(Vatican Radio) Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Ethiopia, a Catholic Church Organisation that works with refugees, launched the Child Protection Centre in Addis Ababa, which is the first of its kind in the city. The centre which is strategically located in the capital city is established to respond to the growing demand of the urban refugee community due to the growing number of refugee children and their vulnerability.
According to Mr. Mulugeta Woldeeyesus, JRS Ethiopia Country Director, children represent 35% of total registered refugees in Addis Ababa. He says that the centre will address the protection needs of unaccompanied, separated and other vulnerable children living in the city and allow JRS to provide them appropriate services. JRS is focused more on setting community based child protection system that encompasses case management, child friendly space, education and development. According to the JRS Ethiopia Director the centre has begun working with 150 direct beneficiary refugee children and additional home based beneficiaries for the remainder of 2017 but plans to vastly increase the number in the coming year. The programme is being implemented with a budget of 20 million Ethiopian Birr which is funded by UNHCR and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
Speaking on the occasion Mr. Fiseha Meseret, representative of Administration for Refugees and Returnees (ARRA) commended the efforts of JRS Ethiopia for recognising the pressing needs of protecting refugee children at this time when the number of unaccompanied, separated and vulnerable refugee children is increasing.
He expressed the continued commitment of the Ethiopian Government to ensure the protection and assistance modalities to increase refugees’ self-reliance by creating strong linkage between the humanitarian assistance and development interventions.
“We are now undertaking concrete efforts to provide legal and policy provisions mainly aimed at improving the lives of refugees and host communities including refugees living in urban centers like Addis Ababa. The recent policy commitments of my government will provide righteous benefits to all the refugees and are designed to enhance economic opportunities of refugees and ultimately reduce their dependency on aid. Among these commitments are provision and expansion of education for school age children. We believe that every child has the right to play and education,” Meseret said.
The Ambassador of Switzerland to Ethiopia, Mr. Daniel Hunn for his part pointed out that child protection and youth programming are not on the top priority list of international aid community who are usually focused on camp settings. He said that this has caused refugees living out of camps to miss out on basic protection.
“The fragile protection environment in big cities exposes children – especially unaccompanied children to high risks of violence, abuse, sexual exploitation and sometimes eve to human trafficking. That is why UNHCR’s and JRS’ work here in Addis Ababa is so important and that is why we consider it so much worth supporting,” said the Ambassador stressing the importance of such a programme.
JRS works with ARRA and UNHCR is providing protection to refugee children and youth. According to Ms. Jacquelyn Awino, UNHCR Protection Officer, every third refugee in Addis Ababa is a child and urban refugee children are amongst the most vulnerable in Ethiopia given their diverse backgrounds and protection needs.
Ethiopia currently hosts more than 840,000 refugees from different countries. In its efforts to ensure the protection of refugees the government of Ethiopia has recently launched access for refugees to register vital life events such as marriage, birth, divorce and death.
(Makeda Yohannes, Ethiopia Catholic Secretariat)