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

 

 

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Eritrea
The average life expectancy in Eritrea is 65 years, nearly seven years short of the world average. Before getting to the 10 facts about life expectancy in Eritrea, here is some general background on the country’s health metrics. In 2000, life expectancy in Eritrea was only 55, meaning there has been a substantial improvement over the past two decades. However, Eritrea‘s growth has been comparatively less than neighboring Ethiopia, which increased from nearly 52 to 65.5 over the same period and surpassed Eritrea for the first time since 1970.

According to the WHO, despite political turmoil and high poverty rates, Eritrea has managed to improve its health resources. With the official end of the Ethiopian-Eritrean war in 2018, all signs seem to indicate that life expectancy in Eritrea will continue to increase in the coming years.

Still, Eritrea is a complicated country with past political and economic troubles that make its future uncertain. However, present trends may give insight into the future longevity of the country’s citizens. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Eritrea.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Eritrea

  1. Women live longer than men: Women, on average, live to be almost 68, whereas male life expectancy is only about 63.5. Even so, one problem that connects to women’s health in Eritrea is the lack of access to medical care during childbirth. About 70 percent of women give birth at home, which greatly increases the risk of complications. In addition, malnutrition poses serious problems for women who are breastfeeding, as it can cause both them and their children to be dangerously underweight.
  2. Health has not increased as much as lifespan in recent years: According to Charles Shey Wiysonge, though Sub-Saharan Africa has marked an up-tick in life expectancy over the past several decades, the average number of healthy years people live has shown smaller growth. This means that while people are living longer, their quality of life may remain more or less unchanged. When looking at health statistics, it is important not to celebrate prematurely.
  3. Eritrea has one of the lowest rates of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa: UNAID statistics show that Eritrea is one of the few countries in the region to have an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of less than one percent. Sub-Saharan Africa’s average is 4.7 percent, while Eritrea’s is 0.6 percent.
  4. Eritrea’s first medical school opened in 2004: The Orotta School of Medicine in Asmara opened on February 16, 2004. The inaugural class included 32 students, six of whom were women. In addition, over the past several decades, Eritrea has steadily increased the percentage of its population with medical training. In a 2010 workshop supported by the World Bank and WHO, the country established goals to increase the overall number of health workers, increase retention rates, encourage a diverse mix of skills and improve access to technology. The country currently has 6.3 health professionals per 10,000 people. This is significantly above the world average of roughly 4.6.
  5. Eritrean youth frequently seek asylum in Europe: In 2015, 5,000 minors from Eritrea survived the dangerous crossing into Europe to request asylum. Though the number decreased to 3,500 in 2018, the fact remains that an outflux of the nation’s youth could affect average life expectancy. Moreover, the continued export of asylum seekers from Eritrea is indicative of considerable unrest among the population, which will likely impact future political attitudes towards things like public health.
  6. Infant mortality remains an issue: The infant mortality rate in Eritrea is 47 percent, and the under-five mortality rate is 89 percent. The country is attempting to address this, however. One of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals for Eritrea is to reduce child mortality. According to a 2002 report, Eritrea is on track to meet this and other goals in the near future.
  7. In 2019, the Eritrean government closed 22 Catholic-run health care clinics: According to a 1995 decree, all Eritrean social and welfare projects are to be state-run. The government recently used this precedent to justify the military seizure of the health clinics. BBC analysts believe the seizures to be a punishment for the Church’s call for governmental reform. As the clinics in question served some of the poorest sectors of the nation’s population, their closure has harmed overall health.
  8. The number one cause of death in Eritrea is tuberculosis: Despite increases in access to medicine and technology, tuberculosis remains Eritrea’s number one cause of death killing more than 600 people per year and affecting roughly 2,000. Neonatal disorders and diarrheal diseases also remain everyday challenges. However, since the country has made significant strides in reducing other areas of premature death and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has dropped by nearly 58 percent, it stands to reason that the incidence of tuberculosis will decrease in the years to come as more medical training and technology becomes available.
  9. Malnutrition remains the number one risk factor for death and disability: Like much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Eritrea struggles with sufficient access to food, water and sanitation. In 2007, the top three factors to a disability or premature death were malnutrition, lack of access to clean water and sanitation and air pollution. This ranking remained unchanged in 2017, despite a decrease in the prevalence of almost 30 percent across all three areas. Eritrea has also made progress in other key health areas. Unsafe sex as a cause of health complications decreased by 47 percent over the 10-year period. Similarly, tobacco use dropped from the sixth to the ninth most prevalent risk factor for poor health.
  10. Per capita spending on health is poised to increase in Eritrea: According to healthdata.org, the per capita spending on health was $30 compared to the United States’ $10,000 per person. Though some project this number to almost double by 2050, the majority of health funding will likely still come out of pocket. Unless Eritrea takes action, this lack of funding may leave the poorest citizens of Eritrea vulnerable.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Eritrea indicate that the country is a long way from solving the humanitarian crisis which continues to affect its population. However, these facts do give some idea of which areas the country is addressing successfully and which it is neglecting. Many aid organizations around the world are working hard to increase the standard of living in Eritrea and elsewhere in the developing world. It, therefore, seems likely that in the near future, life expectancy in Eritrea will rise significantly.

– Alexander Metz
Photo: Flickr

Eritrea, a country located in the Horn of Africa, has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Isaias Afwerki, a leader of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) became the nation’s first president after winning the Eritrean War of Independence against Ethiopia. About 5,000 Eritrean citizens flee the country every month, making it the most rapidly depopulating nation in the world. A recent peace deal with Ethiopia in July 2018 gives hope that Eritrea will soon see increasing stability, reform, and growth. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about living conditions in Eritrea.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Eritrea

  1. Eritrea’s first and current president, Isaias Afwerki, came to power after a leadership role in the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). After the EPLF defeated Ethiopian troops, Afwerki was placed at the head of a provisional government. After the vast majority of Eritreans voted in favor of independence from Ethiopia, Afwerki was elected both the president and chairman of the National Assembly, effectively giving him command of both the executive and legislature branches of government. Since his ascension to power in 1993, Afwerki has centralized power by canceling elections, closing the national press, and jailing opposition leaders.
  2. Upon finishing school, every boy and girl in the country must join the military. Their service in the military is indefinite as the expiration date is not set. This is the primary reason why people want to leave the country. The constant threat of another war with Ethiopia is used to justify indefinite servitude in the military, but the Ethiopian-Eritrean peace deal, struck in July 2018 between Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, gives hope that forced conscription in Eritrea will soon come to an end.
  3. The government only tolerates four religions: Sunni Islam, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Eritrea, the Evangelical Church of Eritrea and the Roman Catholic Church. Since 2002, all other religious groups must apply annually for registration with the Office of Religious Affairs. After the implementation of this rule, no other religious communities have been able to become recognized and tolerated by the Eritrean government.
  4. Literacy rates have been consistently improving. The Adult Education Program has helped more than 600,000 Eritreans learn to read and write since 2000. A large portion of Eritrea’s population is nomadic, making it a challenge to provide consistent education to children. As a result, Eritrea’s current literacy rate sits at around 87 percent for people aged 15 to 24, 64 percent for people aged 24 and older and 21 percent for people aged 65 and older.
  5. Positive progress has been made in elementary school enrollment and completion levels, with the elementary school enrollment ratio sitting at about 87 percent. Female enrollment has historically been much lower than male enrollment, but the Eritrean National Education Policy was drafted in 2003 to promote equality in male and female education.
  6. Food insecurity and malnutrition are common in the Horn of Africa, and in Eritrea, the average supply of food per capita is considerably less than the minimum requirement. Causes of food insecurity in Eritrea include meager transportation, telecommunication and water supply systems. Only one-quarter of Eritrea’s population has access to clean water. This makes the productivity of the agriculture sector dependent on rainfall, and in regions of vast arid and semi-arid lands, a drought could prove devastating for people with already limited access to food.
  7. About 66 percent of Eritreans live below the poverty line, but a $230 million long-term poverty eradication plan, drafted by the EU in 2015, is one way to support the energy sector in order to reduce poverty. Eritrea has one of the lowest access rates to electricity in the world, and supporting this sector would increase access to social services like education and health care. Supporting the energy sector would also increase economic growth in the nation by expediting the development of Eritrea’s fishing industry, as well as the implementation of irrigation systems. The implementation of irrigation systems would also help reduce food insecurity in the nation.
  8. Eritrea’s GDP has consistently grown since 1991. Eritrea’s GDP was $6.72 billion in 2018 and is expected to keep growing.
  9. The life expectancy in Eritrea is 65.09 years. This number is significantly better than that of neighboring countries Somalia, with an average life expectancy of 56.3 years, and Djibouti, with an average life expectancy of 62.5 years.
  10. Despite its political and socio-economic struggles, Eritrea has remained devoted to the expansion of health care in the nation. As a result, Eritrea’s health care system is one of the best in Africa. The nation has made significant strides in reducing neonatal and under-5 mortality, the prevalence of tuberculosis and incidences of malaria. Eritrea has been able to accomplish this by focusing on making access to health care as inclusive as possible, and sometimes, like in the case of tuberculosis treatment and prevention, completely free of charge.

