Child Poverty in EritreaMilitarism and instability are endemic to Eritrea. The degradation of civil society is a result of those two factors. Child poverty in Eritrea is rampant due to such foundations; however, the country is not without benefactors. UNICEF’s aid efforts are improving children’s health within Eritrea despite the current conditions.

A Brief History

Eritrea is one of the few countries that can truly be considered a fledgling state in the 21st century. After a decades-long secession war, the Eritrean government achieved full independence from Ethiopia in 1993. They solidified the totalitarian one-party dictatorship that has retained power since. A brief period of peace followed, during which promised democratic elections never materialized. Then, Eritrea’s unresolved border disputes with Ethiopia escalated into a war that lasted from 1998 to 2000. It killed tens of thousands and resulted in several minor border changes and only formally ended in 2018. In the wake of this war, the Eritrean government has sustained a track record of militarization, corruption and human rights violations that has continually degraded civil stability. As of 2004, around 50% of Eritreans live below the poverty line.

Eritrea’s Youth at a Glance

Housing around 6 million people, Eritrea’s youth make up a significant proportion of its population. Eritrea has the 35th highest total fertility rate globally, with a mean of 3.73 children born per woman. It also has the 42nd lowest life expectancy at birth at a mere 66.2 years, with significant variation between that of males (63.6 years) and females (68.8 years).

Forced Conscriptions of Children

Under the guise of national security against Ethiopia, Eritrea has maintained a system of universal, compulsory conscription since 2003. This policy requires all high school students to complete their final year of high school at Sawa, the country’s primary military training center. Many are 16 or 17 years of age when their conscription begins, which led the U.N. Commission of Inquiry to accuse Eritrea of mobilizing child soldiers.

The Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report also blamed Eritrea’s conscription practices for a number of grievances. Its prolonged militarization has wide-reaching effects for the country. Many adults are held in service against their will for up to a decade, but it is particularly damaging to Eritrean youth. Students at Sawa face food shortages, forced labor and harsh punishment. Many female students have reportedly suffered sexual abuse. Besides fleeing, “Many girls and young women opt for early marriage and motherhood as a means of evading Sawa and conscription.”

Further, “The system of conscription has driven thousands of young Eritreans each year into exile,” HRW claims. They estimate that around 507,300 Eritreans live elsewhere. Because of its conscription practices, Eritrea is both a top producer of refugees and unaccompanied refugee children in Europe – they not only result in child poverty in Eritrea, but in other regions as well.

Education Access

HRW claims that Eritrea’s education system plays a central role in its high levels of militarization. It leads many students to drop out, intentionally fail classes or flee the country. This has severely undermined education access and inflated child poverty in Eritrea.

Eritrea currently has the lowest school life expectancy – “the total number of years of schooling (primary to tertiary) that a child can expect to receive” – of any country. Eritrea has reportedly made strides to raise enrollment over the last 20 years. However, 27.2% of school-aged children still do not receive schooling, and the country retains a literacy rate of only 76.6%. Illiteracy is much more prevalent among females than among males, with respective literacy rates of 68.9% and 84.4%. In general, girls and children in nomadic populations are the least likely to receive schooling.

Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

As mentioned earlier, over half a million Eritreans have fled the country as refugees. Around one-third of them – about 170,000, according to the WHO – now live in Ethiopia. A majority reside in six different refugee camps. As of 2019, around 6,000 more cross the border each month. Reporting by the UNHCR shows that “children account for 44% of the total refugee population residing in the [Eritrean] Camps, of whom 27% arrive unaccompanied or separated from their families.” Far from being ameliorated by domestic education programs, child poverty in Eritrea is merely being outsourced to its neighbors.

Children’s Health as a Site for Progress

Adjacent to these issues, UNICEF’s programs have driven significant improvements in sanitation, malnutrition and medical access. Its Health and Nutrition programs, among other things, address malnutrition by administering supplements, prevent maternal transmission of HIV/AIDS during birth and administer vaccines. Teams in other departments improve sanitation and lobby against practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation.

In its 2015 Humanitarian Action for Children report on Eritrea, UNICEF wrote that Eritrea “has made spectacular progress on half the [Millennium Development Goals],” including “Goal 4 (child mortality), Goal 5 (maternal mortality), Goal 6 (HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases) and is on track to meet the target for access to safe drinking water (Goal 7).”

