Ethiopia, like one hundred and twenty other nations, has created a national children's commission to observe the United Nations International Year of the child in 1979.
Ethiopia, like one hundred and twenty other nations, has created a national children's commission to observe the United Nations International Year of the child in 1979. The first of a series of conferences opened on Saturday (13 January) in the National Assembly building in Addis Ababa, the capital.
Children sang the national anthem as government officials and cabinet ministers arrived. The nation's twelve and a half million children are one third of the population. Government statistics show that many homeless and starving children have to beg in the streets - a tragedy the government wants to reduce.
Lieutenant Colonel Indale Tessema was among the government officials who spoke of Ethiopia's commitment of improving her children's prospects. The audience learned the International Year of the Child would not be a year of euphoria and celebration for Ethiopia.
Instead, Ethiopia would use it to begin transforming ideals and objectives into deeds by launching programmes for children's basic needs -- education and medical care. In Ethiopia, the children's worst handicap is lack of medical care - it prenatal and maternal death rates being ten times higher than in developed countries. Malnutrition makes children easy prey to diseases, which, in turn, disrupt their education.
Ethiopia's Minister of Education, Lieutenant Colonel Goshu Walde, explained that illness retards the children's physical and mental capacities. He said that a very small number of Ethiopian children of school-age -- no more than fifty percent -- have any chance of getting a formal education, and those who do go to school often have learned even basic skills. These drop-outs are fated to join the ranks of the unemployed, many of them turning to crime.