My apologies to the interpreters. I think they're going to have to earn their keep today, because my French is a little rusty. But we'll get started and see where we go. I'll start with an opening statement, if I may.
To begin, thank you, Mr. Chair, and honourable members.
Thank you for your invitation to appear this afternoon. I am pleased to be here.
As Regional Director General for Southern and Eastern Africa under the Geographic Programs Branch at CIDA, I am responsible for overseeing CIDA country and regional programming in Southern and Eastern Africa, including Ethiopia.
I'd like to first update you briefly on the important context of Canada's international aid and development work in Africa. Then I'll move on specifically to Ethiopia.
First of all, CIDA is committed to making its aid more effective to ensure the achievement of positive and sustainable results that make a real and long-term difference in the lives of those living in poverty. CIDA is focusing its work both geographically and thematically in the areas of increased food security, children and youth, and sustainable economic growth.
Throughout Africa, CIDA is supporting national poverty reduction strategies so that our assistance is more effective and able to reach the largest number of beneficiaries possible.
While doing so, we recognize that Africa faces many challenges as it develops. CIDA continues to do its part to respond to humanitarian needs, as we did when the worst drought in 60 years hit the Horn of Africa region last year.
Considering that effective development work goes a long way to reduce the impact of disasters, CIDA is working to avoid humanitarian crises by increasing food security. We also recognize that food security is not only about getting food on the table; it's about getting the right food on the table. Nutrition is proven to be one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways of improving health and saving lives. That is why it is an integral part of the G-8 Muskoka initiative, which aims to improve the health of mothers, newborns, and children under five.
I'm now going to take a brief moment to zero in on and explain Ethiopia's development context in order to highlight the important progress that's been achieved over the last decade.
Despite being one of the world's poorest nations, Ethiopia has made major development strides in recent years. With an economic growth rate averaging more than 8% per year, the Government of Ethiopia remains committed to pro-poor growth, investing more than 60% of public expenditures toward poverty-oriented sectors. This is the highest rate in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of the portion of the budget committed to pro-poor sectors. This has translated into declining poverty levels—from 38% in 2004 to 29% in 2011, according to the Government of Ethiopia's own numbers.
Country-led investments to increase food security and expand the coverage of basic services such as health and education have contributed to rising human development indicators, and the country is on track to achieve six of the eight millennium development goals. Ethiopia's strong ownership of development priorities, combined with its commitment to anti-poverty programs, makes it a country where official development assistance produces results.
CIDA has contributed to these achievements—for example, through its support to increasing food security and securing the future of children and youth in Ethiopia. CIDA's contribution to food security and agricultural growth projects contributed to expanding access to fertilizer, improved seed, and credit services across the country. In 2010-11 these efforts resulted in an average yield increase of 100 kilograms per hectare of maize and wheat. Working with other donors, CIDA expanded training services to an additional 800,000 farmers so that a total of 4.9 million people now benefit from local agricultural services.
CIDA is also contributing to the health and well-being of mothers and children in Ethiopia. The proportion of births attended by local health workers rose to 25% last year versus 16% back in 2007. The proportion of children vaccinated against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus rose to 86% last year from 73% in 2007, and against measles, from 65% up to 77%. This data indicates that more mothers and children under the of five have access to and are using basic health services.
In addition, in Ethiopia CIDA focuses its efforts under the Muskoka initiative towards improving infant and child feeding practices, and providing supplements, key vitamins and minerals such as iodized salt and vitamin A, to women of children-bearing age and to infants.
So now let me mention in a few words how we choose to build our country programs.
In developing an overall country program, CIDA requires country-specific governance, gender equality, and human rights analyses to be conducted during the planning and implementation phases. These analyses help us to shape our development interventions. We then monitor all our initiatives and take action if and when the context changes. We expect, just as the public and honourable members do, that from a policy viewpoint CIDA programs will have a positive impact on the development context in any given country.
In addition, CIDA assesses the country's poverty situation and the level of citizen participation in the setting of national development priorities. Our programming is a product of this work, as well as of ongoing consultations with local and Canadian partners, with other donors, with UN agencies and, of course, with the Government of Ethiopia.
As an example of how CIDA adjusts its programming to the Ethiopian context, we channel our funding through non-governmental organizations, private sector entities, and multilateral development institutions, and focus primarily on food security, agricultural growth, and nutrition. To state it in another way, CIDA focuses on providing support that directly and positively impacts the food insecure, the rural poor, children under the age of five, and pregnant and lactating women in need of nutritional supplements such as vitamin A. In addition, on a responsive basis we provide humanitarian assistance to address specific emergencies such as the 2011 major drought in the Horn of Africa, which we've discussed in this setting before.
Even on this last example, to go beyond short-term emergency assistance, CIDA is contributing to efforts to build resilience, particularly with our work through multilateral development institutions on the development of social safety nets, such as the productive safety net program implemented in Ethiopia. It is designed to build the resilience of 7.8 million chronically food insecure people in order to improve food security and ensure protection from the effects of climate change and other shocks. This program helps communities to invest in sustainable land management while enhancing their natural resource base through transfers of food or cash in exchange for labour. Examples of results to which CIDA contributed include the decline in the annual food gap from 3.6 months per year in 2006 down to 2.3 months per year in 2010. That is the reduction in the amount of time that you see a food gap. Over 318,000 hectares of degraded land have also been rehabilitated through gated fields, which we can talk about that later, and 31,900 kilometres of rural roads have been constructed to improve access to markets and services.
We also support broader democratic and accountability processes, which we believe are integral to progressively improving human rights. Recent examples include support to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Federal Auditor General, and Ethiopian civil society. Working with other donors, Canada engages in discussion directly with the Ethiopian authorities on such topics as human rights and gender equality. We participate in international mechanisms such as the universal periodic review, a process of the United Nation's High Commission for Human Rights. These are all areas in which we have clearly communicated our desire and expectation for improvement.
The contexts in which CIDA works are seldom perfect. I think members here would agree that we are there specifically because there are too many people living in conditions that are unacceptable to Canadians.
We continue to work toward the situation where the democratic and human rights conditions in Ethiopia will mirror the progress already achieved in social sectors such as health and education. This will allow the international community, including Canada, to consider resuming more direct support to the Government of Ethiopia in the future for the realization of its development agenda. But we are not there yet.
At this point I'll stop and would be happy to take some questions.