Figures illustrate this progress on child poverty in Eritrea. Since 1991, child immunization rates have jumped from 14% to 98%, safe water access rates are up at 60% from 7%, iodine deficiency has plummeted from 80% to 20% in children and the under-five mortality rate sits at 63 deaths per 1000 births, rather than at 148.

Child poverty in Eritrea is a far cry from being solved, but it is not a lost cause.

Skye Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Eritrea
Eritrea is an isolated, one-party state where children must frequently leave school for mandatory military training along with a large percentage of farmers and agricultural workers. This leaves food, water, education and shelter from violence almost inaccessible. For these reasons, many Eritrean citizens seek shelter in neighboring countries or refugee shelters where human trafficking is the most rampant. Human trafficking in Eritrea is very common due to over 30 years of violence between neighboring countries leaving it extremely militarized and vulnerable.

Human trafficking is a serious crime and a violation of human rights that occurs in almost every country in the world. The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation and harboring of people for the purpose of forced labor, prostitution, slavery or any other means of exploitation. Trafficking runs rampant in underdeveloped nations, highly militarized and war-torn states and countries without sufficient protection systems in place.

Current State of Human Trafficking in Eritrea

Eritrea is classified as a source country. This means that the majority of human trafficking in Eritrea happens within the country’s borders, mainly for forced domestic labor with sex and labor trafficking happening abroad to a lesser extent.

Most trafficking occurs inside Eritrea’s borders because citizens face “strict exit control procedures and limited access to passports and visas,” trapping them in the country or forcing citizens to flee to refugee camps where they have a high chance of getting kidnapped and returned. Kidnappers commonly try to coerce victims with a promise of reuniting families, food or shelter.

Sinai Desert Trafficking

Between 2006 and 2013, non-domestic human trafficking in Eritrea increased exponentially. Smugglers of neighboring countries were kidnapping Eritreans from refugee camps in order to hold them in the Sinai Desert for ransom. Victims often experienced extreme violence like torture, organ harvesting and rape. Of the estimated 25,000 to 30,000 victims of Sinai trafficking, estimates have determined that about 90% are Eritrean.

Current Protection in Place

According to the U.S. Department of State, the Eritrean government has not reported significant efforts to identify and protect human trafficking victims in the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report: Eritrea.

The government has not reported any systems in place to protect victims and the Eritrean court used to only require perpetrators of human trafficking to pay restitution and/or fines, but now it offers jail time along with a fine of $1,330-$3,330. The government has not identified or persecuted any government officials of human trafficking but did arrest 44 military officials for conspiracy to commit trafficking crimes in 2015.

Prevention and Progress

The U.S. Department of State ranks Eritrea as a Tier 3 country in human trafficking matters meaning that it does not meet the minimum anti-trafficking standards and is not making an effort to do so. The government did not report any protection systems in place for trafficking victims, it does not provide services directly to victims and it does not show significant effort to create legislation to punish traffickers.

Even though the Eritrean government continues to subject its citizens to forced national service, in 2019, it increased international cooperation on human trafficking and similar matters. Officials were active in an international anti-trafficking workshop that created a regional and national level action plan to combat trafficking.

In the past decade, Europe has offered to reinstate aid to Eritrea to help stimulate the economy and reduce the number of people attempting to leave the country. Europe is a destination point for many migrants who stop through Sudan and Libya on the way, but many do not make it through due to the difficult journey.

More recently, the Eritrean government has been educating its citizens on the dangers of irregular migration and trafficking through events, posters, campaigns and conventions to hopefully prevent men, women and children from entering high-risk trafficking zones. This is one of the best things the government can do for its citizens as it better informs them of their surroundings on a day to day basis.

The U.S. Department of State has also recommended the continuation of anti-trafficking training to all levels of government, as well as the enforcement of limits on the length of mandatory national service for citizens and the enactment and enforcement of anti-trafficking laws that criminalize the act and prosecutes the perpetrators of human trafficking in Eritrea.

One of the most important ways to slow or stop human trafficking would be to end mandatory national service or impose strict time limits on such service. Many Eritreans attempt to flee or experience trafficking by military officials because they are in service for an indefinite amount of time with no way out. Once Eritrea begins to persecute any and all human traffickers and can break free from an authoritarian one-party political system, it can begin to be a safe country for its citizens.

 – Julia Ditmar
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in Eritrea Eritrea is a small country in Northeast Africa, with a population of 3.2 million people. Eritrea gained independence in 1993 and remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Considering the total population, 66% of Eritreans live below the poverty line. Also, almost 33% of the population lives in extreme poverty — surviving on less than $1 per day. Eritrea is also a politically unstable country and calamities, such as war and natural disasters have contributed to the poverty level in Eritrea. Healthcare in Eritrea is another area in which the country is struggling. Although Eritrea has made great strides in life expectancy, maternal health and disease control — it does not measure up to other countries’ healthcare around the world. To learn more about the country’s health system, here are five things everyone should know about healthcare in Eritrea.

5 Things Everyone Should Know About Healthcare in Eritrea

  1. Resources are scarce. Eritrea currently has around six physicians and 75 midwives for every 100,000 people. While most of Eritrea’s healthcare providers are located in urban areas, 80% of the population that lives in rural areas is often omitted from healthcare provisions.
  2. Malaria is a major public health concern. Considering the total population, 70% live in areas that are at high risk for the disease. To rectify this, Eritrea’s government has been implementing widespread public health strategies. The government uses both national and community-based education programs to provide awareness of the disease. Besides this, the government is creating preventative strategies, such as the distribution of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) to households across the country. Due to these efforts, more than 60% of people own at least two ITNs.
  3. Private healthcare facilities are few and far between. While private doctors are present in rural and urban areas, they are usually very expensive and only serve a small percentage of the population. There are two types of healthcare facilities in Eritrea — healthcare centers and emergency rooms. Only in emergencies can patients be admitted to hospitals without an appointment. For all other instances, people must consult with a local doctor in advance, to be admitted to a hospital.
  4. Infant mortality is decreasing and life expectancy is increasing. In Eritrea, infant mortality rates are lower than average (for sub-Saharan Africa). As the rest of the world watches global, infant mortality rates rise — the country has been taking steps to further decrease them. In 2018, the infant mortality rate was 31.3 deaths per 1,000 children born. In terms of life expectancy, Eritrea has made incredible strides. Since 1960, the life expectancy in Eritrea has increased by nearly 30 years and the average life expectancy is at 65 years (as of 2016).
  5. Healthcare in Eritrea is improving. In 2010, Eritrea published its National Health Policy, which outlined the country’s plans to improve its healthcare system. One goal of the policy includes hiring more healthcare workers (especially ones skilled in the treatment of non-communicable diseases). A second goal is to make technological improvements to allow for distanced training of healthcare workers. Final goals include increasing the quality and quantity of resources and adapting its healthcare worker distribution to be highly mobile and dispersed.

An Outstanding Record

While Eritrea is a relatively young country, it is making great strides in its healthcare system. It has one of the most robust healthcare infrastructures in the region. Eritrea’s response to COVID-19 shows the country’s ability to mobilize its government and healthcare system, to protect its people. Because of this, Eritrea has the lowest rate of infection and fewest deaths within the Horn of Africa. Hopefully, healthcare in Eritrea will only continue to improve.

Hannah Daniel
Photo: Pixnio

Eritrea’s Lack of Clean WaterEritrea is a northeast country in Africa, bordering the Red Sea coast. Eritrea has faced severe drought issues over the years. In addition, Eritrea’s lack of clean water affects over 80% of its citizens. This problem has negatively impacted its ongoing poverty issue.

Climate

Eritrea’s weather varies depending on the location. The variety of weather conditions is due to the differences in elevation between plains and plateaus. The average temperature by Massawa, or the coast, is around mid-80s Fahrenheit. However, on higher grounds, like plateaus, the average temperature is around low-60s Fahrenheit. The mean annual rainfall in the plateaus is around 16-20 inches. In the west plain, it is usually less than 16 inches. That is below average in many other parts of the world.

Effects of the Lack of Clean Water

Despite the fact that Eritrea has around 16 to 20 inches of rainfall annually, almost half of the country does not have access to clean water. As of 2020, 80.7% of Eritreans lack basic water services. This problem leads to consequential outcomes such as:

  1. Hygiene & the Contamination of Public Water Sources: Without the basic access to clean water, citizens of Eritrea are forced to use public water sources like rivers and streams. Citizens use public water sources to perform their everyday activities since they do not have safe accessible water at their homes. People will cook and shower with the same water. Thus, the sources become contaminated over time. The water contamination can then lead to fatal diseases.
  2. Diseases: Diarrhoeal disease is a type of bowel infection that usually spreads through contaminated water. Bacteria and viruses from water need a host in order to survive. It is unusual for the diarrhoeal disease to be deadly, but death can occur if a person loses over 10% of their body’s water. According to UNICEF, diarrhoeal disease is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5 in Eritrea. Cholera is an infectious disease that contaminated water sources also cause. The symptoms are watery diarrhea and abdomen pain. This disease can be fatal if a person does not receive treatment on time because the body will eventually become dehydrated.

Effects of Poverty

Eritrea’s lack of clean water and poverty are linked to one another. Access to clean water means being able to cook, bathe and drink. Aside from covering basic needs, it also helps businesses run safely, keep children healthy and reduces vulnerability during a natural disaster.

  1. Businesses: Farmers and local business owners rely, to some extent, on the access to clean water. Farmers need to keep their crops clean by washing them. Local businesses also need clean water to create products or sell food. Without accessible clean water nearby, owners and employees have to leave their businesses to find a drinkable water source and sanitation facilities. By doing so, they could potentially lose customers.
  2. Girl’s Education: When girls hit puberty, they begin menstruating. If girls cannot practice proper hygiene or have access to clean water at school, they often miss out on education. Some have to skip class until their menstruation ends, which is around a week. During that week, they do not learn whatever their schools teach.
  3. Vulnerability During Natural Disasters: Clean water promotes good health. If communities lack strength due to unsafe water usage, citizens may have a hard time withstanding times of disasters. Houses would possibly be destroyed and businesses may be ruined. Thus, those in poverty would be forced to leave their homes and find another by traveling long distances. Many, without access to clean water, would struggle along the way because potential diseases from contaminated water would weaken their body.

Government Involvement

Eritrea’s state government has partnered up with UNICEF to improve citizens’ drinking water and sanitation issues. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) aims to increase accessible clean water and promote safe WASH practices in drought-prone areas of Eritrea. UNICEF is also working to connect many schools to community water supply systems.

With the state government’s involvement, Eritrea’s clean water crisis will eventually improve. The promotion of good hygiene practices reduces the spread of diseases. With many schools being connected to safe water supply systems, students will be healthy and girls will not have to skip school during the week of their menstruation. This brings hope for the future of Eritrea.

Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr

Eritrean Women Fight Gendered PovertyThe Eritrean War of Independence oversaw a liberation on two fronts. The first was a divergence from Ethiopian colonial rule and the creation of a free Eritrea. The second was a women’s emancipation from culturally embedded subordination and the development of a semi-feminist state. The women’s movement began alongside the Eritrean War of Independence in 1961. It was quick to gain support and traction. The movement allowed women freedoms they did not have pre-revolution. However, as the state transitioned its focus towards a restructuring of administrative processes, the women’s movement lost steam and support. Now the Eritrean women fight gendered poverty. They are fighting issues such as malnutrition, the pan-African AIDS epidemic and limited access to education and health resources.

Poverty and Eritrea

According to the World Health Organization, 53% of Eritreans are living below the poverty line. Further research conducted by UNICEF reported that female-headed households in Eritrea tended to be the poorest. Many long-standing traditions in Eritrean society, pre-dating the civil war, are sources of this income disparity between male and female-headed households. An example of these gender norms is the fact that Eritrean women were not allowed to own property; this often led to unemployment and as a result, a lower income. These outdated expectations cause female ex-combatants a great deal of difficulty in readjusting to gendered cultural norms.

The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW)

Poverty hit the women of Eritrea women hard, but that has not stopped them from fighting. The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) is a direct response to the feminist movement born out of the liberation war.

As an organization, the NUEW works with communities of women, including demobilized women fighters. The organization lifts women out of poverty through a combination of literacy programs, vocational training, income-generating activities and micro-credit schemes. In addition, another big part of the NUEW’s mission is promoting women’s participation in local and national government. In working closely with the Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE), the NUEW secured a hold on 30% of elected positions for women. After additional advocacy, the NUEW is working with the GSE to increase that number. The NUEW provided more than just relief programs to women in poverty; it created a space where women were able to have their voices heard.

While Eritrean women have had to overcome numerous hurdles in post-independence Eritrea, they did not do so alone. Eritrean women are fighting gendered poverty. The NUEW provides an invaluable service to Eritrean women through advocacy, education and relief programs. Today, the NUEW is working towards the total emancipation of women and continuing their efforts to raise their country up one woman at a time.

Elizabeth Price

Photo: Flickr

9 Facts About Sanitation in Eritrea
The land that encompasses the modern-day state of Eritrea is vast and old. The country itself, however, is one of the youngest countries on the African continent. After winning its independence from neighboring Ethiopia in a 30-year-long war of liberation, Eritrea emerged on the world stage as an underdeveloped and rural nation. While Eritrea has dealt with more than its fair share of struggles in its first 30 years of independence, sanitation and water usage continue to challenge communities. Many consider sanitation to be a gateway to development and modernization, and subsequently, Eritrea is taking steps to address this rising national issue. Here are nine facts about sanitation in Eritrea.

9 Facts About Sanitation in Eritrea

  1. As of June 2019, Eritreans have received encouragement to ration water, reduce flushing and prepare for more drastic water limitations. This reactionary measure was in response to the nationwide water shortages that mismanagement and intense drought caused. Most Eritreans live in rural or semi-rural areas where seasonal rivers run dry for most of the summer. They rely on wells and government-supplied tankers for their daily water. As these water supplies dwindle, the rural inhabitants often do not have a reliable water source. Some people have even begun to migrate to different areas of the country in search of new water sources.
  2. Community-led endeavors make up most of the efforts currently combating a lack of sanitation in Eritrea. In late 2007, the Eritrean government adopted a new initiative called Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). Through this program, villages appointed hygiene promoters to assess the sanitation needs of approximately 20 homes and advocate for new community measures. One significant breakthrough came when the 2008 pilot village of Adi Habteslus achieved 100% of households having and using a toilet, after the implementation of CLTS in 2007. A conference on community-led sanitation in December 2018 established an initiative to end open defecation by 2022. Thus far, the results have been promising, with a total of 163 villages declared open-defecation-free. This translates to around 135,109 people across Eritrea gaining access to established latrines. This progress is due in part to the widespread initiative of the Ministry of Health to establish CLTS in communities across Eritrea, not just in villages in close proximity to the capital.
  3. Community-implemented fines have had a positive impact on community health. For example, in late 2019 the U.N. volunteers reported that after implementing a penalty of 100 Nfk (equivalent to $7) for open defecation, a village in Anseba is now reporting “a significant decrease in the diarrheal diseases.” Today, Eritrea is still on track to meet the goal of declaring an open-defecation-free state by 2022, thanks in part to the continued success of CLTS.
  4. Community activists are also organizing the construction of latrines at their own cost to promote cleaner sanitation habits. In a program meant to reduce and even eliminate open defecation, many rural Eritreans are constructing communal latrines without any subsidies and using locally available materials. One woman, Amna Abdela Mussa, age 45 from the Emberemi Village, benefited greatly after constructing her own latrine, saying that it was empowering to give back to her community and improve her own sanitation.
  5. Poor sanitation in Eritrea disproportionately impacts women and girls. It is a long-standing cultural expectation that women and girls in rural and urban Eritrea are responsible for overseeing the water collection and usage in each household. As the main users of water, women have also been playing a decisive role in the planning, implementation and operation of sanitation projects. Yirgalem Solomon is one of these women. She is currently spearheading a project to introduce an open dialogue in Eritrean middle schools about menstruation and sanitation to “break the taboo and help the girls address the many challenges they face.”
  6. Waste disposal still proves to be a difficult issue to manage, as many rural areas have no sanitary facilities. Open defecation is not the only cause of this. Additionally, latrines without proper sewage allow human waste to go back into the soil. This, combined with flash flooding that deforestation and mismanaged agricultural practices intensified, increases the chance of water pollution and eutrophication. Unfortunately, there are no large-scale projects yet to oversee the development of sanitation facilities.
  7. Consistent infrastructure, like the Khashm el-Girba Dam, is in jeopardy in response to water shortages. Many rivers in Eritrea are seasonal, however, the Setit River flows all year and forms a small reservoir at the base of the Khashm el-Girba Dam. Through proper irrigation, the dam allowed for steady water supply until recently. Due to the prolonged drought, there are more than 500,000 people seeking shelter in refugee camps neighboring the dam. This influx of improper usage is making it difficult to keep the water clean.
  8. Japan is collaborating with the Eritrean government to lessen the effects of the drought. The small town of Dbarwa proved to be a valuable example of this outreach. The drought heavily impacted this rural community and caused it to lose all assurance of well- and tanker- supplied water. However, the Japan International Cooperation Agency assisted in drilling five boreholes for the town, providing water to almost 30,000 inhabitants.
  9. The most effective way to ensure a path towards equal sanitation is to promote sustainable habits that keep water clean and available. Current projections estimate a temperature increase of 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) by 2050 and increasing variability in rainfall, making clean water more difficult to obtain. Eritrea is trying to combat this through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). This program has already led to advancements in irrigation and soil erosion reduction through an emphasis on the adaptive capacity to climate change.

