In 2022, UNICEF will support the Government of the State of Eritrea’s (GoSE) response to the humanitarian needs of more than 1.2 million children and women affected by multiple vulnerabilities, including COVID-19.
Working with partners, UNICEF will support the scale up of life-saving nutrition interventions by expanding the number of health centres offering treatment for acute malnutrition and undertaking a large-scale roll-out of single protocol to treat both severe (SAM) and medium acute malnutrition (MAM). UNICEF, together with GoSE, will support schools to sustain implementation of COVID-19 school protocols and teacher training in addressing potential learning-loss and bringing back out-of-school children. UNICEF will support GoSE efforts to expand essential life-saving and protection services to emergency-affected populations through community-based interventions. As lead of nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and education sectors and gender-based violence (GBV) area of responsibility, UNICEF will continue coordinating with all relevant line ministries.
UNICEF is requesting US$13.7 million to meet the recurrent humanitarian needs of children in Eritrea in 2022.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
The impact of climate change has led to extreme weather patterns, which can affect water resources, food production, hygiene, sanitation and health, and particularly child and maternal nutrition. A nutrition routine screening surveillance conducted in May 2021 revealed an increase in acute malnutrition in the majority of the country’s regions compared to 2020. This routine mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) mass screening surveillance data (of 117,691 children under 5 years of age) indicates proxy global acute malnutrition (GAM) of 16.3 per cent - significantly higher than an emergency threshold (15 per cent).
Malnutrition combined with pneumonia and/or diarrhoea is the number one cause of child mortality in Eritrea. Access to child and maternal health services in remote areas is a cause for concern, as is the need for improved capacity in primary health care, disease surveillance and response and overall universal health coverage.
Even though the spread of COVID-19 has remained relatively low in Eritrea, its containment measures further limited vulnerable households’ access to basic services (nutrition, health, education, social protection and water). It is to acknowledge, agriculture-related subsistence livelihoods remained unaffected through the lockdown period. This has compounded the need to expand the existing income-generating support to vulnerable families in order to reach more households through social transfers (cash and in-kind). Considering the vulnerability of female-headed households, orphans and children with disabilities, ensuring social protection to those left out of current government social assistance is paramount.
In addition, the one-year deficit in academic terms due to closure of schools from April 2020 to March 2021 leads to potential loss of learning and risk of children dropping out of school. Since April 2021, all Eritrean schools have fully reopened, following contextualized COVID-19 school reopening protocols. There is need to ensure the protocols remain relevant and that school managements enforce full adherence.
During humanitarian crises, many factors exacerbate risks related to gender-based violence (GBV). These include, but are not limited to, weakened community and state protections, displacement, scarcity of essential resources, disruption of community services, disrupted relationships and weakened infrastructure. Regardless of any of these factors, GBV is always taking place and must be addressed whether data is available or not.
The GoSE continues to monitor the well-being of its people owing to the conflict situation in Tigray region. If such a situation merits a humanitarian response, upon Government request UNICEF will jointly work with other UNCT members in coordinating a joint response.