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A second chance at education for children in Eritrea

© UNICEF
Eritrea/2008/Mareso
Halima (second row, second
from right) and her classmates
follow a lesson in their new
UNICEF-supported school in
Jengerjiba.

By Miriam Mareso

JENGERJIBA, Eritrea, 29 January 2009 – Halima, a shy 11-year-old, is among the


first groups of children who have been enrolled in a new elementary school in
Jengerjiba. A small village located 110 kilometres from the capital Asmara,
Jengerjiba is dotted with mud huts and concrete houses. The closest primary school is
more than 10 kilometres away, a distance which has long hampered access to primary
education for many local children.

UNICEF, working with the Eritrean Ministry of Education, has given children in
Jengerjiba a chance at an education. In 2005, the two organizations pooled resources
to create Complementary Elementary Education (CEE), an initiative that reaches out
to children who have been neglected by the existing formal school system for a
variety of reasons.

Locally-led response

CEE has supported the construction of the small elementary education centre in the
village where Halima and her siblings now take classes.

Based on a three-year educational cycle, CEE provides out-of-school children with


basic competencies that Eritrean school children acquire in the five-year mainstream
elementary curriculum. A locally-led practical response to educational shortcomings
in the region, the programme has since expanded to other districts.

CEE is currently bringing education to over 5,000 girls and boys in more than 70
centres in remote villages such as Jengerjiba. The programme also encourages the
participation of local communities in their own development processes.

Hopes and ambitions


Unlike her older brothers and sisters, who at her age had no education opportunities in
the village, Halima only needs to walk a few hundred metres to reach the school,
where students are taught basic literacy and numerical skills, as well as classes in their
native languages, English and science. Perhaps most importantly, the children are
learning to articulate hopes and ambitions that stretch beyond the modest centre and
its stone walls.

“We hope to complete our education, teach our families and one day become doctors,”
Halima says with a timid smile.

Successful completion of the programme will allow Halima and her friends to be
integrated into the formal education system at the post-primary level. In 2008, the first
19 graduates from the programme in the Northern Red Sea region were mainstreamed
into formal secondary schools.

A hopeful path

CEE is supporting the first steps of these girls along a hopeful path that will empower
their futures as literate women and skilled professionals. By 2009, UNICEF plans to
supply the schools with benches and educational materials.

As one of the village elders points out, the school has become ‘a gateway from
darkness’ for the community: “We established this school thanks to the support we
received from UNICEF. We expect to see it grow and host a bigger number of
students, because lack of education makes people blind.”

Background

Click for a detailed map (PDF)

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or
territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.

Five consecutive years of drought contributed to severe food shortages in Eritrea


before rains finally fell in 2005, but the situation of children and women remains very
precarious. The delivery of humanitarian assistance has been hindered by international
political disputes and by taxes imposed on aid by the government. A simmering
dispute with Ethiopia (known as “no peace–no war”) has led to increased security
risks such as attacks on civilians and newly laid landmines.

Issues facing children in Eritrea

• More than 10 per cent of children under age five are severely underweight.
The autumn 2005 harvest was expected to provide help relieve food shortages,
but 2.2 million Eritreans (two thirds of the population) still require emergency
food assistance.
• More than half of pregnant women are anaemic. The percentage of families
consuming iodized salt has fallen to only 68 per cent.
• Access to clean water and basic sanitation has also declined significantly in
recent years. Diarrhoeal diseases are a major cause of under-five mortality.
• The first case of polio since 1996 was reported in April 2005, prompting
several immunization campaigns that reached 96 per cent of the population,
including 400,000 children.
• The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is relatively low at 2.7 per cent. Young women
in urban areas are considered to be at greatest risk.
• Half of school-age children, mostly girls, do not attend school.
• Some 50,000 people—70 per cent of them women and children—remain
displaced by the conflict with Ethiopia. Meanwhile, the return of 30,000
internally displaced persons to their villages has strained basic services.

Activities and results for children

• Distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets to 60 per cent of the population


prevented an outbreak of malaria in 2005.
• Infant, under-five and maternal mortality rates have all declined substantially
over the past decade.
• UNICEF and its partners provided monthly food supplements to 22,000
malnourished women and children in 2005.
• Desperately needed rainfall allowed UNICEF to shift its focus from providing
emergency water supplies to creating permanent access to clean water and
sanitation for 57,000 people.
• The government has partnered with UNICEF on an innovative programme to
ensure that 100,000 girls complete primary school in three target regions.
• The government has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and
agreed to the optional protocols forbidding the sale of children, child
prostitution, child pornography and the use of child soldiers.
• UNICEF and its partners provided mine-risk education to nearly 50,000
people (more than half of them children) in highly mined areas.

