Understanding Changes in the Lives of Poor Children: Round 3 launch in Addis Ababa

Young Lives Ethiopia held the national launch of its Round 3 Country Report entitled Understanding Changes in the Lives of Poor Children at the Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa, on 16 November 2011. A total of 46 participants, drawn from government ministries, NGOs, research institutions, donors and the media, attended the half-day workshop.

After welcoming the participants, Dr Alula Pankhurst, Country Director of Young Lives Ethiopia, said that Young Lives is now in the position of being able to document important changes in the lives of poor Ethiopian children from Round 1 of the survey in 2002 through the second round in 2006 to Round 3 in 2009. The research has produced evidence of significant improvements in services and livelihoods. It also examines the extent to which growth has translated into improved well-being for children, and highlights how shocks (e.g. drought, inflation, illness, death) are affecting households and children, and how they cope with them. According to Dr Pankhurst, the findings indicate differences based on urban/rural location, region, wealth and gender, and point to areas where potentially there is still room for improvement. Dr Pankhurst closed by pointing out that Young Lives aims to provide policy-relevant work in both the short and the long term. To this end it has been closely working with relevant government ministries including the Ministry of Women Children and Youth Affairs (MoWCYA) and the Ministry of Education (MoE). Young Lives has also been invited to give comments on the draft child policy based on the research findings.

His Excellency Mr Almaw Mengistu, State Minister of the Ministry of Women Children and Youth Affairs, in his opening remarks, emphasised that, in line with its mandate to work on children's issues, his Ministry believes that working with partners such as Young Lives which have an in-depth understanding of children's lives can contribute towards the design of better policies and strategies and also to improved implementation that will change children's lives for the better.

"Our Ministry," he added, "also believes that policies and practices need to be based on well-designed and well-carried-out research that helps to understand the core issues. Children are the future of this country. For that the preparation needs to be done today. This preparation work is expected from policymakers, researchers and practitioners. It is when these three partners work hand in hand that we will improve children's lives and prepare them for the future."

Precarious gains

Dr Tassew Woldehanna of the Ethiopian Development Research Institute and Principal Investigator for Young Lives Ethiopia, and Yisak Tafere, Lead Qualitative Researcher for Young Lives Ethiopia, presented the findings from the Round 3 research report. "Young Lives households and children experience many shocks and adverse events, particularly drought, family illness and food price increases," they said. "Between 2006 and 2009, 95 per cent of households were affected by economic shocks, particularly food price increases. While overall the economic condition of households in the Young Lives study improved, these gains remain precarious due to frequent and multiple shocks."

Dr Woldehanna and Mr Tafere added that despite the shocks, access to safe water increased from 11% of households in 2002 to 17% in 2009, and access to sanitation facilities nearly tripled over the same period.

However, there are large urban-rural differences with only 2% of rural households having access to safe water, compared with 39% of urban households. Urban households also report lower access to sanitation, with just 45% of urban households having a flush toilet or pit latrine, compared with 67% of households in rural areas. This rapid expansion in rural areas may be attributed to the expansion of the health extension services. Together these improvements may also have contributed to improvements in children's nutritional status, with stunting of 8-year-old children having declined by a third between 2002 and 2009.

The findings suggest that it is important to build on increased access by improving service quality.

The report compiled survey data and interviews with families and demonstrates rapid increases in school enrolment rates. Key reasons for increased enrolment are children and parents' awareness of the importance of education and an increase in the number of primary schools. However, the interviews with families show that challenges remain in delivering quality education. Also, although most Young Lives children are still reported as enrolled at the age of 15, between the age of 12 and 15 children in rural areas are three times more likely to drop out of school.

The research highlights that children face challenges in balancing work and school, with more than 90% of 8-year-olds involved in paid or unpaid work in 2009. In particular, this data shows that poor children and those in rural areas are particularly likely to be involved in work.

The presentation was followed by a lively discussion with participants, and featured in the day's TV news and other media. Two days later a meeting was held with members of The Parliament of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to present the Round 3 Country Report to them.

Access the report

Understanding Changes in the Lives of Poor Children: Initial Findings from Ethiopia Woldehanna, Tassew, Retta Gudisa, Yisak Tafere and Alula Pankhurst, Young Lives Round 3 Survey Report, Oxford: Young Lives, September 2011

Links to press coverage

The half-day workshop was covered by the following print and electronic media:

Amharic newspapers
Addis Admass Newspaper 'It has been said special focus needs to be given to rural children, 78 have died among the 3,000 which are included in the research', 19 November 2011

English newspapers
Fortune Newspaper, 20 November 2011

Capital Newspaper 'Poverty concentrated in rural areas', 11 December 2011

Amharic radio
FM 97.1 radio

Amharic TV
Ethiopia Television 'A research led by Oxford University shows that Ethiopia will achieve the education and health targets under the Millennium Development Goals' as tickertape news (http://www.ertagov.com/am/2011-04-27-14-03-55/1569----62004---2-.html) and also as full report broadcast in the 9pm and 10pm news,16 November 2011