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Destructive impact of conflict on education highlighted in four-country African youth survey

Brussels event calls on African Union-EU summit to prioritise investment in learning opportunities

Brussels, 13 November 2017: Unsafe or damaged schools, absent teachers and dangerous journeys to class are among the destructive ways that conflict is impacting the learning prospects of young Africans according to a new UNICEF survey carried out in four countries.

Based on polling among 128,000 young people* in Central African Republic (CAR), Uganda, Chad and Nigeria, the survey findings were presented at a special dialogue event in Brussels ahead of the forthcoming African Union – EU Summit. The event was organised by UNICEF and the European Commission Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.

Disruption to education as a result of conflict was reported by up to 76 per cent of survey respondents in Nigeria, and as many as 89 per cent in parts of northern Uganda. Schools that had been forced to shut or been damaged were the factor cited by almost 50 per cent of respondents overall. A lack of teachers and unsafe journeys to school were the other main ways respondents said violence had undermined their opportunities to learn.

Similar results were registered in CAR, where an estimated 80 per cent of the country is under the control of armed groups.

Over half of respondents said that while education was vital in providing them with skills and opportunities, learning also played a vital role in promoting peace.

“This is a strong message from young Africans that helps explain why keeping schools open and safe even in times of conflict and emergency is absolutely critical to youth and to society as a whole. This is why the EU has become a global leader in supporting education in emergencies. We have continuously been increasing our support in that respect, making the biggest investment we can in our common future. An investment in youth, and an investment in peace, » said EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.

Youth representatives at the Brussels meeting said the call for more resources to be dedicated to education should be heard loud and clear at the African Union – EU summit, which is being held in Cote D’Ivoire on November 29-30 with the theme of “investing in youth.”

“Young people in Africa represent so much dormant potential,” said Ubanwa Oyudo from Nigeria. “They represent the future, but to secure that future, investment is needed.”

19 year old Judith Sankagui said children in Central African Republic needed support “if they are to contribute, like those in other countries, to the future of this planet.”

“What this survey shows is that conflict is blighting the lives and hopes of an enormous number of young Africans,” said UNICEF Nigeria Representative Mohamed Malick Fall. “At the same time, it demonstrates that for those same youth, the issues of education and peace are tied closely together.”

The survey also underlined the huge importance young Africans attach to the role of technology in their education. 96 per cent of respondents agreed that technology could support their learning prospects.

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*The survey was conducted among youth from the UNICEF-supported U-Report initiative, a real-time social messaging tool that enables communication between young people and decision makers on issues that they care about. ‘U-Reporters’ respond to polls, report issues, support child rights and work as positive agents of change on behalf of people in their country. Today there are over 3 million U-reporters in more than 30 countries.

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The milk of dispute

In Chad, traditional beliefs around breastfeeding are strong and inked deep

Growing up in Chad – a landlocked country of the Sahel belt –  is not easy. Malaria, Diarrhea and other diseases play a huge role in child mortality rate but so does traditional belief.

Yet, Harun Modogo is one of these local heroes that you would not expect to meet in such a challenging context. This Thursday morning, dozens of women arrived at Darasna’s health center with their children, some have walked more than 12 km to attend his session on the advantage of exclusive breastfeeding.

Harun is 42 years old and has been a committed community worker for almost 4 years. « I leave my children very early in the morning to come to work at the health center. What I do is important, I help people and I go home proud. » Harun raises awareness on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in his community, fighting against old habits. In Chad, only 3% of women practice exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months.

« In Darasna there is no woman who is exclusively breastfeeding her child, because the first thing to do when the child is born is to wash the child and there he is given water directly. Even if the mother wanted to do exclusive breastfeeding, if she leaves her child for one minute with her relatives, they will give him water. If the child cries, people will automatically give water. In our region, it’s rare to have access to safe drinking water. This why our children get sick most of the time. »

UNICEF Chad:2017:Alliah-2
Haoua Mahamat, 25 years old, 3 children and her son Hassan, 14 months old

Haoua Mahamat is a young and cheerful mother who attended the meeting this morning. « With my first daughter I did exclusive breastfeeding because I was living in the capital, N’Djamena with my first husband’s family and it was them who advised me to follow this practice. Since then we got divorced and I came back to leave with my family here. I remarried and I had 2 other children for which I did not do exclusive breastfeeding. » Her son Hassan, 14 months old, was suffering from severe acute malnutrition and treated in this UNICEF-supported health center.

