Commemorating UNICEF’s 65th anniversary in Oromia Region, Ethiopia
Yesterday, we co-hosted an event commemorating 65 years of UNICEF’s presence in Ethiopia with the Oromia Regional Government.
During the event, I shared the importance to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls from all corners. Violence against women and girls occurs in the home, the school, and the community. When gender-based violence occurs in the home, it creates an atmosphere of fear and mistrust; it leaves children with deep psychological scars that remain well into adulthood; and it risks turning these same children into violent abusers when they become adults.
Looking back at 65 years of UNICEF in Oromia and the gains the region has achieved, in particular during the period of the Millennium Development Goals, it is clear that none of these results would have been achieved without the strong commitment and leadership of the Oromia Regional Government.
Remarkable progress has been made in strengthening the health system and improving maternal, newborn, and child health services in the region. Potential health service coverage by health centre is 98 per cent, and the integrated community case management and community-based newborn care programme has been rolled to all health posts. Immunization services are now delivered in every health facility and we are delighted that, with the support of UNICEF and other partners, the Regional Government has made treatment of under five children free of charge.
In nutrition, the Region has scored improvements in the nutritional status of under five children and women. However, stunting persists at rate of 36.5% and wasting is at 10.4 %. A lot remains to be done to significantly reduce the burden in the coming years.
Women of reproductive age are vulnerable to chronic energy deficiency and malnutrition due to inadequate food intake and inequitable food distribution within the household. The nutritional status of mothers in Oromia remains sub-optimal as nearly 22 per cent are thin with a body mass index of less than 18.5.
UNICEF, with collaboration from the Regional Government, has provided safe water to millions through the construction of small-to-large water supply systems. Two months ago, we inaugurated a multi village water scheme in Welenchiti town together with the Oromia Regional Government and our UK government partners. Similarly, UNICEF has assisted communities to have their own household latrines and improve their hygiene practices through the introduction of low cost and high impact innovative technologies.
Despite these achievements, we have a long way to go to provide access to safe water and adequate sanitation for all and to end the practice of open defecation.
In education, the primary school net enrolment ratio in Oromia region (NER) reached 97.4 per cent. This is a phenomenon achievement for which the regional government deserves to be commended!
However pre-primary gross enrolment remains at 32 per cent (30.6 per cent for girls. That said, the region still has a long way to go to improve the quality of education.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) declined from 87 per cent to 75.6 per cent since 2011. But this still remains one of the highest rate in the country next to Somali (98.5%), Afar (91.2%) and Harari (81.7%) and above the national average (65.2%)
Another issue of great concern is the low rates of children registered at birth. In the last few years, we have worked hard to support the establishment of the Vital Event Registration Agency and, with it, a comprehensive national birth registration system. With the system now in place in kebeles across the region, we want to see more children having birth certificates.
The story of UNICEF in Oromia is also the story of thousands of determined and courageous women and men who have worked relentlessly to reach the most vulnerable children. UNICEF remains committed to continue working with Oromia Regional Government to build on these successes until every child enjoys the dignity and quality of life he or she deserves.