Amidst a Drought, a Routine Service Saves Children’s Lives

By Bethlehem Kiros

June 8, 2016

This family has recovered from severe malnutrition after receiving treatment from a health center. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Nahom Tesfaye

Belay and her two boys have recovered from severe malnutrition after receiving treatment from a health post in Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Nahom Tesfaye

Sitting on the steps of the Arara Kidanemeheret Health Post in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, Belay Munaye is nursing her one-year-old twins while waiting to receive their monthly food support. She named her twin boys Tarik and Misgan, meaning ‘history made’ and ‘thankfulness’ to remind herself of the miracle of twin birth and her gratefulness for surviving it. Belay says she is even more thankful that her children have survived in these trying times of drought and food shortage. She suspects that she might have lost at least one of them if it had not been for the intervention of the health workers of Arara Kidanemeheret Kebele.

These health workers are among thousands employed as part of the nationwide Health Extension Programme, a community-based program that brings basic health services to the doorstep of Ethiopia’s large, rural population. They bring closer contact between communities and health services and importantly, they also mobilize communities to change behaviors. They saw the twins during one of their regular house visits, noticed the infants were severely malnourished and asked Belay to bring the twins to the health post immediately.

She heeded their advice and after the twins received the necessary treatment, which included medicine and therapeutic food for several weeks, they both regained their health and reached a healthy weight.


In Ethiopia, after two years of erratic rainfall and drought, one of the most powerful El Niño weather events for 50 years is wreaking havoc on lives and livelihoods.

Belay’s village, Gorosherafit, is one of the villages in the Arara Kidanemeheret Kebele of East Gojjam Zone. Though Gojjam is one of the most productive parts of the Amhara Region, known for its surplus production of the staple crop teff, its eastern part has been hit by a drought driven by the El Niño weather pattern. “Our land has barely seen rain in the last two years and after running out of all other resources, we are now surviving solely on the 15 kg of grain we receive every month from the Government,” elaborates Belay.


At the Gedebe Health Post in Halaba Special Woreda (district) in SNNP Region, 28-month-old Nebila has her mid-upper-arm circumference measured by a Health Extension Worker as she sits in the lap of her 12-year-old sister Zekiya. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

Across the country, 458,000 children are expected to need treatment for severe acute malnutrition in 2016. More broadly, 10.2 million people, 6 million of them children, are in need of emergency food assistance due to the drought. UNICEF continues to coordinate the nutrition emergency response, provide supplies for the management of severe acute malnutrition and support the treatment of malnourished children through community-based management of acute malnutrition, along with training, quality assurance and monitoring the nutrition emergency response. UNICEF is also supporting efforts to provide drought-affected communities with access to clean water and health services to address major causes of child illnesses and deaths that have been made worse by the drought. It’s essential work, work that is ensuring Tarik and Misgan will go on to fulfil their beautiful names – to make history and be thankful for the great love and sacrifice of their mother.

Drought in Ethiopia

Across eastern and southern Africa, millions of children are struggling to cope with food insecurity, lack of water and disease. Photo above of a mother bringing her baby to be screened for malnutrition. Lead photo of Mundene, 21. She was screened for malnutrition as she cradles her two-month-old baby Melesech at the Gedebe Health Post in Halaba Special Woreda (district) in SNNP Region. All photos © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

This story is part of the 4th annual Global Moms Relay, our campaign to raise money and awareness of the issues that impact families around the world. The 2016 campaign has ended, but you can continue to take action by joining our community.

You share, they give: Each time you ‘like’ or share this post via the social media icons on this post, or comment below, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 (per action) up to $500,000 to Shot@Life, Girl Up, Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund, U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Nothing But Nets.

The Global Moms Relay was created by the United Nations Foundation and Johnson & Johnson with support from BabyCenter, Global Citizen, Fatherly and Charity Miles, to help improve the lives of families around the globe. Share this post with the hashtags #GlobalMom and #JNJ, and visit to learn more.
You can also use the Donate A Photo* app and Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 when you upload a photo for Girl Up, U.S. Fund for UNICEF or Nothing But Nets, up to $150,000. You can help make a difference in seconds with the click of your mouse or snap of your smart phone.

* via the Donate A Photo app for iOS and Android. Johnson & Johnson has curated a list of trusted causes, and you can donate a photo to one cause, once a day. Each cause will appear in the app until it reaches its goal, or the donation period ends. If the goal isn’t reached, the cause will still get a minimum donation.

Get Involved Today
Want to learn more about our campaign? Sign up for our newsletter (we promise not to overdo it).
It's an easy way to help moms and babies!