Project Aims to Ensure Education for Child Laborers in Drought-Affected Ethiopia


AWASSA, Ethiopia (July 29, 2008) — In the districts around Awassa, it is becoming increasingly difficult to earn a livelihood. As the population has grown, the size of available plots of land has diminished. And now drought, along with rising food prices, has exacerbated an already desperate situation.


China: More aid sought for long-term recovery

On Friday, the United Nations issued a new appeal for international aid to assist with earthquake recovery efforts in central China. The aid sought will be used across UN agencies, including UNICEF, to support mid to long-term recovery and reconstruction efforts in earthquake-affected areas.

© UNICEF/ HQ08-0627/Adam Dean
UNICEF Water and Environmental Sanitation Specialist Yang Zhenbo is surrounded by students at a primary school in the town of Danjing Shan, Sichuan Province, China. Yang is assessing related needs in the area. UNICEF will provide water-purification equipment at the school, which was damaged during the earthquake. Students are now attending classes in a temporary school on the grounds.

The total appeal amounts to $33.5 million for the period of July to December 2008. UNICEF's portion of this appeal totals $6.7 million"which will fund just the first phase of UNICEF's three-year recovery plan for the region.

Nine is too young to be married

© UNICEF/HQ95-0154/Shankar
INDIA: A child bride attends the celebrations leading up to her wedding in the Rajgarh District of Madhya Pradesh State.

Recently, two young girls made a very big stir in Yemen. Nujood, who is ten, and Arwa, nine, gained national attention when they very publicly left their husbands. Yes, you read correctly"they left their husbands. Both girls were married to much older men"marriages arranged by their families.

In Yemen"and a shocking number of other countries around the world"child marriage remains a widely accepted practice, especially in very poor and rural areas. There are a bunch of reasons parents may choose to marry off their daughters when they are quite young. Struggling, hungry families may decide they'd be better off with one fewer mouth to feed. Parents may think an early marriage will protect their daughters from random sexual assault. Or they may see these marriages as a way to ensure their daughters won't become pregnant out of wedlock.

One thing is certain"for so many young girls, child marriage crushes their ability to create their own future. Young married girls usually stop attending school. They often become isolated from their family and friends, with playtime replaced by household chores. Girls married at a young age also face serious health risks from pregnancy and childbirth"a girl under age 16 is five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than a woman between the ages of 20 to 24.

Clay Aiken calls for Kenya's kids to return to school

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken recently visited the East African countries of Somalia and Kenya, where UNICEF provides children with health care, education, nutrition, clean water and sanitation. This is the last in a series of blog posts he has written about his experience in the field.

In early July, after visiting Somalia, I traveled to Eldoret, in Kenya's Rift Valley, to visit camps for internally displaced people. This is where some of the worst violence took place following the Kenya elections in early 2008. Thousands of children were made homeless by the unrest.

Everywhere we went, there were the charcoaled remains of homes, schools and shops. We drove for hours and everywhere we went, we saw people trying to get their lives restored.

© US Fund for UNICEF / 2008 / Nick Ysenburg

Although many schools were re-opened, far fewer children are turning up for class than before. And classes are taking place in schools that have been completely destroyed. I saw children sitting on rocks and bricks"which used to make up the foundations and roofs of their schools"using them now as desks and chairs.

Boys need protection too

Earlier this month, I posted an entry on this blog about girls in Darfur being sexually assaulted when they collect firewood in the wilderness. One of our readers left a question that may have crossed many people's minds: "How about letting the MEN collect the firewood?!"

When I first researched this subject, I also wondered why girls in Darfur were left to do this risky chore in secluded areas while boys stayed behind at camp. But I later learned that boys in war-torn countries also suffer horrible abuse, violence and exploitation.

In Darfur, when militias raid villages, they sometimes immediately execute the boys along with the men. In times of war, many fighting groups see young men and boys as threats or as potential soldiers, so boys are either killed or kidnapped and forced to serve in militias.


Copenhagen: It's not just about supplies

© Elizabeth de Velasco, 2008

U.S. Fund for UNICEF staff member Elizabeth de Velasco recently traveled to UNICEF's main supply division warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark, and filed this report.

