “We learned that the porridge should also include vegetables, because they’re good for the child’s health.”

The ingredients of the porridge include wheat, barley, sorghum, oats, lentils, beans, groundnuts, cabbage, milk, egg, potato, carrot, beetroot, iodised salt and oil.

“My plan, starting from today, is to feed my baby in a proper way, and to keep his mind bright, and to make him a good student, to help him have a good status in society in the future,” Meseret says.

Through the community-based nutrition programme, the project supports building the resilience of communities to food insecurity. It is also designed to strengthen the community’s ability to recognise the causes of malnutrition and to take action by making better use of family, community and external support networks. Since 2011, the number of underweight children participating in the programme has been halved.

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