The children




UNICEF Eritrea/2014/Pirozzi
© UNICEF Eritrea/2014/Pirozzi

Eritrea is located in the Horn of Africa bordered by Sudan on the northwest, the Red Sea to the northeast, Ethiopia to the south, and by Djibouti to the southeast. The country is divided into six administrative zones, known as zobas, namely: Maekel, Anseba, Debub, Gash Barka, Northern Red Sea (NRS), and Southern Red Sea (SRS).

Although there has been no census carried out in Eritrea since its independence in 1991, the 2010 Eritrea Population and Health Survey (EPHS) estimated a population of 3.2 million. It is estimated that 65 per cent of the Eritrean population live in countryside, and over 55 per cent are under the age of 18.

Children and women in Eritrea remain especially vulnerable to under-nutrition and residual effects of decades of war that limit young children’s physical growth and development. Many of Eritrea’s population continue to be vulnerable to threats posed by unequal access to food, health services, education, social protection and employment. This is further compounded by the impact of natural hazards, such as floods, volcanic eruptions, displacement of landmines and drought. Food shortages, declining aid, and the continued “no war, no peace” stalemate with Ethiopia are all contributing factors to vulnerability in Eritrea.

In spite of these challenges, Eritrea has made good progress in the achievement of the health-related MDGs 4, 5 and 6. The infant mortality rate (IMR) is 42 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010, reduced from 72/1000 live births in 1995 while the under-five mortality rate (U5MR) is 63 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010 down from136 deaths per 1000 live births in 1995. The neonatal mortality rate however, has changed marginally from 25/1000 live births in 1995 to 23/1000 live births in 2010 (EPHS 2010). Maternal mortality has been reduced to 450 deaths per 100,000 live births from 998/100,000 live births in 1995.

UNICEF partners with the Government of the State of Eritrea (GoSE) in the areas of Health and Nutrition; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene; Basic Education; and Child Protection. The agency is the largest UN agency in Eritrea and has been present in the country prior to independence in 1991. Health and Nutrition is the largest programme component and covers the continuum of care for Maternal, New-born and Child health and nutrition, addressing emergency issues as well as development ones to build stronger resilience within communities. The areas covered are related to Integrated Management of New-born and Childhood Illness (IMNCI), immunisation, maternal health, PMTCT, management of acute malnutrition and reduction stunting with a focus on micronutrient deficiencies, prevention of low birth weight, Infant and Young Child Feeding as well as emergency preparedness and response.

The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Programme comprises safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene – increasing hand washing and reducing open defecation; and school WASH. UNICEF’s partnership with the Ministry of Education focuses on ensuring equity of access to quality basic education with particular attention to disadvantaged communities. The key education interventions are Nomadic Education and Complementary Elementary Education targeting at least 100,000 school-age children currently out of school in Southern Red Sea, Northern Red Sea, Anseba and Gash Barka. The Child Protection Programme comprises Community Based Social Assistance, Abandonment of FGM/C, Reduction of Child Marriage and Birth Registration.



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