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Background
ShareThis

Updated: 30 August 2006

Funding appeals and humanitarian action updates


As a result of cyclic droughts leading to periodic food shortages, child under-nutrition
in Eritrea remains high. Global acute malnutrition (GAM) rates in children under five
are over 10 per cent in all regions, with the GAM rate in Gash Barka region reaching
over 20 per cent in certain areas. A recent national rapid assessment on the coverage
and functionality of water supply in Eritrea indicates that only 58 per cent of the rural
population has access to clean water. In addition, as little as 1.5 per cent of the rural
population has access to sanitation. Taking into consideration that both diarrhoea and
under-nutrition are among the leading causes of under-five mortality, urgent action is
needed.
UNICEF urgently requires US$ 6 million to respond to the immediate needs of
children and women.
Eritrea Donor Update 2 May 2007 [pdf]

Seasonal rain has not brought an end to the emergency in the Horn of Africa and has
even compounded the already fragile situation in many places. Outbreaks of diarrhea
and other water-borne diseases are reported across the region and torrential rains have
caused flash floods in several areas, leading to displacement and loss of homes and
livelihoods, especially in Ethiopia and Kenya. Child malnutrition rates are
unacceptably high in some regions, especially in Kenya and Somalia. UNICEF would
like to express its gratitude to those donors who have already contributed to the
emergency response in the Horn of Africa. UNICEF still urgently requires almost US$
43 million to be able to respond to the immediate and longer-term needs of affected
children and their families.
Horn of Africa Donor Update 3 July 2006 [pdf]
More than 8,780,000 people - including 4,455,000 children - are in urgent need of
humanitarian assistance. The failure of crops and loss of livestock have increased
morbidity and mortality, including malnutrition, in children. In all five countries,
UNICEF is providing cluster coordination leadership in nutrition and water and
sanitation, whilst contributing significantly to WHO-led coordination in health, and
supporting education and child protection. UNICEF currently has a funding gap of
almost US$ 54 million and funding is urgently required to continue the scale-up of
life-saving interventions for children and women in drought-affected parts of
Djibouti, Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Horn of Africa Donor Update 11 May 2006 [pdf]

The situation of ‘no war no peace’ with neighbouring Ethiopia and almost five
consecutive years of drought continue to negatively affect the survival and
development of children in Eritrea. The Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of 17
per cent in children under five in certain areas requires a multi-sectoral response, yet
66 percent of UNICEF’s funding requirements remain unmet. UNICEF urgently
requires US$ 8.6 million to respond to the needs of children and women.
Eritrea Donor Update 24 November 2005 [pdf]

Statistics
Basic Indicators | Nutrition | Health | HIV AIDS | Education | Demographic Indicators
| Economic Indicators | Women | Child Protection | The Rate of Progress | Under-five
mortality rankings

