The Government of the State of Eritrea (GoSE) with support from UNICEF treated more than 69,300 children under five for acute malnutrition in 2020: over 17,800 children were treated for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and around 51,500 for Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM). Over 247,200 children aged 6 to 59 months were provided with Vitamin A supplementation, exceeding targets and achievements for all services compared to the previous year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Integrated mobile clinic services enabled over 150,500 children to receive vaccination for different doses of routine EPI vaccines. UNICEF procured essential medicines for the treatment of childhood-related illnesses and more than 116,600 children were treated for diarrhoea.
The Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF declared 438 rural communities across Eritrea open defecation-free (ODF), benefiting more than 465,800 people.
UNICEF supported 494 vulnerable families with income generating ventures, benefitting 2,080 children, including children with disabilities.
The funding gap as of 31 December 2020 is 56 per cent net, or USD 10.6 million out of USD 18.8 million of the total funding requirement.
Situation Overview and Humanitarian Needs
Considering the ongoing pandemic, resources and efforts were directed towards containing and responding to the COVID-19 in Eritrea. However, the country was doubly affected by the harsh climatic conditions, which makes communities in high risk areas, particularly pregnant women and children under five, more susceptible to socioeconomic shocks and food and nutrition insecurity. The Southern and Northern Red Sea regions are the most vulnerable, followed by Anseba and Gash Barka regions. The lockdown and restrictions on movement to contain the spread of COVID-19 (along with the Business Continuity Plans by UNICEF and UN) affected some regular programmes. However, essential critical services including nutrition, immunization and health services were accorded high priority and implemented respectively. Modifications to programme implementation became necessary to ensure the continuation of essential services and adjustment to the new situation caused by the pandemic, including reduced footprint in the Country Office. UNICEF accelerated its support towards Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) at national level for prevention of COVID-19 and regular programmes, including Infection Prevention and Control – IPC/WASH, Nutrition and Health interventions, and towards ensuring continuity of lifesaving activities. This includes supporting the Government on the management of acute malnutrition and supplementary feeding for pregnant and lactating women; Vitamin A supplementation (VAS); and stepping up immunization for measles and other common childhood vaccinepreventable conditions. UNICEF is also supporting the Government with social protection initiatives such as cash transfers for vulnerable households.
While efforts to address child and maternal nutrition issues in Eritrea gained momentum, COVID-19 is threatening to stall the progress thus made. Containment measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, including lockdown restrictions on travel and gatherings, have disrupted food supply chains and associated livelihoods. Lifesaving nutrition interventions, including infant and young child feeding (IYCF) and treatment for acutely malnourished children therefore need to be sustained in terms of both service delivery and monitoring. The Government of the State of Eritrea (GoSE) with support from UNICEF has been proactive in devising home-grown solutions to adapt and ensure continuity of lifesaving nutrition interventions, including the treatment of acute malnutrition and micronutrient supplementation, while maintaining the quality of interventions in the context of COVID-19.
Vaccines procured and shipped by UNICEF in May and in December amid the COVID-19 pandemic, enabled the country to have enough vaccine stock for routine immunization. Eritrea has not had any vaccine stockouts since 2017, a significant achievement for UNICEF’s EPI programme. UNICEF also supported the procurement and distribution of 236 units of Cold Chain Equipment (CCE) to the health facilities in the six regions. Out of that amount, 70 have already been installed. The newly installed CCE will increase the vaccine storage capacity and replace the obsolete CCE at the health facilities.