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ChildFund’s humanitarian aid and development efforts amid challenges

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With over three decades of experience in senior management roles within the development and humanitarian sector, Lilly A. Omondi serves as the Country Director of ChildFund Ethiopia. Her extensive background includes significant positions at organizations like Save the Children and Plan International, highlighting her dedication to making a positive impact in the field. As a strategic change manager, Lilly is deeply committed to improving the lives of children, particularly during climate crises and humanitarian disasters. In this interview with Capital, Lilly shares insights into ChildFund’s vital role in Ethiopia, navigating challenges, and achieving impactful outcomes despite obstacles. Excerpts;

Capital: What is the main function of the childfund in Ethiopia?

Lilly A. Omondi: ChildFund is an international organization that is child-focused. We do both development and humanitarian work across Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In Ethiopia, ChildFund has been working here since 1971, and our aim is to support children who have been affected by various vulnerabilities to grow up healthy, educated, skilled, and safe, no matter where they are. Child Fund works in various regions in Ethiopia. We work in Addis Ababa, in Amhara, in Tigray, in Oromia, in central and in southern Ethiopia.

We work with children who are living in the most difficult situation. And our hope is to ensure that these children grow up safely in the environments that they find themselves in. Although the work of Child Fund has been impacted by the conflict happening in various parts of the country, this has not stopped our work. Instead, it has increased the amount of work we do because we want to work and support those children who are caught in humanitarian crises. 

Our humanitarian work has expanded in Northern Amhara and in Tigray and will continue to expand our humanitarian work wherever it takes us. Because we know that children who are in these communities suffer much more greatly when there is conflict. We also know that due to lack of peace, some of the wonderful work that we’ve been doing in development have all been eroded. 

You find that schools that had been constructed have since been demolished. And we need to re-inhabitate these schools. So children still need access to education. And for that reason, no matter what the circumstances are, we will continue to work in the areas where we have children who need our support. Indeed, we need peace, and therefore we work with the triple nexus. We do the humanitarian work, as well as the development work and the peace. Work as well, ensuring that communities where we work can coexist peacefully and continue to do the work that they do best.

Capital: What is the performance of Childfund in the completed financial year?

Lilly: Child’s funds’ performance over the current completed financial year has been good. All the work that we had planned to do, we achieved them. And we actually raised in the funds that we had planned to raise, which was $4 million, we were able to reach our target of $3.7 million, which is a good indication of the work that was done able to do. We also were able to remit a majority of our funds to our local partners. Our four million dollars were disbursed to local partners and I think this is what we’ll call an achievement within the financial year. We were able to reach 4.3 million children in terms of the work that we wanted to implement directly with the children and so this is an achievement of the financial year.

Capital: How many institutions are you working with? What kind of support is provided?

Lilly: We work with very many institutions, including the University of Addis Ababa, University of RC. We are also having an MOU right now with the Mekelle University. We also work with government offices. We work with various governments at the world level and also at the federal level. We work with the Ministry of Women and Social Affairs. We also work with the Ministry of Education. And we are in all the clusters that relate to the work with we do, that is the protection cluster, education cluster, health cluster, and wash cluster. We also work with the UN organizations and we participate in forums that they call.

Capital: What are the biggest challenges of humanitarian organizations in Ethiopia?

Lilly: Our biggest challenge in the humanitarian work that we do is access. Access is sometimes very difficult to the places where we need to be at the time we need to be there. But also the drop in the amount of resources that is available to support the communities is also a major challenge because we know of the crisis going on in the Middle East, the crisis going on in Europe, in Ukraine and Russia. These are all taking away some of the priorities of our donors, and therefore we are getting less funding over the years. And this means that we have less money to reach to the communities here in Ethiopia.

Capital: How many projects have you implemented so far? How much money was spent on it?

Lilly: ChildFund works with partners and currently we’re working with close to 17 partners across the country. Each of our partners support us in reaching the 7 million children that we aim to reach as according to our strategic plan for 2026. Our partners and us, we work together to reach these children using different programs. 

In Life Stage 1, we’re working with families, building capacity of families, encouraging VSL groups, village savings and loans associations, group savings, self-help groups, and we’re supporting early childhood care centers. We’re supporting schools in Life Stage 2. We’re supporting clubs in those schools, environmental clubs, and child parliaments. We’re supporting libraries in school, wash facilities in school, we are supporting reading and computer labs in schools.

In life stage three, we are supporting income generating activities amongst the youth, we are supporting youth in their various activities. And so overall, every year we do a number of programs and we spend approximately $10 million every year on programming that we do. We also do humanitarian support and with humanitarian support, we are providing food, NFIs, we are providing cash because of the various needs that are there. We also provide support on mental health, psychosocial support. And so we the number of projects that we do are quite diverse and there are quite a lot because we work through partners and we also do implement directly, but a majority of our work is done through local partners.

Capital: How accessible Childfund is in education, health and social issues?

Lilly: Child’s Fund’s programming approach follows a life stage approach. This life stage approach is divided into three stages. Children aged from zero to five fall under the life stage one approach. In the life stage one approach, our focus is to work with parents and caregivers to ensure that their children have a good start in life. This ensures that children are healthy.

That their parents have income to be able to support their children to receive nutritious food. We also look at the health of their children, access to health facilities, providing support to the various facilities in the rural communities and even in the urban centers to ensure children have got access to adequate and quality health. Our life stage two are from children aged between six through to 14. And these children are supposed to be in primary education. We also work on early childhood education, children aged from three through to five. And these children, we prepare them through the early childhood care centers for them to be able to prepare for primary. Life Stage Two is basically primary education, supporting the schools, both in the rural and in the urban centers, where we work with our local partners.

To be able to ensure that the children in those schools have access to quality education, supporting various teachers on child-centered teaching methodology, equipping laboratories, equipping reading centers, equipping libraries, and preparing menstrual hygiene rooms for girls to be able to complete their education, primary education as well. So Further to that, we provide support in our Life Stage 3 to young people. Life Stage 3 starts from the ages of 15 through to 24. At this life stage, we have children who are in secondary school, in university, and also children who have dropped out of school because of their performance in the academic sphere. So in this, we encourage them to participate, as volunteers in their communities to prepare for employment, to prepare for entrepreneurship, to join tertiary education. So we support our TV centers and we also support the young people to form groups, provide them with starting up kids, train them on various skill sets that can help them be social agents that work well within their communities.

And also support their communities. So we’re talking about working with volunteers, community young volunteers, to be able to empower their communities, to understand issues around climate change, to understand issues about sexual reproductive health rights, and also to get engaged in businesses. This can be poultry farming, animal fattening. Other small businesses of selling, buying and selling of grains and other non-farm produce as well. Supporting young people to be able to be more sustainable and to be able to access funds for them to become better adults in the future and be able to run their homes in the future.

Capital: Finally, how many people are intended to be accessible in this year, and what is the future plan?

Lilly: This year our target was to reach 4.5 million. As I’m speaking to you, as at the close of June, we had reached 4.3 million. It’s our hope that we’ll actually reach at the close of June, this year June, we’ll probably have reached 5.5 million children.

 And our plan is to reach our 7 million children. With the same quality of services that we offer and to expand our partner’s base, working with and empowering local partners, but also local communities to be able to do high quality and effective program delivery. Cause that’s why our niche is empowering the local NGOs to be able to deliver high quality programming and also to be able to be part of the solution to some of the crises we see in the communities where we work. 

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