Friday, December 9, 2011

Youth Aging Out of Care in Ethiopia Not Prepared

When preparing for the focus groups to begin in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Nikel Bailey and Carly Loehrke searched for individuals to work as translators. IOFA believed it was critical to have translators with social work backgrounds provide English-to-Amharic interpretation for the youth and adolescents who participated.

Mikiyas Feyissa was one such translator. He received his Bachelors of Arts degree in Business Management from Haramaya University. In the past, he has worked as the Cooperative Affairs Officer and as the Research & Communications Officer for the Organization for Women in Self Employment (WISE). Mikiyas is currently the Program Manager for Livelihood and Capacity Building at the Organization for Child Development and Transformation (CHADET) located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

It is with this experience that we asked Mikiyas to be a guest blogger for IOFA this week. Below, he shares some insights into this vulnerable population:

With a total population of over 73.9 million, Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria. Children below the age of 18 make up fifty five percent of the population (CSA, 2007). As of 2009, it was estimated that about 5,459,139 orphans live in Ethiopia, of whom 855,720 are orphaned due to HIV/AIDS[1]. The existence of orphanages and community support in Ethiopia has been instrumental in contributing to the provision of basic services and life skills for some of these children. After the youth leave the orphanages and community support systems, they become vulnerable due to the lack of structured support in the country for youth who leave care.

I was able to discuss these issues with youth during a focus group discussion I co-facilitated for a study conducted by IOFA in Ethiopia. The opportunity helped me to realize that youth who aged out of care were endangered when they faced the cold world by themselves. Even those who are currently in care developed a fear for the time when they would age out of care. The youth even said that they will ‘beg’ if the service provided halts. The orphaned youth said that they are not yet prepared for and acquainted with the process and problems associated with aging out. They have also illustrated that they are not equipped to live independently and are uncertain of where and how they will maintain their livelihoods when they leave care, which clearly shows their vulnerability to sexual and labor exploitation.

The issue calls for a consolidated Transitions Support system in the country which would provide wholesome skills and support for youth who have just left care and for those who are about to leave care. The design of this intervention could partly include, but is not limited to: provision of a practical life skills training that will help the youth become bold enough to face the intimidating outside world, a mechanism where the youth could support each other in harsh times, a marketable vocational skills and business training for employment and self-employment, and the formation of a referral network to link youth to benefits.

Mikiyas Feyissa

Program Manager for Livelihood and Capacity Building
Organization for Child Developme
nt and Transformation (CHADET)

[1] Standard Service Delivery Guidelines, for Orphan and Vulnerable Children’s Care and Support Programs, February 2010,Federal Democratic republic of Ethiopia, Ministry of Women’s Affairs

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