Djibouti is a small country on the Horn of Africa, in which more than 23 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. The prevalence of extreme poverty in the Republic of Djibouti is more than seven times higher in rural areas than in the capital, despite rural inhabitants only comprising one-fourth of the total population. These disparities result in a large prevalence of hunger in Djibouti.

An Absence of Agriculture

While a majority of civil strife in Djibouti has been resolved since 2001, a large proportion of the population still experiences the effects of the former social instability. During the recovery period, the rural population often depended almost entirely on emergency food aid, with little emphasis on rebuilding infrastructure. Poor rural Djiboutians lack access to reliable financial services, which are needed for more lucrative business opportunities outside the agricultural field.

With less than 1,000 square kilometers suitable for farming,  Djibouti has a chronic food deficit. Agricultural production accounts for only three percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), so Djibouti imports 90 percent of its food commodities.

This reliance means it is highly sensitive to external economic disruptions and natural disasters such as floods and droughts. Any variation in the international prices has a considerable impact on the poorest segment of the population, who spend 77 percent of their household budget on imported food.

Lack of access to affordable food correlates with high rates of malnutrition in Djiboutian children, currently affecting 29.7 percent of children under five.

Collaborative Solutions

The World Bank’s 2014-2017 Country Partnership Strategy marks a collaboration between the International Development Association (IDA), International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The strategy supports the government’s goal to reduce extreme poverty by 2035. The strategy will also build the infrastructure to benefit all members of the population through harnessing the country’s human and economic potential by reducing vulnerability and strengthening the business environment.

By improving long-term infrastructure and opening markets for poor rural communities, rural citizens may eventually escape poverty and subsequently hunger in Djibouti.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Djibouti
The small nation of Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa, is only about 9,000 square miles and has a small population of about 820,000 people. Currently, poverty in Djibouti persists as a major problem with more than 23% of those 820,000 living in conditions described as extreme poverty.

Consistent food deficits caused by Djibouti’s harsh climate make agriculture harder here than in other areas of the continent. This creates a dependence on imports to feed the population and leaves the country especially disadvantaged by drought, floods and other natural disasters. Droughts leave an exceptionally long-lasting impact in the form of crop destruction and loss of livestock. In 2011, the U.N. reported that Djibouti’s ranchers lost 70-80% of their livestock during a period in which food prices also rose 50%.

These increasing rates of malnourishment have led many to migrate away from rural areas to the capital in search of work. Today, around two-thirds of the population is condensed in Djibouti City, leaving a small percentage to farm. These factors culminate into mass poverty in Djibouti and need direct solutions as well as continued foreign support to combat. Many in Djibouti must concentrate what little income they earn towards food and basic survival at the expense of health and education. Those in the Garabtisan Village must walk 23 kilometers just to fetch water for the village, many surviving on 40 liters for up to three days at a time.

Despite its plethora of issues and dependence on foreign aid, Djibouti’s geographical position as a trade gateway to Ethiopia has spurred some economic opportunities. The International Monetary Fund estimates that real GDP increased during 2015-2016 by around 6.5%, but continued support is needed to continue this positive trend into the future. Efficient infrastructure development, political stability, and natural disaster relief remain crucial to Djibouti’s continued growth. Suffering has been alleviated by efforts such as the U.N. raising $17.4 million in response to the 2011 drought, the World Food Programme providing emergency food aid to 61,000 rural farmers and $1 million from UNICEF for Djibouti’s children.

Continued economic growth may provide more paths out of poverty and consistent foreign assistance from countries around the world can, one day, end poverty in Djibouti. Reaching out to U.S. members of Congress for continued USAID support can go a long way in giving millions the opportunities needed to become self-sufficient. Each and every person in the United States possesses the power to speak out for what matters, ending human suffering around the globe.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr

Improving the Water Quality in Djibouti
Water is a human necessity. The issue of water quality in the developing world is one that affects millions of people daily. More than half of the population of the developing world suffers from a water-related disease and about 6,000 children die from a water-related disease every day.

Djibouti, a small country off the eastern coast of Africa, is one of these developing countries. Currently, the country is experiencing a major national water crisis. Citizens in rural areas are the most affected: according to UNICEF, nearly 50% of people in rural communities do not have access to a safe water source.

Despite its coastal location, Djibouti is a country heavily affected by drought due to its arid climate. Most of the country’s water supply comes from groundwater resources, which have dwindled dramatically in recent years because of widespread drought.