These nine facts about sanitation in Eritrea provide a glimpse into the current modernization techniques that the country is pursuing. While Eritrea still has plenty of work to do, thanks to the participation of rural and urban communities alike, sanitation across the country is increasing both in quality and reach.

Elizabeth Price
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Human Rights in Eritrea

Eritrea is known by some as the “North Korea of Africa.” In 1993, after a 30-year long war of independence, Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia. In the U.S. Department of State’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, Eritrea received a tier-three rating, signifying that the Eritrean government has not engaged in any significant efforts to eliminate human trafficking in the country. Keep reading to learn the top nine facts about human rights in Eritrea.

9 Facts about Human Rights in Eritrea

  1. The Eritrean government is one of the last remaining dictatorships in the world. Since the country’s independence from Ethiopia in 1993, President Isaias Afewerki has served as the country’s leader. Forced labor, repression of free speech and restriction on the freedom of religion are common under the current regime.
  2. Human trafficking in Eritrea has its roots in the national service program. The program requires men ages 18 to 54 and women ages 18 to 47 to serve 18-months in the military and non-military service. However, there are records of people serving more than 10 years because they were threatened with detention, torture or harm to their families.
  3. Many Eritreans have fled their country to find better living conditions. In 2013, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people were fleeing Eritrea every month to escape the country’s human rights abuses. Overall, the U.N. refugee agency has expressed concern that more than 300,000 Eritreans have fled over the past decade.
  4. Security forces in Eritrea torture and beat civilians or suspected criminals. Among the people tortured and beaten are army deserters, draft evaders, people living near mining camps and people attempting to flee the country. For Eritreans who are trying to flee the country, the Eritrean government issued a shoot-to-kill policy.
  5. Children and young people are vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking in Eritrea. All 12th-grade students are required to complete their final year of secondary education at the Sawa military and training academy. If the students refuse, they do not receive high school diplomas and are unable to attend universities or attain employment. Although the Eritrean law bans conscription of minors (younger than 18) into military service, many students sent to the academy are not of age.
  6. Many Eritrean refugees are facing repatriation. Repatriated refugees often face arrest and indefinite detention, which involves inhumane conditions and treatments. Eritrea’s inhumane treatment of its citizens is extensive, evidenced through Osman Ahmed Nur’s suicide in 2018. Ahmed Nur, who escaped to the U.K. after suffering torture, committed suicide in fear of repatriation after getting stopped and searched by the police.
  7. Many international organizations are coming together to give aid to Eritrea. In 2009, the EU, the U.S. and the African Union worked together to provide development aid for Eritrea. The EU provided 122 million euros in assistance to Eritrea despite “concerns that development projects in Eritrea are carried out by conscript or prison labor in violation of international law.”
  8. The Ethiopian soldiers and government give favorable support to the Eritrean refugees. This may surprise an outsider observer, given the history of conflicts between Eritrea and Ethiopia. In interviews conducted in 2017, Eritrean refugees stated they did not experience hostility from Ethiopian soldiers. While there are concerns about the living conditions in the refugee camps in Ethiopia, the U.N. Refugee Agency’s statistics highlight the refugees’ access to electricity and reuniting of over 1,600 children with their families in Ethiopia.
  9. Assistance is also provided to Eritreans living outside of the refugee camps. They receive help to formally register births, marriages and deaths which helps increase access to financial services such as bank accounts. Statistics show that 623 Eritreans living in urban centers benefit from the OCP. There are also 13,000 Eritrean refugees who benefit elsewhere in the country.

Above all, the Eritrean government’s treatment of its citizens paints a bleak picture. Repression of free speech, limiting the freedom of religion, the lack of due process and accounts of torture make up the grim narratives told by the Eritrean refugees. However, Eritrea’s recent peace agreement with Ethiopia is more hopeful. These nine facts about human rights in Eritrea tell us that, with the help of the international community and humanitarian assistance given by the Ethiopian government, a better future awaits the people of Eritrea.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

safer child labor laws
Eritrea is a country in Africa founded in 1993. It is a fairly new country but has already faced many problems regarding poverty and its impact on the people who call Eritrea home. The poverty rate is roughly 50 percent of its 4.475 million inhabitants. Even before primary school, children often must start working due to the unfortunate circumstances that poverty created. A 2008 study showed that legislation already existed for safer child labor laws, but a 2016 study revealed Eritrea’s government offered very little implementation of these laws. With countless amounts of children in Eritrea’s workforce, the problem is less the actual laws in place, but the enforcement of these laws. Fortunately, Eritrea recently made big steps in furthering legislation for a safer workforce in 2019. Here is an overview of Eritrea’s progression toward safer child labor laws.

Eritrea’s Initial Legislative State

In 2008, the Bureau of International Labor Affairs conducted a study painting a clear picture of the state of child labor in Eritrea. Children in rural Eritrea often work labor-intensive jobs like working in fields, carrying water or collecting wood. Children in urban Eritrea can work as vendors selling cigarettes, gum or newspapers. At this time, there are some child labor laws in place to increase protection and safety. There is a minimum work age of 14. Children aged 14-18 have a daily work limit of 7 hours a day and they can only work between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Children under 18 cannot work in hazardous environments. These laws seemed like a positive start for Eritrean children.

The True Picture

In 2016, shocking evidence revealed the scope of the child labor issue in Eritrea. The U.N. released a full-detailed inquiry that determined Eritrea’s government was responsible for not only encouraging child labor, but participating in extrajudicial killings, tortures and sexual slavery. The Eritrean army, the National Security Agency, the president and the police force were all huge factors in worsening child labor conditions. This investigation did not change any legislation and was a major step back in Eritrea’s governmental support toward safer child labor laws.

Recent Progress

On June 3rd, 2019, Eritrea’s government ratified eight important conventions formed by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The ratifications exemplify huge progress for the country because it shows signs that there will be better enforcement of safer child labor laws from now on. ILO’s conventions include prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor. Eritrea’s goal is to eliminate forced labor and end all forms of child labor by 2025. With the government’s agreement to these eight ratifications, that goal is actually within reach. The future lives of millions of children who live in Eritrea will soon change for the better.

The progression of Eritrea’s government toward safer child labor laws from 2008-2019 has been a struggle. While Eritrea’s government initially appeared to show interest in creating a safer working environment for its children, further research proved how little it really enforced legislation. This year witnessed exceptional progress, lighting the way for a brighter future in safer child labor laws.

– Kat Fries
Photo: Pixabay

The Power of Mining and the Future of Eritrea

Eritrea is a poor country located in the horn of Africa. Its high poverty rate of 50 percent is a burden on Eritreans seeking greater well-being. Although the country is poor, the mining sector has shown considerable promise for the future of Eritrea. The GDP growth rate increase from 2.2 percent in 2010 to 8.7 percent in 2011, which made it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world at the time. Its current GDP growth rate is high at about 4 percent. One reason for its high average growth is the mining sector.

Abundant Natural Resources

Eritrea has many natural resources that account for its growth, such as copper, granite, potash, gold and marble. The United Nations Development Programme believes the Colluli Mining Share’s potash project in Eritrea has the potential to boost its economy while also appealing to the country’s sustainability agenda. The Australian mining company Danakali and the Eritrean government share the project 50-50.

The largest known deposit of potash or SOP in the world exists in Eritrea. Globally, SOP is currently consumed at a rate of seven million tonnes annually. Seamus Cornelius, the Colluli company director, said that Eritrea could meet that demand for at least 30 years. With the implementation of the project, locals could find work at the mines, especially those in poverty.

Economic Effects

The U.N. report also reported the impact of the Colluli mine. Reports showed that SOP could make up to 50 percent of exports in Eritrean by 2030 and comprise at least 3 percent of Eritrean GDP by 2021. It could also have a strong impact on agriculture productivity, indirectly employing upwards of 10,000 people by 2026. Another positive aspect of the project is that it will not affect any animals or plants because the mine is located in an uninhabited salt basin.

China’s Sichuan Road & Bridge Mining Investment Development Corp. is also seeing potential in Eritrea, particularly in copper, gold, silver and zinc. Estimates determine that more than 574,000 tons of copper, 930,000 ounces of gold and 1.2 million tons of zinc could be found in four deposits near the city, Asmara. July 9, 2018, marked the end of Eritrea’s conflict with Ethiopia, which increased notice from foreign investors interested in Eritrea’s mines such as China. Due to peace between the two nations, the future of Eritrea appears optimistic.

The Ports Rehabilitation Project

The World Bank upgraded and rehabilitated two major ports in Eritrea, Massawa and Assab through a $30 million project that was approved in 2011. Results were substantial, particularly for the Massawa port. Bulk cargo handling exceeded the original target of 1,100 tonnes by hitting 1,457. This was a 71 percent increase from 850 tonnes per ship per day in 1997. Natural resources are a top exporter and the Ports Rehabilitation Project exponentially improved productivity and efficiency. It especially enabled easier access for petroleum imports into Eritrea.

