Bahir Dar is the capital city of the Amhara Region, in north-western Ethiopia. Around 332,000 people live in Bahir Dar at present, and it is one of the biggest and fastest growing cities. Most families live off agriculture, but the changing climate means that they do not have a stable source of food or income. Although the situation is improving due to governmental support, poverty and malnutrition affects thousands of children in the area. The Amhara regional authorities have identified 11.6 million people in need of relief assistance.
Since 2000, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Bahir Dar.
All across Ethiopia, poor nutrition is a major threat to the survival and development of children and young people. This situation is particularly worrying in the Amhara region, were Bahir Dar is located.
Due to malnutrition, 41% of children under the age of 5 are too short for their age and 27% are underweight.
While the under-5 mortality rate is improving, the region has one of the highest rates in the country. Illnesses caused by poor nutrition and lack of sanitation facilities, and a lack of access to health services, can have grave long-term effects for children.
In spite of some governmental programmes to raise awareness around child marriages, they continue to be widespread in the Amhara region, where Bahir Dar is situated. Although the legal age for marriage in Ethiopia is 18 years, around 43% of girls in the Amhara region, are married before they are 18 years old. In fact, the average age of marriage is 14,7 years in the region, and this is lower in rural areas of the area.
These marriages are arranged by the family for economic and social reasons - in the Amhara region, 95% of married girls were in arranged marriages. After they are married, the majority of girls drop out of school.