Water quality in Djibouti is also a national problem. The little groundwater resources that are available are often of poor quality which has resulted in an epidemic of many waterborne illnesses.

The most high-risk water-related diseases in Djibouti are hepatitis A, hepatitis E and typhoid fever. These illnesses are contracted when people come into direct contact with water contaminated by fecal matter. Typhoid fever is the most deadly of the three, with a mortality rate of 20 percent.

Water conditions are slowly improving in the country thanks to efforts made by UNICEF, the European Union and Djibouti’s Ministry of Agriculture. This partnership, which began in 2007, has given more than 25,000 of the poorest people in rural communities access to clean water close to their homes.

The European Union has given UNICEF 2 million euros toward improving water sanitation in Djibouti. UNICEF also agreed to include an additional 60,000 euros to provide technical expertise.

More still needs to be done to improve the water quality in Djibouti. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), about 35% of the rural population has not received any improvements to their water supply.

Luckily, the Djibouti government has shown proactive concern in erasing the national water crisis. With help from UNICEF and the implementation of climate change policy in the country, Djibouti is looking toward a future of increased health and adaptability.

Laura Cassin

Photo: Flickr

Stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and self-proclaimed travesti exécutif, Eddie Izzard, traveled to Djibouti in July 2015.

Izzard, a UNICEF UK Ambassador, met with child refugees who escaped the ongoing civil war in Yemen, Izzard’s country of birth. The children he spoke to fled their homes with nothing, traveling across the Red Sea by boat.

According to UNICEF UK, more than 20,000 people, including 10,000 Yemenis, have taken the journey across the Red Sea into Djibouti since March. Many of these Yemeni refugees are living in Markazi, a refugee camp outside the city of Obock.

“For decades, the children of Yemen have been living in fear and danger. They are now living through the hell of civil war and many have had to flee across the Red Sea, to Djibouti via Bab-El-Mandeb – the Gate of Tears” Izzard explains.

“The harrowing stories from Yemenis, particularly those from Aden, the city of my birth, will stay with me forever. I have a responsibility to highlight this crisis to the world, and I hope I can persuade the UK public to help the 10 million Yemeni children that are in danger right now.”

Izzard wishes to help the many children caught within the turbulence of conflict—products of what he calls a “forgotten civil war”.

In his appearance for Sky News, he highlights UNICEF’s efforts, stating that with any donations the organization would be able to provide a week’s worth of nutritious food or even 60 vaccinations against polio.

Out of the 25 million total population of Yemen, he states, nine million children have become extremely vulnerable and have faced much hardship due to the ongoing conflict.

Jaime Longoria

Sources: MSN, UNICEF

Throughout its long history, Djibouti has served as an important part of international exchange. Located in the center of the Horn of Africa, Djibouti has been a principle port of trade, exchange and shipping for nations like Saudi Arabia, France and China.

Yet, in spite of its historical significance, Djibouti’s small population of 886,000 people, most of whom are urban residents, cannot afford food or proper dietary provisions. This number includes children, approximately 109,000 under the age of five, who are at risk of stunted growth, improper mental development and death due to malnourishment. It is estimated that 29.8 percent of children under the age of five in Djibouti are underweight.

In recent years, severe drought has caused the traditionally pastoral society of Djibouti to lose up to 70 percent of its livestock. With less than .10 percent of Djibouti’s land considered arable, it is difficult to maintain sustainable agriculture or for families to feed themselves. Due to a combination of high communicable disease infection, low crop production and extreme poverty, child mortality rates are increasingly high, with 81 of every 1,000 live births resulting in death. Though child mortality has declined considerably in the last 24 years, children continue to suffer greatly in the region.

Djibouti has one of the world’s highest rates of chronic child malnourishment. The latest statistics provided by WHO show that 18 percent of children suffer from malnutrition and 5.6 percent face severe acute malnutrition. Djibouti currently ranks at 165 of 187 countries in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index, indicating poor development and improper nutrition throughout the average Djiboutian’s lifetime.

In an effort to combat malnutrition and child mortality rates in Djibouti, a number of international organizations have developed programs and assistance intended for the ‘under five population’ and mothers. In June of 2014, the World Bank announced a $5 million dollar credit to the Social Safety Net Program, which provides food assistance and cash-for-work incentives to mothers with young children. It emphasizes the ‘first 1000 days’ of a child’s life as being critical to developing proper nutrition and health.

In 2011, UNICEF installed a therapeutic feeding center in the Balbala community in Djibouti, offering treatment and nutritional supplements to malnourished children. The feeding center also offers resources to mothers in order to prevent future cases of malnutrition. The World Food Programme has also been a leading contributor of food and health assistance in Djibouti. Its assistance in Djibouti has helped over 90,000 people in Djibouti, especially children.

The WFP said, “WFP also helps fight against malnutrition by providing fortified food to children under five, as well as to pregnant and nursing mothers at health centres in both urban and rural parts of the country.”

Additionally, The World Bank, WFP, UNICEF and other organizations have helped Djibouti become self-sufficient by aiding in efforts focused on education, environmental sustainability and useful crop production. These efforts have contributed to the ongoing decline of malnutrition throughout Djibouti.

Candice Hughes

Sources: The World Bank, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2, WHO 1, WHO 2, World Food Programme
Photo: Flickr


Djibouti is a small country on the Eastern coast of Africa populated by malnourished people. Because of its location, Djibouti is a shipping hub for Eastern Africa, and so it has a large urban population. Still, a World Food Programme Emergency Food Security Assessment in 2012 found that three-fourths of assessed households were “severely or moderately food insecure.”

In rural areas, where one-third of Djibouti’s population lives, there is a severe hunger crisis. One in five children aged one to four  years is malnourished and, in the rural areas, about 70,000 people were food insecure in 2012. In the slums, Arhiba and Balbala, there is a high rate of child mortality from malnutrition.This is in part due to the fact that the country has very little natural resources and there have been recurring severe droughts in the region.

Additionally, in recent years Djibouti suffered from a cholera epidemic. The droughts have damaged food production from crops and livestock in rural areas, and because the rural villages are spread out across the country, it is difficult for aid organizations to send food and healthcare to each community.

Many rural families have moved to cities in search of work and a better life. However, work is often difficult to find and, with more people migrating to the cities, the unemployment rate has increased quickly. Other rural families are fleeing to the slums to escape the harsh conditions of rural life.

Most households are receiving assistance, without which they could not survive. Fewsnet found in a 2012-2013 report that, in some areas, “households are marginally able to meet minimum food needs only through accelerated depletion of livelihood assets and adoption of unsustainable coping strategies such as charcoal sales.”

Prices and unemployment are rising as the droughts continue. The people of Djibouti need strategies for clean water, agriculture, health and nutrition. Until these needs are met, World Food Programme, Action Against Hunger and other organizations and governments are working to provide citizens with basic needs and helping the government develop programs for sustainability.

-Kimmi Ligh

Sources: Relief Web, Action Against Hunger, World Food Programme, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

Compared to surrounding countries, the educational system in Djibouti is flourishing. Though illiteracy remains a problem in the small country in the Horn of Africa, the government has made significant progress in the last decade to make education accessible to a greater percentage of the population. For many reasons, the future of education in Djibouti looks even brighter.

1. Modeled after French educational system
The French educational system has consistently been considered one of the strongest in the world. It separates schooling into three levels (primary, secondary and higher education) and focuses on ensuring that all children enter primary school at a young age. The structure of Djibouti’s educational system is modeled after the French system, and the African country maintains the tradition of trying to enroll as many children as possible in the first years of primary education.

2. Not exclusively French
Although Djibouti follows France’s example, education is not exclusively available to those that speak French. In the past, education in Djibouti was somewhat of an elitist concept. People that spoke the native language could not attend the schools because the lessons were taught in French. Fortunately, this idea has been abandoned and schools readily accommodate the various languages spoken in Djibouti.

3. Number of schools
Djibouti is a small country. Approximately 846,000 people inhabit its less than 9,000 square miles. Given that most of these people live in the capital city, the number of schools in Djibouti is impressive in comparison to other developing countries. In terms of public schools, there are 81 primary schools, 12 secondary schools and two vocational schools. There is also a university.

4. The University of Djibouti
The University of Djibouti is the only institution of higher education in Djibouti, but its effects on the educational system seem much greater. The university offers arts, science, law and technology instruction. The professors are qualified to teach their respective subjects and frequently communicate with professors outside of their own country. The university highlights education on topics related to current affairs in Djibouti, such as the economy, to guarantee that its students graduate with comprehensive knowledge about the market and the “real world” that they will enter.

5. Gender equality
Truthfully, more boys than girls go to school in Djibouti. However, compared to many developing nations, the ratio reflects an improved sense of gender equality. The drop-out rate for females is 1.6 percent, while it rests just below 1 percent for males. At the start of schooling, however, the Ministry of Education in Djibouti takes care to establish equal educational opportunities for boys and girls.

6. Government attention
The government recognizes the importance of education, and has taken steps to make the educational system a primary focus. The country’s national budget allocates more than 20 percent to education and has done so for the majority of the 21st century.

7. Rising enrollment
Due to the government’s high attention to education and the tradition of French education, Djibouti works to increase enrollment rates of children in primary schools. In 2002, 43 percent of primary-aged children were enrolled in formal schooling. That statistic increased to 66 percent in 2006 and 71 percent in 2009. The enrollment rate has been increasing steadily since then.

Most of the progress in education in Djibouti has occurred in the capital city, also called Djibouti. The more secluded and rural areas of the country still need to see improvements in accessibility and quality of education, like many other developing countries.  However, the attention to educating citizens of all ages proves that the government of Djibouti is one of the most proactive in encouraging the growth of academics.

— Emily Walthouse

Sources: Maps of World, UNICEF, Study Lands, Africa Africa
Photo: Vimeo

Every year the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) pay tribute to the United State’s federal workers by recognizing those who have made significant contributions to the U.S. Medalists are honored based on their commitment, innovation, and the impact of their work on addressing the needs of the nation.

This year USAID worker and her team are one of the finalists for the 2013 National Security and International Affairs Medal, one of the eight Sammies medal categories. Cara Christie and USAID’s Horn Drought Emergency Response Team are among the finalists in this category for their tireless endeavors in leading the relief effort following the drought in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya in the Horn of Africa. Christie coordinated the relief effort from her office in Washington D. C.,  providing immediate emergency relief to the affected countries and enacting methods to improve their agrarian economies after they had been decimated by three years of the worst drought that the Horn of Africa has ever seen.

Not only did Christie lead the relief efforts, but she is credited with recognizing the significance of the impending famine almost a year before it unfolded. Christie convinced her superiors in USAID of the need to be proactive by making advance preparations in the fall of 2010—a move that hastened aid to the region and saved lives. Christie used lessons learned from other drought response situations to come up with a program pairing health, nutrition, water, and sanitation program with food and voucher programs that helped repair the damaged economies in the Horn of Africa.

It may seem strange that an award given for service to the United States could be received by a team dedicated to giving relief to another country, but in reality Christie’s actions were crucial to U.S. national security interests. The Horn of Africa represents one of the regions of the world that most threatens U.S. national security because it houses some of the most conflict prone states in the world, including Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. It also is in close proximity to Yemen, a major center of U.S. counterterrorism action. The U.S. also houses the military base Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, which serves as the most important staging ground for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Aid efforts in the region, along with in the rest of the world, contribute to stability and thereby hold radicalization at bay, furthering U.S. interests, and making the U.S. more secure.

– Martin Drake

Sources: Washington Post
Photo: USAID

The decision made by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to send financial support to the United Nations World Food Program for the Republic of Djibouti is coming at an imperative time for the country. Djibouti has been experiencing a drought for the past several years and its population, particularly those living in rural areas, is in desperate need of food assistance. USAID has already sent the first installment of the $4 million dollar commitment to Djibouti.

Almost immediately, USAID and its partner, Food for Peace, jumped in to restock Djibouti’s stores of yellow spit peas and vegetable oil. Djibouti is where USAID stores these items for its food assistance programs so it was vital to keep the warehouses fully stocked. As the drought continues, the food situation is expected to become even worse.

This current partnership between USAID and Food for Peace is not the beginning of a relationship between the U.S. government and Djibouti. For the past decade, USAID has been working with the country to reduce hunger and malnutrition. Since 2006, the number of child deaths as a result of malnourishment has reduced from 20% to 0.2% in 2012. This is in part due to USAID’s support of the Famine Early Warning System, a program that observes the country’s food security and raises alerts when the food situation turns for the worse.

This program, and many others that USAID supports, are helping the government of Djibouti to not only recognize famine and hunger, but also learn how to combat and prevent it. While short-term solutions are critical for aiding in ending immediate hunger, USAID is also concerned with long-term solutions, including services that guarantee food for children, pregnant and nursing women, building community gardens, and the overarching issue of reducing poverty.

As for now, USAID’s most recent contribution will be critical for those living through this devastating drought. More food aid will be delivered in the next few months.

– Mary Penn

Sources: Sabahi Online, All Africa
Photo: Council on Foreign Relations