Researchers of the Social Policy Research Institute (SPRI Global) supported UNICEF Ethiopia in partnership with the Central Statistical Agency in carrying out a qualitative study on child poverty and access to basic services in the Amhara and Somali regions of Ethiopia.

The study aimed to investigate bottlenecks in service provision before and since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to what extent and how is it related to deprivation in health, education, WASH, and child protection. The research included key informant interviews with respondents from different levels of service provision including woreda officers of health, education, labor and social affairs, water and electricity as well as primary and secondary school principals and teachers; medical staff and managers of health facilities; and social workers and their equivalents. The research briefs can be accessed here:

The data were collected by Rebret Business and Consultancy PLC under the leadership of Dereje Kebede during November 2020 and covered two woredas in Amhara Region, Enebse Sarmidir and Libo Kemkem, and two in Somali Region, Kebri Beyah and Shinile. The selection of the regions followed a two-step procedure using results from the quantitative research analysis of the UNICEF Ethiopia and CSA (2020) report. Regions ranking as most deprived and multidimensionally poorest were selected for further qualitative research. The main findings include:

  • Health. There was a sharp decline in service utilization in the first 3-4 months since the outbreak of COVID-19, albeit smaller in rural areas, with fear from contracting the virus and misinformation as the main reasons. While there were no disruptions in delivery of essential services, outreach and health education activities were suspended during this period.
  • Education. The schools faced several issues with arranging distance learning, including lack of technological infrastructure, lack of training for teachers, shortage of handout materials, and lack of financial support. In Somali, children could not attend distance learning classes due to lack of electricity and information devices in their homes. In both regions, there was an increase in school dropouts linked to the exacerbated financial situation of households and children’s engagement in labor.
  • Child protection. There was an increase in violations of child rights, especially in incidence of child marriage and teenage pregnancy among girls, female genital mutilation, child labor, sexual violence and exploitation, and abuse of toxic substances by boys. Despite these insights, the woredas did not introduce new interventions or programs to tackle these problems. Counselling, community visits, and other existing services were reduced or suspended due to lockdown measures.
  • Water, sanitation, and hygiene. Planned projects for building new water sources and handwashing facilities, and community engagement for improving WASH practices were halted. In Amhara, there were a few interventions at the onset of the pandemic to improve functionality of water sources in schools and health facilities and intersectoral collaboration for awareness-raising, but they were discontinued due to shortage of funds and limited administrative capacities.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and related precautionary measures, the interviews were administered via mobile phones. Considering limited mobile phone ownership and access to electricity in Amhara and especially in Somali Region, caregivers and children could not be covered by this research.

This video was produced by the Social Policy Research Institute (SPRI Global) in cooperation with UNICEF Ethiopia and the ILO-ITC, as part of the 2021 ILO-ITC course “E-Coaching on Social Protection: Towards responsive systems”.

This research was undertaken to complement the findings of the quantitative poverty analysis study titled: Faces of Poverty: Studying the Overlap between Monetary and Multidimensional Child Poverty in Ethiopia. The report analyzed the relationship between monetary and multidimensional child poverty, and investigated  factors associated with deprivation from basic goods and services and multidimensional deprivation.

In addition to these qualitative research briefs, a quantitative survey focusing on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s wellbeing was carried out in Addis Ababa. The accompanying research brief can be found here: