Reflecting on UNICEF’s 65th anniversary in Benishangul-Gumuz Region

UNICEF's 65th anniversary in Benishangul-Gumuz Region

By Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia
Celebration of 65th Anniversary of UNICEF in Ethiopia held in conjunction with go-back to school campaign, Assosa Benshangul Gumuz Regional State.
UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Tesfaye

31 October 2018

On the 20th of September 2018, Benishangul-Gumuz Government  co-hosted with us an event commemorating 65 years of UNICEF’s presence in Ethiopia. This month, UNICEF’s 65th anniversary coincided with the official opening of schools across Ethiopia. Taking children to school is a moment of great pride for many families who do so in the expectation that their children will have a chance to fulfil their full potential. Indeed, the school may be the most influential institution in a child’s life after family and the home. It is the foundation upon which children seek to build a better future for themselves and their families.

Looking back at 65 years of UNICEF in Benishangul and the development gains the region has achieved, in particular during the period of the Millennium Development Goals, one thing is clear: none of these results would have been possible without the strong commitment and leadership of the Benishangul Regional Government.

An occasion like this reminds us of what more needs to be done to make life better for every child.We should not only reflect on what Ethiopia and the Benishangul Region have achieved in the last 65 years, we should also reflect on what more we can do to improve the wellbeing of every child.

Using this opportunity, we have launched, together with Mr. Ashadli Hassen, President of the Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State, UNICEF’s 65th anniversary publication “Always for Children”. In recent years, the region has succeeded in reducing under-five mortality from 169 per thousand in 2011 to 98 per thousand in 2016. Ninety-seven per cent of health facilities are providing Integrated Management of Childhood Illness services and 98 per cent of health posts provide Integrated Community Case Management and Immunization at scale. We are delighted that, with the support of UNICEF and other partners, the Regional Government has taken a courageous decision to make treatment of under five children free of charge.

In nutrition, the region has one of the highest proportions of children eating diverse foods, which may be explained by the agricultural biodiversity in the region. At 20 per cent, the minimum diet diversity for children in the region is second only to Addis Ababa and higher than the national average of 14 per cent. In the last three years, the number of health centers providing treatment services for severe acute malnutrition has reached 100 per cent, a clear demonstration of the Regional Health Bureau’s commitment to bringing nutrition to the front and center of the region’s development agenda.

Despite the region having a low water supply coverage of 58.2 per cent, the rate of non-functionality of water schemes is only eight per cent. It takes great effort and commitment to achieve such a low rate, and we recognize the strong leadership of the Regional Water Bureau. Sanitation coverage is above the national average, and the Sanitation Marketing Project, which is being piloted in five kebeles with UNICEF support, is yielding significant results in improving access to improved sanitation.

An issue of great concern to us 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 child justice system is also showing promising signs of improvement with the establishment of child-friendly benches in the court system in nine woredas.

Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia showing the UNICEF's 65th photo exhibition to children participating in the event

We are seeing similar progress in education where the Gross Enrolment Rate at pre-primary level has increased from 23.2 per cent in 2012 to 40.1 per cent in 2016. During the last five years, the Primary Net Enrolment Rate has also increased from 89.3 per cent to 96.1 per cent.

As Benishangul-Gumuz is hosting significant numbers of refugees, UNICEF is supporting the region to improve sustainable basic social service delivery through the Building Self-Reliance Project for Refugees and Host Communities. This project is helping to meet the crucial needs of these vulnerable communities.

The story of UNICEF in Benishangul is also the story of thousands of determined and courageous women and men who have worked relentlessly to reach the most vulnerable children. Their tireless efforts for the children and women of Benishangul have not gone unnoticed and as we celebrate the many success stories today, we are also celebrating your contributions. UNICEF remains committed to continue working with you to build on these successes until every child enjoys the dignity and quality of life he or she deserves. In this endeavour, we will continue to work with our NGO partners, civil society, institutions of higher learning, sister UN agencies, and communities.