ADDIS ABABA, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Ethiopian government and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) have signed a cooperation agreement to strengthen strategic collaboration pertaining to refugees and Ethiopian returnees.
The memorandum of understanding agreement (MOU), which was signed between the Ethiopian Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) and UNICEF, envisaged strengthening the two sides' collaboration in protecting and supporting refugees and Ethiopian returnees in the country, according to a joint press statement issued late Friday.
The accord aimed to improve access to essential services including education, healthcare, water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as child protection, social protection and education for refugees, Ethiopian returnees and other vulnerable communities, it said.
The agreement also aimed to promote self-reliance and integration, strengthen protection systems and advocate for the rights of refugees and Ethiopian returnees, according to the joint statement.
"This MoU is a significant step forward in our efforts to protect and support refugees and Ethiopian returnees in Ethiopia. By working with UNICEF, we can ensure that refugees and returnees can access the essential services and support they need to survive and thrive," said Teyiba Hassen, director general of RRS.
The agreement, by acknowledging Ethiopia's long-standing tradition of protecting refugees and ensured the right to access basic services, aims to support the RRS in fostering an environment that helps refugees and hosting communities to become self-sufficient, according to the statement.
The agreement is also expected to support RRS's efforts in finding long-term solutions to refugee problems, encourage peaceful coexistence between refugees and host communities, and receive and assist with the reintegration of Ethiopian returnees
"Children are disproportionately affected by conflict and displacement. This MoU will help us to ensure that refugee and returnee children in Ethiopia have access to the education, health care, and protection they need to reach their full potential," said Mariko Kagoshima, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Ethiopia.
The agreement between the Ethiopian government and the UN agency came as the East African country is hosting close to one million refugees, making one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in the African continent. ■