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Thursday, January 25, 2018

  • Vows to renew her commitment
  • Says an empty lunchbox triggered her intervention

by Getachew Shiferaw

Ministry of Health: Mrs. Frealem Shibabaw, one  of the initiators and founders of the Seqota Declaration met formally here today in the afternoon with national staff members of the Seqota Declaration (SD) and discussed a wide range of nutrition, school feeding, stunting, and other bilateral issues.


Getachew Shiferaw, communications advisor, connected Frealem with the declaration track by researching her whereabouts. There was this inauguration of  anti-wasting , anti-stunting food processing complex that belongs to her in Seqota wagehemera town and unfortunately she missed inviting one of them to the area. Getachew has been media monitoring to see into the proceedings of this very important milestone at a news release by the Amhara National Regional State Communication Affairs Office, citing that this inauguration is done as a part of implementing the tenets of the declaration.

Dr. Sisay remembered meeting her briefly at Bahardar in the veranda of the grand hotel a few months ago during a regional planning session held in the presence of the state President, H.E Ato Gedu Andaregachew. Dr. Firew gave Getachew her telephone number, who then made the call to Frealem. Frealem, at first, was confused as to what declaration Getachew was talking about, but soon realised it was the declaration that she herself had drafted. She was very happy to see it grow in leaps and bounds.

Dr. Sisay Sinamo, Senior Program Manager; Feseha Tekele, Agriculture  Manager; Zemichael Mekonen, Program Analyst; and Getachew Shiferaw, Communications Advisor all with the Programme Delivery Unit (PDU) of the declaration were having a power point assisted discussion on the next six months plan when Frealem called Dr. Sisay and reached the Third floor of the first Block of the Ministry of Health meeting hall, together with her financial assistant.

The staff met with her not only to learn about the beginning of the declaration, but also to orient and update her on the progress made so far, challenges encountered, and draw joint action plans on the way forward. Frealem recounted her vast experience and the ups and downs that she and her team traversed through to lay the foundation to establish the declaration and make nutrition and school feeding a national agenda.

‘’    My name is Frealem Shebabaw. Is not a nutritionist, but I having the passion, the stamina, gut and strength to work in and around it.  The road to nutrition was not simple.  Rather tough and challenging .I started by scanning and skimming the situation.  I just had a school meal imitative in Bahardar. There was this very poor but   intelligent student who brings an empty lunch box in an effort to hide his status, try to resemble his class mates and shy away from being   teased   . No sooner I heard about him than I   begun to send an SOS. I just contacted the school teachers and thought about remedies.  In fact, drop outs were rife.  Many students stop learning at grade 4, with no real justifications associated to it.  Even I have come across teen agers getting employed at their early age for only 70 birr salary a month for survival   .  This is shocking, heart breaking and shameful to see they drop out due to lack of basic necessities all these stroked me.    Is that their destiny, their fate?  I don’t think,’’ she said and went on to state that nutrition is not a luxury, rather a question of survival - this a national security issue. There is no other burning agenda than this. Equality, justice, democracy, security, fraternity, all these had to do with children and their nutrition. We can’t become a middle income country if we leave the causes of children behind.

 ‘’ having seen the reality again and again for myself, I begun talking horizontally and vertically to people and decision makers in particular. I asked and urged them to make this an agenda. Many had had absurd attitudes. . I always like logical arguments. I did not believe and I don’t still believe that the country lacks resources.   Cash and carry is not the real problem. The real problem is attitude; I fought to change that with strong arguments. It was all about eye opening .Once they opened their eyes, they asked me to come up with a model. Then I showed them simple sustainable and manageable model. And it worked. Then, we begun to work in and around milk, milk .and milk has got lots of nutrients. Our aim of feeding school children    worked and proved successful .and as such our model made to became part and parcel of the GTP2. I started it with my meager resources, but gradually pulled resources from inside and outside.  For me surplus production and export without feeding is meaningless.

For her the national priority agendas were turned upside down until recently and the  main assists of the nation were either forgotten or down played .I started it with my meager resources , but  gradually  pulled  resources from both  inside and outside .  

 Coming up to the genesis of the Seqota Declaration, she said:  There was this   recurrent drought, famine and war there. Many people of wagmehera have bore the outcomes   of its consequences. The Trauma, anxiety, psychological frustration   is still huge.  Some people have not yet recovered from it.   I do remember I was almost a kid at that time. I saw the reality on the ground for myself. I visited Seqota and its surrounding. I     talked to a number of people and leaders.    I became encouraged with the commitment and support from the people.  All   were willing and ready to work    towards ending under nutrition. I  simply thought that such a huge  problem of such gigantic magnitude can’t be rectified unless , otherwise  ,  a national , all out strategic  response is put in place . Then I started drafting a concept paper for the declaration, weeping, and finished it in three weeks time. Then, it was declared in week’s time...The concept was not as such new. It was all about building on what we have already.  I wanted all sectors to own it, sign on it. Now am very happy it is bearing fruits, she said.

  ‘’ By Now we  are having community growth and  transformation packages -  dairy farms , food demonstration chickens , food processing mills and   ’  future student imitative ‘  that   proved to be successful . All are intended to link students at school with   their    day to day lives at home. We are duplicating and implicating experiences with the help of a guide line, she said adding that what you hear and what you see on the ground about the reality are quite different. Go on research, research, find out, and find out. You will be surprised the flora, fauna and natural resources, the areas endowed with.’’

 School, School, children, children, she is heard time and again as saying. The world food program must have endorsed her plan and supported her innovative ideas. It is nice to hear now that the Ministry of Education and other governmental and non Governmental organizations are working with her, there by reimbursing some budgets for such school feeding efforts.

For Dr.Sisay Siamo, starting from the child is basic as this is the foundation for future generation. Local problems, local solutions. Many of our interventions calls for   sense of urgency, innovations and devotion from business as usual process. Thinking out of the box is our approach.  Almost all targets of us calls for 100 % plans implementation .what Frealem is doing is this regard, is exemplary and fantastic. no doubt , we will turn the country into a food basket by  conquering  the  silent killers -   wasting , and stunting  ,  he said  and went on to state that the staffs of the Seqota Declaration are willing and eager to work hand in hand with Frealem and her projects .


We all here really count and cherish on your all out contribution and effort to the birth of the Seqota Declaration. We want you to keep that up and high on the track. Let you renew your commitment and be once again our champion, our ambassador, Dr.Sisay   called on.

Am ready, eager and willing to work with you .am very, very happy to see the seqota Declaration moving and propelling well on the truck, she reciprocated.

As Frealem, counts her experience and outlined her plans, Dr.sisay complimented by same with the Sequa Declaration. Participants went in between whenever specific technical   expertise and advises are needed. For instance on  seqota  communication,   awareness creation ,  branding , rebranding   , changing  the mindset  of the  peoples  ,  transformation,   team work , thinking out of the box efforts    were   raised and deliberated .

Meanwhile staff expressed their admiration and satisfaction with the activities and achievements of Frealem Shibabaw. We got now clarity that you are, where and when you started nutrition interventions, they were heard as saying.

The ‘Seqota’ Declaration ,a special commitment  managed under the National Nutrition Programme II, was officially  unveiled  by  senior government echelons in July 2015 at the periphery of the International ‘Financing for Development Conference’ convened in Addis Ababa . 

….ends ….                          

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