A Dubai Cares delegation led by Chief Executive Officer, Tariq Al Gurg visited Ethiopia for the closing of Dubai Cares' Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) program. The program, launched in September 2015, is a component of the philanthropic organization's wider Enhanced School Health Initiative (ESHI) pilot program that is being implemented by the World Food Program (WFP), the Partnership for Child Development (PCD) and SNV Netherlands, along with the Ethiopian Government, and the Ethiopian Public Health Research Institute (EPHI).
Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, has funded a three-year program with the objective of improving the education, health, and nutrition of school-aged children across the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR). To meet this goal, the funding was used to deliver an integrated program of home grown school feeding, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) interventions and deworming treatment in partnership with local farmers to reduce the prevalence of Neglected Tropical Diseases, namely Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) and Sctistosomiasis.
The visit began by discussing the program outcomes with representatives from the PCD and WFP and the regional Bureau of Education in Ethiopia. The following day, the Dubai Cares delegation visited Wonte Boditi School to assess the success of the organization's activities and investment. Here, Al Gurg witnessed the school-feeding processes and the method used to test students for infections. Later, they met with the Melik Silte cooperative, which is a farmers cooperative union involved in the preparation, processing and transportation of food commodities to schools. On the final day, the Dubai Cares delegation met with the Advisor to the State Minister of Education to discuss the program achievements and the government's plans for scaling up the program.
Speaking about the visit and its outcomes, Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares said, "Our visit to Ethiopia, and in particular the Wonte Boditi School, has allowed us to clearly see the success of our partners' efforts. As the program comes to a close, we can take many important lessons away from our activities, which will help us improve future Home Grown School Feeding programs. It's also pleasing to see that such an important part of our enhanced school health intervention pilot is meeting the targets we have set. There is much more to be done to support children in the region, but we know now that our plan is working."
"His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai has always urged us to reach out to our partners and friends to provide unconditional support to contribute to achieving sustainable growth and effective global development. The UAE and Ethiopia have maintained a distinguished relationship and a strong bond of friendship. Dubai Cares' HGSF program is part of UAE's desire to strengthen the long-standing bilateral ties with Ethiopia in creating strong people-to people relation," added Al Gurg.
The Home Grown School Feeding program, which covers ten districts of Ethiopia, has proven to be a success, as targets have been met and more beneficiaries than originally planned have been reached. Today, Dubai Cares is supporting a total of 58,812 children through its HGSF program. This has led to a six per cent increase in annual enrolment across the target schools, an improved attendance rate of 96.4 per cent, and a reduced dropout rate of 16 per cent.
Through its philanthropic activities, Dubai Cares has also successfully improved the program's cost efficiency and strengthened the government's ability to plan and implement the HGSF program in the future. The government has allocated a yearly budget for expanding the HGSF program to reach more children, with an 8 million Ethiopian Birr ($368,355) budget set for 2016. In addition, the Government of Ethiopia has developed a National School Feeding Strategy, which will guide the government in implementing HGSF programs and will help them allocate budgets and resources accordingly.
The government has also applied the lessons learnt from the Dubai Cares Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) program to the launch of an Emergency School Feeding Program as a response to the drought that hit the country at the end of 2015. The government allocated 560,000,000 Ethiopian Birr ($25,784,875) to benefit 2.7 million students in the country. In addition, the research conducted by Dubai Cares' partner, PCD, around the prevalence of worms has been used to inform an ongoing national government-led mass drug administration. The government has also put in place a strategy for improving the WASH infrastructure and education in schools with the aim of improving the health situation of children, decreasing the drop-out rates among children in schools, and making financing for Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs more effective.
The UAE Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ghazi Abdullah Salem Al Mahri, commented: "We appreciate and applaud the charitable and humanitarian efforts made by Dubai Cares, one of the leading organizations in this field. We thank Dubai Cares for this important and successful program, which was implemented to meet the health and nutritional needs of children in 80 schools in Ethiopia. The program has been praised by the Ethiopian Government and will become a model for the Ethiopian Government to duplicate elsewhere in the future".
Although Ethiopia has a rapidly growing economy, it remains one of Africa's poorest countries with a GDP per capita of USD 550. Education has remained an important part of Ethiopia's development strategy during recent years, with access to quality primary education improving significantly.
Despite this development, a disparity between regions remains a constant challenge, with certain areas struggling to provide the same standard of education that others can. Maintaining a high quality of education in areas with sparse food supplies, getting children to join school at the right age, and keeping them in education are all persistent issues. Dubai Cares, its implementing partners, supporting farmers unions, and the government of Ethiopia aim to address these issues, while also providing more opportunities for local farmers, through the Enhanced School Health Initiative.
Mada AlSuwaidi, Senior Country Program Officer, Dubai Cares concluded, "The program has shown significant improvements and transformations. The commitment demonstrated by regional governments through the establishment of the School Health and Nutrition Strategy and the national government-led mass drug administration program, prove that the interest generated expands beyond the program's initial scope and objectives. The success of the Dubai Cares program can be attributed to the program's sound design, commitment of international partners, and commitment of regional governments to scale-up the initiative and expand the program's scope".