Basic Indicators to the top


Under-5 mortality rank 50
Under-5 mortality rate, 1990 147
Under-5 mortality rate, 2007 70
Infant mortality rate (under 1), 1990 88
Infant mortality rate (under 1), 2007 46
Neonatal mortality rate, 2004 21
Total population (thousands), 2007 4851
Annual no. of births (thousands), 2007 191
Annual no. of under-5 deaths (thousands), 13
2007
GNI per capita (US$), 2007 230
Life expectancy at birth (years), 2007 58
Total adult literacy rate (%), 2000–2007* -
Primary school net enrolment/ attendance (%), 47
2000–2007*
% share of household income 1995–2005*, -
lowest 40%
% share of household income 1995–2005*, -
highest 20%
Definitions and data sources
Nutrition to the top
% of infants with low birthweight, 2000–2007* 14
% of children (2000–2007*) who are: 52
exclusively breastfed (<6 months)
% of children (2000–2007*) who are: breastfed 43
with complementary food (6–9 months)
% of children (2000–2007*) who are: still 62
breastfeeding (20–23 months)
% of under-fives (2000–2007*) suffering from: 35
underweight† (WHO ref. pop.): moderate ; &
severe
% of under-fives (2000–2007*) suffering from: 40
underweight† (NCHS/WHO): moderate ; &
severe
% of under-fives (2000–2007*) suffering from: 12
underweight† (NCHS/WHO): severe
% of under-fives (2000–2007*) suffering from: 13
wasting? (NCHS/WHO): moderate ; & severe
% of under-fives (2000–2007*) suffering from: 38
stunting? (NCHS/WHO): moderate ; & severe
Vitamin A supplementation coverage rate (6– 51
59 months) 2007: at least one dose‡ (%)
Vitamin A supplementation coverage rate (6– 50
59 months) 2007: full coverage? (%)
% of households consuming iodized salt: 68
2000–2007*
Definitions and data sources
Health to the top
% of population using improved drinking- 60
water sources, 2006, total
% of population using improved drinking- 74
water sources, 2006, urban
% of population using improved drinking- 57
water sources, 2006, rural
% of population using improved sanitation 5
facilities, 2006, total
% of population using improved sanitation 14
facilities, 2006, urban
% of population using improved sanitation 3
facilities, 2006, rural
% of routine EPI vaccines financed by -
government, 2007, total
Immunization 2007: 1-year-old children 99
immunized against: TB: corresponding
vaccines: BCG
Immunization 2007: 1-year-old children 99
immunized against: DPT: corresponding
vaccines:DPT1b
Immunization 2007: 1-year-old children 97
immunized against: DPT: corresponding
vaccines: DPT3b
Immunization 2007: 1-year-old children 96
immunized against: Polio: corresponding
vaccines: polio3
Immunization 2007: 1-year-old children 95
immunized against: Measles: corresponding
vaccines: measles
Immunization 2007: 1-year-old children 97
immunized against: HepB: corresponding
vaccines: HepB3
Immunization 2007: 1-year-old children -
immunized against: Hib: corresponding
vaccines: Hib3
Immunization 2007: % newborns protected 80
against tetanus?
% under-fives with suspected pneumonia taken 44
to an appropriate health-care provider, 2000–
2007*
% under-fives with suspected pneumonia taken -
to an appropriate health-care provider, 2000–
2007*
% under-fives with diarrhoea receiving oral 54
rehydration and continued feeding, 2000–
2007*
Malaria 2003–2007*, % under-fives sleeping 12
under a mosquito net
Malaria 2003–2007*, % under-fives sleeping 4
under a treated mosquito net
Malaria 2003–2007*, % under-fives with fever 4
receiving anti-malarial drugs
Definitions and data sources
HIV AIDS to the top
Estimated adult HIV prevalence rate (aged 15– 1.3
49), 2007
Estimated number of people (all ages) living 38
with HIV, 2007 (thousands), estimate
Estimated number of people (all ages) living 25
with HIV, 2007 (thousands), low estimate
Estimated number of people (all ages) living 58
with HIV, 2007 (thousands), high estimate
Mother-to-child transmission, Estimated 21
number of women (aged 15+) living with HIV,
2007 (thousands)
Paediatric infections, Estimated number of 3.1
children (aged 0–14) living with HIV, 2007
(thousands)
Prevention among young people, HIV 0.3
prevalence among young people (aged 15–24),
2007, male
Prevention among young people, HIV 0.9
prevalence among young people (aged 15–24),
2007, female
Prevention among young people, % who have -
comprehensive knowledge of HIV, 2002–
2007*, male
Prevention among young people, % who have 37
comprehensive knowledge of HIV, 2002–
2007*, female
Prevention among young people, % who used -
condom at last higher-risk sex, 2002–2007*,
male
Prevention among young people, % who used -
condom at last higher-risk sex, 2002–2007*,
female
Orphans, Children (aged 0–17) orphaned by 18
AIDS, 2007, estimate (thousands)
Orphans, Children (aged 0–17) orphaned due 280
to all causes, 2007, estimate (thousands)
Orphans, Orphan school attendance ratio, 83
2002–2007*
Definitions and data sources
Education to the top
Youth (15–24 years) literacy rate, 2000–2007*, 85
male
Youth (15–24 years) literacy rate, 2000–2007*, 70
female
Number per 100 population, 2006, phones 1
Number per 100 population, 2006, Internet 2
users
Primary school enrolment ratio 2000–2007*, 69
gross, male
Primary school enrolment ratio 2000–2007*, 56
gross, female
Primary school enrolment ratio 2000–2007*, 50