Corruption and Privatization

Canadian mining company Nevsun Resource had a 60 percent stake in the Bisha Mine, which mines zinc and copper. Accusations of forced labor caused the company to appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court in January 2019. One of the largest gold producers in the world, Zijin Mining Group Company, acquired Nevsun. After the human rights incident, Nevsun began training its employees on Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and now has an ongoing presence in infrastructure projects including water accessibility and supply in Eritrea.

Eritrea has one of the fastest-growing economies due to the strength of its mining sector. With the help of nongovernment organizations, external companies and other parties, the economy could become stronger. Growth from not just from the mining sector but also the agriculture sector would increase possibilities for the future of Eritrea.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty In Eritrea

Eritrea is a small northeastern country in Africa, surrounded by the larger Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. It is home to nearly 5.4 million individuals, of which, about 65 percent live in poverty. Eritrea‘s harsh history coupled with its low rates of development has contributed to the poor economic conditions that oppress so many. This article will provide nine facts about poverty in Eritrea which will give reason to the concerns raised by international organizations.

9 Facts About Poverty in Eritrea

  1. A tumultuous history with Ethiopia: After a 30-year war with Ethiopia, Eritrea finally gained independence in 1991. It was not until 1993, however, that this separation was legitimized. Eritrean citizens were historically neglected under Ethiopian rule. Many were deprived of their nation’s resources and abandoned on the pathway to development.
  2. Cultural superstitions prevent sanitary practices: According to UNICEF, persistent cultural beliefs hinder many Eritreans from collecting clean water, washing their hands and disposing of animal products properly. Many believe that evil spirits are attached to certain animal parts while other customs prohibit the use of latrines during certain hours of the day.
  3. Limited access to clean water for rural Eritreans: Very few villages in rural Eritrea have access to clean water. In fact, as of 2015, only 48.6 percent of the rural population had access to improved water sources compared to 93.1 percent in urban areas. As a result, many drink from the same water source as animals. In addition, many communities do not have a local latrine due to a lack of financial resources. Sewage systems also contaminate water sources that would otherwise be feasible options. These issues can lead to numerous diseases such as schitosmiasis, giardriasis and diarrhea.
  4. Challenges in agriculture: While nearly 80 percent of the Eritrean population works in agriculture, this sector only makes up about 13 percent of the nation’s GDP. Landscapes in Eritrea are naturally rocky and dry. This makes farming a difficult task even in the best weather conditions. During the most fruitful periods, domestic agriculture production still only feeds 60 to 70 percent of the population.
  5. Susceptibility to drought: When drought does strike northeast Africa, Eritrea is one of the countries that experiences the greatest blow. Months can pass in the Horn of Africa without rainfall and these episodes are frequent and recurrent. This results in food shortages and increased rates of malnourishment among children. Statistics show that malnutrition has been increasing throughout Eritrea as nearly 22,700 children under the age of 5 suffer from the condition. Plans have already been crafted as an acknowledgment of the crisis, one being the African Development Bank’s Drought Resilience and Sustainable Livelihood Programme for 2015-2021. For this, the Eritrean government has agreed to reserve $17 million to administer solutions for drought effects in rural communities.
  6. Many children are out of school: Public education in Eritrea is inconsistent across the nation. Children living in rural areas or with nomadic families do not have access to quality education like those living in urban regions. Overall, 27.7 percent of Eritrean children do not attend school.
  7. Low HDI: Recently, GDP in Eritrea has been growing. This can be attributed to the recent cultivation of the Bisha mine, which has contributed a considerable amount of zinc, gold and copper to the international economy. Even so, Eritrea’s Human Development Index is only at 0.351. The country is far behind other sub-Saharan nations, whose average is calculated at 0.475.
  8. Violence at the southern border: The central government has created large holes in the federal deficit in its preoccupation with Ethiopia. While the countries officially separated in 1993, discontent with the line of demarcation has left them in a state of “no war, no peace.” The Eritrean government sees the stalemate with Ethiopia as a primary concern, and the military forces needed to guard their territory has occupied most of the nation’s resources.
  9. High rates of migration: These realities listed above have encouraged much of the Eritrean population to flee the country. Eritrea is the African country with the highest number of migrants. Furthermore, the journey to Europe is a dangerous one, as the pathway through the central Mediterranean is highly laborious.

Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr