Press Release

Progress for children and women in Ethiopia, with continuing challenges in human capital development

21 October 2019

The study was supported by UNICEF and was launched today by the State Minister in the Ministry of Finance His Excellency Mr. Admasu Nebebe and UNICEF Re presentative Adele Khodr.

“Ethiopia has demonstrated remarkable progress over the last decade. Even though significant achievements have been registered in the country, a lot remains to be done with the support of all developing partners,’’ said H.E. Mr. Admasu Nebebe, State Minister, Ministry of Finance.

“These findings show that when governments invest in children, as Ethiopia has done in the last two decades, the wellbeing of children improves, and they have better opportunities to fulfil their full potential,” said UNICEF Representative Adele Khodr. “However, as the study shows, there is still more work to be done to end newborn deaths, improve immunization coverage, reduce chronic malnutrition, end child marriage, enroll every child in school, expand access to safe water and sanitation, and reduce child poverty.”

Some of the key findings are:

  • Child health: under-five child mortality has declined by two-thirds in the last two decades. However, 96,000 babies are dying every year from neonatal causes and 872,000 are not fully vaccinated.
  • Nutrition: Stunting in under-five children, a sign of chronic malnutrition, has declined from 58 per cent in 2000 to 37 per cent. However, this still leaves 5.4 million who are too short for their age and the current rate of reduction needs to double if Ethiopia is to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Child marriage: An even more notable reduction has been seen here, with the prevalence declining from 60 per cent in 2005 to 40 per cent in 2016. However, Ethiopia still has 15 million child brides, six million of whom were married before the age of 15. The rate of reduction needs to increase six-fold if child marriage is to be eliminated by 2030.
  • Education: Although Grade 1 enrolments have generally risen, 6 in 10 children complete primary school and even fewer proceed to secondary school. Along the way, children are dropping out of school for reasons that include poverty, child marriage, humanitarian emergencies, inadequate quality of learning, and a shortage of school infrastructure and learning materials. Currently, 2.6 million children aged 7 to 14 years are not enrolled in school and more than half are girls.
  • Safe water and sanitation: The proportion of people using unsafe water declined from 75 per cent in 2000 to 31 per cent in 2016. A similar reduction has been achieved in sanitation, from 79 per cent of the population not having access to safe sanitation in 2000 to 22 per cent. Yet 31 million people have access to safe drinking water and 23 million practice open defecation.
  • Child poverty: GDP capita has increased from US$ 129 in 2000 to US$863 in 2017 and contributed to reducing the number of people living in income poverty. However, for children, access to basic services such as education, health, nutrition, protection, housing, water and sanitation remains limited for most families and it leaves an estimated 36 million of the country’s 43 million children with insufficient access to basic social services.

For Ethiopia to reach middle-income status by 2025 and achieve the SDGs by 2030, the study calls for investments in high impact actions in areas where the burden is high: reducing neonatal mortality, scaling up safe drinking water, ending open defecation, increasing birth registration, expanding social protection and improving access to quality education, including for pre-primary. 


For more information, please contact:

Ato Haji Ibsa, Director, Public Relations and Information Directorate, MoF

Tel: +251 11 552015, Mobile: +251 911 212768,

email: or


Wossen Mulatu, Communication Officer, UNICEF Ethiopia

Tel: +251 115 184028, Mobile: +251 911 308483,



Progress for children and women in Ethiopia, with continuing challenges in human capital development

Photo of Wossen Mulatu

Wossen Mulatu

Communications Officer

UN entities involved in this initiative

United Nations Children’s Fund

Goals we are supporting through this initiative