Haoua had to stop exclusive breastfeeding because of traditional beliefs and family pressure. « People here think that if a child gets sick it is because the breast milk is bad quality. If you see a drop of white milk at the end of the nipple, it means that the milk is good but if the drop is clear like water it means that the milk is bad. »

Halime Mahamat has a very clear idea of the advantage of maternal milk « Breast milk is the best medicine you can give to a baby; it is a blessing for both of us. Many women refuse to breastfeed their babies because they think their milk is not good. In my family, we use to pour some maternal milk in a cup and throw an ant in it. If the ant does not survive, people say that the milk is poisoned and the woman had to stop breastfeeding. For me, breastfeeding is the best way to keep my baby healthy. »

UNICEF Chad:2017:Alliah-1

During the early years of a child, almost 1000 brain cells connect every second – a pace never matched again. When we nourish a child’s body with the proper nutrition, we are also feeding the young brain and facilitating those neural connections.

Exclusive breastfeeding and good nutrition are vital for a baby’s health and welfare. In Chad, more than half of the country’s adults (56.4 per cent) have suffered as a result of childhood stunting. This means that more than 3.4 million people of working age are unable to reach their full potential due to childhood undernutrition.

 

Children lives matter

By Badre Bahaji

I have been part of vaccination campaigns in many different regions and contexts, but nothing similar to the nomadic camp of Tchofio where a recent measles outbreak ravaged the community.

It is early morning as we head out to Abreche, in the Sahel Belt of Chad, where Oumar Mahazer, the Head of the health center is waiting for us. Many nomadic camps settle in his remote region during the rainy season but very few nomads make it to the health center. Today, he’s sending two vaccinators, Youssouf and Yaya, to the nomadic camp of Tchofio to immunize children against measles.

Ahmat Manani, 7. Children in the Nomad Camp of Tchofio in the Guera Region – Central Chad. Because of their multiple displacements and difficult access to basic social services, the local health center has organized various immunization campaign in the

Youssouf was born and raised in this area and knows every tree, every river around. “The nomads live with us but they move their camp twice a year looking for grazing and water points. Recently, I was in the market and saw nomadic children with red lips, eyes full of dirt and spots all over their bodies. I had almost no doubt that this was measles. I went to see their parents and I told them to go straight to the health center for medical care. I also alerted the authorities,” he said.

After a 30 minutes’ drive and a long walk in the bush under the heat, we get to the Tchofio nomadic camp. We realize that none of the children there had been immunized as we walk from tent to tent to sensitize families and immunize their children. “During the last measles outbreak, these nomads were not located here and they missed the campaign, it’s important to reach them to prevent any new epidemics,” adds Yaya.

 

Halime Attaï - 25 and her 4 children - all healed from measles outbreak. Children in the Nomadic Camp of Aboudroua in the Guera Region – Central Chad. Because of their multiple displacements and difficult access to basic social services, the local hea

Halime Attai, 25, is the mother of four beautiful children. During the last epidemic, early 2016 three of her children, Moussa, Izza and Mariam caught measles. “We were far away in the bush with our cattle, that’s why we missed the campaign but we have no problem with immunizing our children. We want them to be healthy, we have no reason to say refuse. Now that they are immunized, I don’t have to worry about that disease anymore,“ she said, smiling.

In Chad, because of conflict, or multiple displacements – inherent to the nomadic lifestyle – millions of children miss out on the basic vaccines they need to stay healthy and have a fair chance in life. Immunization against measles is an affordable and simple way to protect these children, especially the most underserved and marginalized communities.

 

Mariam Djibrine - 5  Children in the Nomadic Camp of Aboudroua in the Guera Region – Central Chad. Because of their multiple displacements and difficult access to basic social services, the local health center has organized various immunization campaign

Since the beginning of 2016, 318 cases of measles were detected in Chad. In total seven health districts in 4 regions were targeted to launch a mass immunization campaign. With support from the European Union’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department (ECHO), UNICEF launched an emergency immunization campaign. The response mobilized more than 700 vaccinators and community workers to reach close to 415 000 children aged 9 months to 14 years of age.

 Credit: UNICEF Chad/2016/Bahaji