|Ethiopian Olympic star Haile Gebrselassie talks to orphaned children at the launch of the Dream Campaign at the UN compound in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.|
By Andrew Heavens
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, 7 November 2006 – Ethiopian Olympic star Haile Gebrselassie urged people to put on their running shoes to take part in a groundbreaking campaign for Ethiopia’s 6 million orphans.
The long-distance runner shared a stage with fellow athlete Tirunesh Dibaba and the President of Ethiopia, His Excellency Girma Wolde-Giorgis, to launch the 2006 ‘Dream Campaign’ for Ethiopia’s most vulnerable children. The effort is part of UNICEF’s global campaign, UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS, which focuses on the impact of AIDS on children, including orphans.
Organized by UNICEF, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the National Task Force on Orphans and Vulnerable Children, the Dream Campaign aims to:
At the campaign launch, Mr. Gebrselassie talked about his career with more than 100 star-struck orphans and street children. “I told them to be strong,” he said afterwards. “I told them that I had a dream when I was young and I managed to achieve that dream. There is nothing to stop them from achieving their dreams as well.”
Mr. Gebrselassie and Ms. Dibaba then led the children on a run around Africa Hall in the UN’s Addis Ababa compound, where the launch took place.
|Ethiopian Olympic stars Tirunesh Dibaba and Haile Gebrselassie (centre, in tracksuits) run with a group of orphans.|
UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia Björn Ljungqvist said the event would help put the spotlight on the country’s vulnerable children. “Every birr raised in this campaign will go towards programmes that will make a real difference in their lives. The only way things are going to change is if we all get involved,” he noted.
“At the moment, UNICEF is supporting 240,000 orphans in Ethiopia through microcredit schemes that help families look after orphans in the community. If we are going to reach all 6 million orphans in the same way, we are going to have to raise an extra $12 million per year for the next five years,” Mr. Ljungqvist continued, noting that the 1 million birr appeal was only part of UNICEF’s plans for Ethiopia’s orphans and vulnerable children.
More than 744,000 of Ethiopia’s orphans have lost parents to AIDS. These huge numbers are overwhelming extended families and communities who struggle to help where they can.
As a result, many orphans do not go to school, and many are forced to live on the street. They get caught up in child labour, taking on the drudgery of domestic service and the dangers of sex work.
Many orphans have to become the heads of their own households, taking the place of their deceased parents. These young people often sacrifice their own education to guarantee a better future for their younger siblings.
Ethiopia’s National Task Force on Orphans and Vulnerable Children – which is working to address these problems through the Dream Campaign and other initiatives – includes representatives of Save the Children USA, USAID, UNAIDS, Hope for Children, the Ethiopian Inter-Faith Forum for Development, the Christian Relief and Development Association, Federal HAPCO, the Hope for African Children Initiative, World Vision and the Ministries of Youth and Sport, Justice and Education.