Harrar is a city of roughly 151,000 inhabitants, located in eastern Ethiopia, between the lush central highlands and the Somali desert. Harrar is considered one of four holy cities of Islam. Infrastructure in this part of the country is almost non-existent. The Horn of Africa is arguably the world's poorest spot. Tarmac roads, schools and hospitals are scarce. The region is marked by high infant mortality rates and above-average malnourishment figures, both among adults and young children. Recurrent political instability, frequent power cuts and unreliable water supply are very common.
Since 1980, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Harrar.
Children are the hardest hit by the difficult social, economic and political conditions in the region. They are at risk due to poverty, ethnic conflict and malnutrition. They also lack access to sanitation, safe water, and education.
Many families struggle to cover the basic needs of their children. For example, 80% of children under five are below normal height for their age.
The situation is made worse due to conflicts – families are displaced and so lose their social support networks and ways of making a living. Children are often separated from their families and have to look after themselves.
The region has one of the lowest primary and secondary enrolment rates in the country. The situation is slowly improving thanks to an increase in investment.
However, children’s schooling is often interrupted by unrest or natural disasters such as floods. In addition, when families are displaced, or are forced to move around frequently, it is hard for children to attend school regularly.
There is also a big difference between boys and girls in the area of education: girls drop out of school earlier as they are married earlier. Only 10% of girls go onto secondary school.