Sure, there's a warehouse the size of three football fields. But more than that, the UNICEF staff at the supply division in Copenhagen have an expertise in the procurement, shipment and use of international development supplies.

© Elizabeth de Velasco, 2008

For example, the government of Sudan requested that UNICEF manage the supplies needed for its census. UNICEF dispatched Omar, a warehouse employee. He spent five weeks there making sure that there were enough pencils, paper, boxes and trucks for the census to function throughout Sudan"which is roughly the size of western Europe, but insecure and with weak infrastructure.

Another warehouse staff member, John, develops innovative ways to pack and distribute supplies in conflict and post-conflict situations. In a Back-to-School campaign in Afghanistan a few years ago, John figured out how to get the education supplies to all of the new schoolchildren from an Aghanistan supply center. But women and men could not work side-by-side, so John just rigged up a bedsheet to partition the room, and work was able to commence.

© Elizabeth de Velasco, 2008

While the Copenhagen warehouse stores less than ten percent of UNICEF's supplies"the rest get shipped directly from producers to the UNICEF country offices"it does have the items that are most essential to have on hand for emergencies: buckets, blankets, protein biscuits, School-in-a-Box kits, recreation kits, health kits and more. And then UNICEF gets them anywhere in the world in fewer than 48 hours.

Five days left to vote for UNICEF

IM Talkathon

In my last post, I told you all about the i'm Talkathon, a project started by an i'm Initiative fan named Parker to help raise awareness about this incredible program from Microsoft that donates to a social cause every time you send an IM or email. UNICEF is one of the causes, and there are just five days left in the Talkathon!

In these final days, there's a simple way you can help raise awareness for UNICEF and possibly even help us win a big donation from the social netoworking site Facebook. Facebook has pledged $15,000 to the social cause that gets the most votes in their i'm Initiative poll.

Here's the deal: On the "i'm Making a Difference" Group page (, look for the poll on the right margin. Simply vote for your favorite cause. You can see the results in real time.

UNICEF is currently in third place. Help make us #1! Rally your friends. Get out the vote. The more friends who get behind UNICEF, the better we will do. That's what community is all about.

And let's have a round of applause for Facebook's generous pledge. Very cool.

Pneumonia is our nemesis

Not long ago, my very curious niece asked me to explain UNICEF's work. I told her about child survival issues, about how, in certain parts of the world, kids get sick and even die from things that she will never have to worry about: they don't have clean water, don't get enough to eat, come down with pneumonia

© UNICEF/ HQ06-2554/Giacomo Pirozzi
A baby with severe pneumonia lies in the pediatric ward of a hospital in the Solomon Islands. He has a breathing tube in his nose and an intravenous needle taped to his hand.

"Pneumonia!" she said. "Isn't that what old people get when they go outside in winter without a coat?" She's not alone in imagining pneumonia as an elderly man in a wheelchair, coughing quietly from the dim corner of a nursing home. Would you be as shocked as she was to learn that pneumonia is the number one killer of children under five? That more children die from pneumonia than from AIDS, malaria and measles combined?

Somalia: Keep Spreading the Word

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken recently returned from Somalia, where UNICEF provides children in the war-torn nation with health care, education, nutrition, clean water and sanitation. This is the second in a series of blog posts he will write about his experience in the field.

For children in Somalia, the situation is dire. But, it's just amazing to me that UNICEF is still able to make a difference in children's lives in one of the most dangerous places on earth.

© US Fund for UNICEF / 2008 / Nick Ysenburg

For instance, while I was in northwest Somalia"where 45 percent of the population are children and women"I observed how UNICEF improves water, sanitation and hygiene conditions for everyone in the region. One of the ways they do this is by drilling "borewells" so that clean drinking water is easily accessible and readily available. Without these borewells, children would have to walk hours to fetch water instead of going to school and getting an education.

Do good and earn miles

American AirlinesUsually, all that you'd expect in return for a donation to UNICEF is the deep satisfaction of knowing you've helped some of the world's most vulnerable children who are struggling for survival every day.