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Arrival of Mr. Ayalew Abai, newly appointed UNICEF Representative in Nigeria

Abuja, May 18 2005 - Mr. Ayalew Abai, who was appointed as UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, recently arrived in the country to take up office. He will be presenting his credentials shortly to the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Abai is replacing Dr. Gianni Murzi who was appointed as Regional Director for Western and Central Africa last December.

Mr. Ayalew Abai has a long and distinguished career with UNICEF for more than 25 years. Before coming to Nigeria, he was the Deputy Regional Director for the East and Southern Africa Region. In this capacity, Mr. Abai has served as a senior member of the Regional Director's team and provided leadership to the Regional Management Team. He has been representing UNICEF in major global and regional meetings concerning women and children. In this capacity, Mr. Abai has been providing support to country offices in programme development and implementation, as well as monitoring and evaluation.

“Coming to Nigeria, the giant of Africa, is both an honour and a challenge”, said Mr. Ayalew Abai, the new UNICEF Nigeria Representative. “Looking at the report of the UNICEF mid-term review last year, I can see that Nigeria has made important progress such as the passage of the Child Right Act and the Anti-Trafficking Act. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to improve the health status of the child and address the gender gap in primary education. One child in five will die before reaching its fifth birthday while more than seven million children are out of school. This has to change. All Nigerian children should fully enjoy their rights to health, education, protection, development.”

Mr. Abai is a national of Ethiopia. He is married and has three children. He began his UNICEF career in Addis Ababa in 1980 and then moved to Uganda. From 1988 to 1992, Mr. Abai served as Project Officer in New York, Headquarters. He was then appointed as Assistant Representative in The Gambia where he was responsible for the management of the country programme of co-operation. From 1995 to 2001, Mr. Abai served again in New York, initially as Programme Officer in Africa Section and later as Senior Adviser to the Comptroller, Division of Finance and Administrative Management.

Prior to joining UNICEF, Mr. Abai served as General Manager and Deputy General Manager in various companies in both private and public sector in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 1973 to 1980.

Mr. Abai holds a Bachelor's degree in Management (Distinction) from the Haile Sellassie I University (Ethiopia) and a Master's Degree in Public Administration/Policy from Harvard University (United States of America). He was also the recipient of the Littauer Fellow Award for academic excellence and leadership from Harvard University.

For media enquiries, please contact:

  • Geoffrey Njoku, communication officer, UNICEF, Tel: 0803 52 50 288; E-mail:



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