New project in Ethiopia: Children on the edge


In Ethiopia, millions of children survive on the edge of life. Their lives are marked by poverty, violence, abuse and a lack of care. Their right to a childhood of playing, comfort, influence and education is unknown to both themselves and their surroundings. The Integrated Family Service Organisation - IFSO - is our local partner in the 'Children on the edge' project.

Written by: AC Childsupport, Programme Coordinator Cathe Pedersen and communication coordinator Susanne Dencker.

Also in Ethiopia cities grow rapidly. For decades, poverty and drought have forced millions of families and individuals out of the rural districts and into the cities. In Addis Abeba, scores of marginalised families have moved into the central parts of the city. But they cannot afford the high rents charged and therefore usually end up in the new, rapidly growing slum-like districts far from the city centre. Here, infrastructure is an almost unknown concept. The same goes for power, clean water, schooling, health and respect for the rights of the individual.

Akaki/Kality and Nifas Silk Lafto are the names of two of these new districts. Here, the children - and their parents - live from hand to mouth. Visitors will experience both the material and human despair here with all their senses. This is where 'Children on the edge' is intended to make a difference.  

Our partners

The Integrated Family Service Organisation - IFSO - is our local partner in the 'Children on the edge' project. With a basis in a set of shared values regarding children's rights and the importance of family to a good and safe childhood, we enjoy a close and equal partnership in the project.

A life without thrashing is not a matter of course

Most families in the region live by the old traditions. This has its merits, for instance in the form of a strong family network, where you help each other whenever you have the chance! But it also comes with enormous challenges, such as putting an end to the widespread physical and mental punishment of children and women, which is another part of the old Ethiopian tradition. The same applies to the efforts to stop the common practice of circumcising girls and arranging marriages between adolescents.

What 'Children on the edge' does

Therefore, the project's main focus is on changing - in an inclusive, but unbiased and insisting manner - the families' views on physical and mental punishment and other harmful traditional practices. To this end, IFSO offers a variety of activities, including workshops, meetings, and individual social work.

Schooling is not a matter of course.

Many children in Akaki/Kality and Nifas Silk Lafto never get the chance to go to school. Their parents are illiterate, and thus, schooling is not considered a part of the family tradition. Furthermore, most of them live at such long distances from the local schools that the youngest children are not physically up to the challenge of getting there.

What 'Children on the edge' does

In the 'Children on the edge' project, the project workers, the local community and the Ethiopian authorities team up to build a number of alternative, more centrally located primary schools offering schooling for the youngest children. After three years in these primary schools, the children are far better equipped - physically and academically - to continue their schooling in the established schools. In addition, the children's parents become involved in meetings and workshops which focus on the importance of getting an education. At the same time, the established schools are upgraded to offer a better and more inclusive school environment.

Having access to clean water, toilets and hospitals is not a matter of course

In Akaki/Kality and Nifas Silk Lafto, only very few residents have access to clean water - and are generally lacking in knowledge about basic hygiene. Most of them have to get their water from a pool that they share with the cattle. As a result, children and adults repeatedly contract infections from the drinking water. The nearest hospital is several hours' walk away. If you finally get there, you must have the money to pay for your medicine. Therefore, in practice hospital treatment is an option only for a minority. Consequently, you are generally left with two options: Either you survive the diarrhoea often caused by the infection, or you don't.  

There are no toilets - neither in the residential areas or at the schools, and people must settle with using the forest, thereby turning it into another powerful source of infection.

What 'Children on the edge' does

In partnership with the local community and the schools, the project establishes toilets and wells with clean water from local natural sources. In addition, the project teaches the residents about basic hygiene.

Knowledge about sexual health is not a matter of course

The families surviving on the edge usually get numerous children. Often, the parents are sole providers, and it is a huge challenge for a mother just to provide one meal a day for each child. Therefore, most women would like to decide for themselves how many children they get. But either the women have no knowledge of birth control, or the men refuse to wear a condom. The result is high numbers of childbirths...and an unchecked spread of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV.

What 'Children on the edge' does

The project endeavours to disseminate knowledge about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases. The aim is to ensure that all childbirths are planned, thereby allowing the children to grow up with both parents in a family of a suitable size, which has the energy and means to give each individual child the childhood that he or she is entitled to.  

Work is not a matter of course.

The region is suffering from high levels of unemployment, which mainly affects the youngsters. Most of them have never gone to school or have dropped out of schooling, which limits their job opportunities and force them to work as general labourers, shoeblacks, etc. Jobs which are tough, badly paid and without prospects. This results in a general feeling of discouragement among the local youngsters - a feeling of distress often suppressed by the abuse of 'khat'. The youngsters inspire their younger siblings with their antisocial lifestyle, and this negative spiral keeps children and youngsters locked in discouragement and the lack of faith in a better life.

What 'Children on the edge' does

The project offers the youngsters access to entrepreneurship training and vocational tuition. Such efforts will heighten their self-esteem, sense of responsibility and motivation and give them far better opportunities to either generate an income or find paid employment with future prospects.

The Project in figures

Some 30,000 people will benefit directly or indirectly from the project, including 4000 children and their families.


The project runs in the period 1 July 2012 - 31 December 2016, with a budget of DDK 6.5m, funded by Danida.