Ethiopia is currently suffering one of the worst droughts in more than 50 years, around 10.2 million people are in need of food aid and 300,000 children are undernourished. It was against the background of another disastrous drought in 1974 that SOS Children's Villages started working in Ethiopia. In the decades since, a series of droughts have hit the country and we have increased our activities to support vulnerable families and children.
Children suffer most severely from poverty
Happy to spend time with their SOS mother: SOS Children’s Villages looks after children who have lost parental care (photo: SOS archives).
Jimma (also spelt Jima) is the largest town in the south-western part of the Oromia region. Around 35 million people live in the region. The majority of the population lives in rural areas, where the poverty rates are improving but not as fast as in urban areas.
Children are often hardest hit when families are affected by economic hardship, and political and natural disasters. Many families have been displaced by the political situation; they have been forced to leave their homes and support structures behind. Building a new life in the city of Jimma is often not straightforward.
In the Oromia region, over 7,300 children have lost parental care or are at risk on losing it. Displaced children often leave school and sometimes have to work to contribute to their family’s income. According to government data, around 18% of children leave primary school earlier than planned, and only around 10% of children go onto secondary school.
The provision of health care is improving, but vulnerable families, especially those in rural areas can find it hard to access medical assistance. However, the rates for vaccinations and under-five mortality rates are getting better. HIV/AIDS continues to be a health concern in the region, but there is an increase in awareness about transmission and treatment. SOS Children’s Villages also works towards raising awareness amongst children, young people and the local community.
Families often struggle to care for their children
In light of the difficult economic and social situation, many parents find it hard to care and provide for their families. Children who are most at risk of losing parental care include those with many sibling, those who are internally displaced and those living in poverty. These families often reach out for extra support. Working with local partners and community-based organisations, SOS Children’s Villages supports them so that they can stay together.
What we do in Jimma
Playing Gebeta together: children can play and grow up in the safety of a caring family (photo: SOS archives).
Strengthen families: Every child should receive protection and care so that they can thrive. Because each family is different, we offer a variety of assistance. For example, we assist parents so that they can send their children to school and get medical care. We also offer counselling and psychological support. We work with partners to provide guidance on income-generating activities. For example, families can access the local saving and credit cooperatives. In 2017, we supported over 2400 children and adults in Jimma and its surroundings.
Care in families: For children who are no longer able to live with their parents, families provide a stable and secure home. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters. Some of these families are foster families who are supported by SOS Children’s Villages. Some families live in different neighbourhoods in Jimma and are fully integrated into the local community.
Whenever possible, we work closely with the children’s family of origin so that they can stay in touch. In some cases, children can return to live with their families, and when this happens, we support them during this period of change and adaptation.
Education: In Jimma we run a kindergarten and a school. Around 240 young children from SOS families and the community attend the kindergarten. They can then continue their education at the nearby school that SOS Children`s Villages built in Jimma. This offers primary and secondary education to around 690 students.
We also work with local schools to improve the quality of the education provided in the area.
Support for young people: In Jimma, it is often hard for young people to become independent. For this reason, we support young people while they complete their education or vocational training. With the support of qualified counsellors, the young people learn to take responsibility, plan for their future and prepare for independent adult life.