gross, male
Primary school enrolment ratio 2000–2007*, 43
gross, female
Primary school attendance ratio 2000–2007*, 69
net, male
Primary school attendance ratio 2000–2007*, 64
net, female
Survival rate to last primary grade (%); 2000– 74
2007*, admin. data
Survival rate to last primary grade (%); 2000– -
2007*, survey data
Secondary school enrolment ratio 2000–2007*, 39
gross, male
Secondary school enrolment ratio 2000–2007*, 23
gross, female
Secondary school enrolment ratio 2000–2007*, 30
net, male
Secondary school enrolment ratio 2000–2007*, 20
net, female
Secondary school attendance ratio 2000– 23
2007*, net, male
Secondary school attendance ratio 2000– 21
2007*, net, female
Definitions and data sources
Demographic Indicators to the top
Population (thousands), 2007, under 18 2402
Population (thousands), 2007, under 5 837
Population annual growth rate (%), 1970–1990 2.7
Population annual growth rate (%), 1990–2007 2.5
Crude death rate, 1970 21
Crude death rate, 1990 16
Crude death rate, 2007 9
Crude birth rate, 1970 47
Crude birth rate, 1990 41
Crude birth rate, 2007 40
Life expectancy, 1970 43
Life expectancy, 1990 48
Life expectancy, 2007 58
Total fertility rate, 2007 5.1
% of population urbanized, 2007 20
Average annual growth rate of urban 3.8
population (%), 1970–1990
Average annual growth rate of urban 4.2
population (%), 1990–2007
Definitions and data sources
Economic Indicators to the top
GNI per capita (US$), 2007 230
GDP per capita average annual growth rate -
(%), 1970–1990
GDP per capita average annual growth rate -0.3
(%), 1990–2007
Average annual rate of inflation (%), 1990– 12
2007
% of population below international poverty -
line of US$1.25 per day, 2005
% of central government expenditure (1997– -
2006*) allocated to: defence
% of central government expenditure (1997– -
2006*) allocated to: health
% of central government expenditure (1997– -
2006*) allocated to: education
ODA inflow in millions US$, 2006 129
ODA inflow as a % of recipient GNI, 2006 15
Debt service as a % of exports of goods and -
services, 1990
Debt service as a % of exports of goods and -
services, 2006
Definitions and data sources
Women to the top
Life expectancy: females as a % of males, 109
2007
Adult literacy rate: females as a % of males, -
2000–2007*
Enrolment and attendance ratios: females as a 87
% of males , Net primary school 2000–2007*,
enrolled
Enrolment and attendance ratios: females as a 93
% of males , Net primary school 2000–2007*,
attending
Enrolment and attendance ratios: females as a 67
% of males , Net secondary school 2000–
2007*, enrolled
Enrolment and attendance ratios: females as a 92
% of males , Net secondary school 2000–
2007*, attending
Contraceptive prevalence (%), 2000–2007* 8
Antenatal care coverage (%), At least once, 70
2000–2007*
Antenatal care coverage (%), At least four 41
times, 2000–2007*
Delivery care coverage (%), Skilled attendant 28
at birth, 2000–2007*
Delivery care coverage (%), Institutional 26
delivery, 2000–2007*
Maternal mortality ratio†, 2000–2007* 1000
reported
Maternal mortality ratio†, 2005, adjusted 450
Maternal mortality ratio†, 2005, Lifetime risk 44
of maternal death. 1 in:
Definitions and data sources
Child Protection to the top
Child labour ; (5–14 years) 1999–2007*, total -
Child labour ; (5–14 years) 1999–2007*, male -
Child labour ; (5–14 years) 1999–2007*, -
female
Child marriage ; 1998–2007*, total 47
Child marriage ; 1998–2007*, urban 31
Child marriage ; 1998–2007*, rural 60
Birth registration ; 2000–2007*, total -
Birth registration ; 2000–2007*, urban -
Birth registration ; 2000–2007*, rural -
Female genital mutilation/cutting 2002–2007*, 89
womena (15–49 years) , total
Female genital mutilation/cutting 2002–2007*, 86
womena (15–49 years) , urban
Female genital mutilation/cutting 2002–2007*, 91
womena (15–49 years) , rural
Female genital mutilation/cutting 2002–2007*, 63
daughtersb, total
Attitudes towards domestic violence 2001– -
2007*, total
Child disability?; 1999–2007*, total -
Child discipline 2005–2007*, total -
Definitions and data sources
The Rate of Progress to the top
Under-5 mortality rank 50
Under-5 mortality rate, 1970 237
Under-5 mortality rate, 1990 147
Under-5 mortality rate, 2007 70
Average annual rate of reduction (%)T, 1970– 2.4
1990
Average annual rate of reduction (%)T, 1990– 4.4
2007
Reduction since 1990 (%)T 52
GDP per capita average annual growth rate -
(%), 1970–1990
GDP per capita average annual growth rate -0.3
(%), 1990–2007
Total fertility rate, 1970 6.6
Total fertility rate, 1990 6.2
Total fertility rate, 2007 5.1
Average annual rate of reduction (%), 1970– 0.3
1990
Average annual rate of reduction (%), 1990– 1.2
2007
Definitions and data sources
Under-five mortality rankings to the top
Under-5 mortality rate (2007), Value 70
Under-5 mortality rate (2007), Rank 50
Definitions and data sources

Contact us

ASMARA Mail address UNICEF


P.O. Box 2004
Country Asmara, Eritrea
Office Visitors' address UNICEF Asmara
c/o Sabur Printing Services
Hall No. 1
Asmara, Eritrea

Telephone Country 291


code
City code 1
151.199 - PBX
Facsimile 151.350
Email asmara@unicef.org

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