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Report: Ethiopian Children Better Off, Still Lack Full Rights

  • Peter Heinlein

A boy who subsists on a diet of grain, stands in his father's cornfield. Reliance on a one-food crop leaves the family vulnerable to crop failure and malnourishment, in Shebedino in the south of Ethiopia. (File photo)

A boy who subsists on a diet of grain, stands in his father's cornfield. Reliance on a one-food crop leaves the family vulnerable to crop failure and malnourishment, in Shebedino in the south of Ethiopia. (File photo)

The Ethiopian government and the United Nations children's organization have released a report on children's rights, saying that the country's high inflation rate, youth unemployment and lack of an organized system of child protection are preventing many children from enjoying their full rights.

There is some good news for children in the report, entitled Investing in Boys and Girls in Ethiopia: Past, Present and Future.

The under-five mortality rate dropped from 200 per 1,000 in 1990 to an average of less than 90 for the last five years. More than 7,500 primary schools were added since 2005, and the number of community therapeutic feeding centers increased from 200 three years ago to 10,000, saving many children’s lives.

But there is what the report calls “capacity gaps” in Ethiopian society that need to be closed.

“There are no social workers in this country apart from the few that are hired by civil society or organizations here and there," said Roger Pearson, chief of research evaluation policy and monitoring at the U.N. children’s agency in Ethiopia. "Their role will be to have a social worker service. That’s possibly the biggest hole in realizing children’s rights. It is really kind of pinpointing and identifying those most vulnerable children for one reason or another.”

The report also points to Ethiopia’s inflation rate - averaging up to 40 percent over the past two years - as a major stumbling block for spending on programs and services for children. There are also rising levels of unemployment, especially among the youth.

Pearson says the biggest challenge facing the Ethiopian government is a lack of funding and other resources to be able to put programs and services for children in place.

“If Ethiopian society is expecting better quality services provided by the state, they are going to have to pay more taxes," he said. "They are only paying 11.5 percent of GDP as taxes, compared to the African average of 25 percent of GDP."

Ato Haji Ibsa, the public relations director at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, says his government plans to carry out education campaigns in the private sector on the issue of taxation.

“Everyone has to now pay the tax so that we get the best roads, we get health centers, we [get] classrooms and so on, so that we teach more by seminars, or thought interviews through the television and the radio, and by having these different mechanisms, we have to teach this private sector to pay their tax immediately,” said Ato Haji Ibsa.

He says his government is particularly worried about children’s health care, child mortality, and maternal deaths.

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