In Ethiopia a number of international agencies have been operating and contributing their share for the overall development of the nation. UNICEF Ethiopia is a case in point. It has been working here in Ethiopia for 65 years. Most recently, The Ethiopian Herald made a short stay with UNICEF representative in Ethiopia Gillian Mellsop to recognize what the organization has been done over the years.
She said that involving across many sectors, UNICEF supports the Ethiopian government in several issues associated with children. A child protection, for instance, is one among the major area of focus. Avoiding harmful traditional practices, reducing child marriage, female genital mutilation or cutting are also other area of support that it works on. In general, the organization has been supporting the incredible commitment of the government to end traditional harmful practices by 2025.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Education UNICEF has assisted in early childhood development. Accordingly, the country is investing in children before they are going to school. In this regard, it has been contributing its share for the overall growth of Ethiopia.
Regarding hygiene and sanitation, UNICEF is working very closely with the Rural, Urban and Water Ministry as well as State Bureaus to looking into the whole range of issues from urban wash to deep holes water access to remote villagers under the schemes of safe water. Recognizing shortage of pure water in these areas, it has been striving to make water available particularly for the most disadvantaged families particularly to mainstream hygiene management for girls.
Under Wash Programme, UNICEF has recently launched a new programme called- Baby Wash. The programme is led by Ministry of Health and concerned ministries are involved in it. The major purpose of the programme is making sure that children below the age of three would have very good hygiene. At the end of the programme, it would assume to bring real change in children’s health.
Nutrition is another area of focus. Ethiopia has executed promising tasks in bringing down stunting rate since the year 2000. Recent data indicated that child stunting rate is reduced from 58 to 38 percent. Though the result is encouraging, still far too many children are stunted. Again, UNICEF is doing various jobs closely with communities and the government to look how parents can feed their children diversified food, encourages breast feeding and provides support to children who are in severe malnutrition problem through community malnutrition management system.
UNICEF has also a very strong hope to working across the country particularly in supporting vaccination programmes. It helped the government via establishing mobile help and nutrition teams that provide nutrition and health services to pastoral communities particularly in Afar and Somali States. In social policy programme, UNICEF is looking how much money is allocated for children. In this regard, it works jointly with the incumbent and try new ways of support for families in productive Safety-Net Programme. By deploying social workers, it is possible to assist the most vulnerable families, bring their children to school, and deliver vaccination in the health centers.
UNICEF is also providing humanitarian support for draught affected hot spot areas. The programme, which was started after World War II, is providing emergency and humanitarian assistance to children in Japan. From that day on, UNICEF continues to have a very good humanitarian response. In connection with the El Nino induced drought which is still affecting families of the lowlands of the Ethiopian Somali State, Borena, South Omo Zones, it is providing water and sanitation materials particularly for children who are under severe malnutrition.
Child protection and emergency service provision is the other area focus. With regard to child protection, good progresses were recorded here in Ethiopia. As it is clearly stipulated in the 2016 Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey, quite significant reduction has shown particularly in child marriage. In the area of child justice, for instance, UNICEF is working closely with the Attorney General and Federal First Instance Court. In this case, remarkable achievements have been registered in child justice.
Take the issue of child trafficking; children affected by trafficking had faced troubles to expose the suspect by telling what they had encountered in the court room. These days, they give witness without any difficulty putting in a simple room assisted with social workers and CCTV. Thus, the presence of the facility has its own paramount importance in ensuring child protection.
And the other area of intervention is birth registration. The civil birth registration for children in Ethiopia was very low. More recently, the Government has started birth registration as well as marriage adoption and death via establishing Vital Events Registration Agency. In this regard, UNCEF has been supporting the agency through building the capacity workers since the establishment of the agency.
In terms of policy, the new birth registration is extremely important and all stakeholders need to come together to make sure parents are registering the birth of their children.
By and large, though some changes have been recorded, a lot remain to be done to further stamp out violence against children. As it is a fundamental and very important right to ensure child rights, all stakeholders need to focus on sexual, physical and psychological violence within communities and schools too.
BY GIRMACHEW GASHAW