Although the country is rife with political and socio-economic issues, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Eritrea highlights progress in a number of areas. Access to education, food and health care is improving, as well as economic growth of the nation. With a concerted effort by the Eritrean government to recognize and protect the human rights of its citizens, Eritrea may continue moving in a positive direction.

– Jillian Baxter

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Eritrea
Eritrea is located at the Horn of Africa in the Sahel Desert that is dominated by arid and semi-arid climatic conditions. The country is, therefore, vulnerable to adverse effects of climate variability, recurring droughts and environmental degradation. The World Bank estimates that 69 percent of Eritrea’s population lives below the poverty line. The economy is largely based on subsistence agriculture, with 80 percent of the population depending on farming and pastoralism.

Eritrea has no free press and political repression of the opposition is rampant. After a severe drought in the Horn of Africa in 2015, president of the country, Isaias Afwerki, polemicized that the country had magically evaded the drought, denying a food crisis. A 2016 U.N. report documents that the president rejected U.N. food aid during the 2015 drought.

The proceeding 10 facts about hunger in Eritrea provide a snapshot of the political climate in the country that ousted humanitarian aid agencies over the last decade, while hunger persisted. The facts also highlight advances in sustainable agriculture and projects that have increased food security.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Eritrea

  1. Since gaining independence in 1993, Eritrea has had tense relations with humanitarian agencies. In July 2005, the country asked the USAID to terminate its operations and leave the country. It continued expelling other international organizations from working within the country in 2006.
  2. Beginning in 2000, Mercy Corps carried out more than $40 million worth of assistance that alleviated hunger until they closed their operations at the request of the Government of Eritrea in June 2006.
  3. According to the BBC report in 2011, emaciated Eritreans were crossing the heavily militarised border at the rate of almost 900 people a month, despite official denial of food crisis by President Afwerki.
  4. In 2013, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over 60 percent of the Eritrean population was reported to be undernourished in the period between 2011 and 2013.
  5. Eritrea currently meets only a third of its estimated food and the other two-third needs are being met by international food aid programs.
  6. Data from the Nutrition Sentinel Site Surveillance system indicate an increase in malnutrition rates since 2015 in four out of six regions of the country, and projections estimate that 23,000 children under the age of 5 will need treatment for severe acute malnutrition in 2018.
  7. In May 2018, the Government of Eritrea donated 40,000 tons of food to South Sudan. The country has already pledged 50,000 tons of food aid for the people of South Sudan in 2017.
  8. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aimed to increase collaboration with Eritrea to promote sustainability and food security. There has been a success with projects that aim to increase sustainable agriculture in Eritrea, specifically in the small village of Keih-Kor. With the help of the UNDP, the village was able to regain the use of 45 hectares of farmland.
  9. In the Central Region, UNDP helped build three micro-dams in the Gala-Hefhi sub-region. Over 1,200 villagers benefitted from the dam constructed in Lamza Village, with improved food security and stronger productivity.
  10. In 2018, UNICEF treated 15,000 children under the age of 5 that had severe acute malnutrition and 40,000 children under the age of 5 with minor acute malnutrition, provided 477,000 children aged 6 to 59 months with vitamin A supplementation and 70,000 children aged 6 to 59 months. Pregnant and lactating women also benefited from supplementary feeding.

Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Five years later, the war between the two countries broke out and lasted from May 1998 to June 2000. The conflict saw hundreds of millions of dollars diverted from development aid to arms procurement.

In July 2018, Eritrea signed a historic peace agreement with Ethiopia. Four months following these good measures of social reunification in the Horn of Africa, the United Nations Security Council unanimously lifted international sanctions against Eritrea that have been imposed continuously since 2009. The measures were based on concerns that the Eritrean government was funding and arming the Somali extremist group, Al-Shabaab.

The 10 facts about hunger in Eritrea provide hope that hunger may turn around in the Horn of Africa due to Eritrea’s reconciliation with its neighbors, as the reconciliation could also mean a more open attitude towards humanitarian agencies. There is evidence that suggests that Eritrea could also be a friend in alleviating hunger in the future, across other nations in the Horn of Africa.

Sasha Kramer
Photo: Flickr

poverty and dictatorship
Among the 10 dictatorship countries profiled, poverty is endemic. Poverty alleviation in these 10 dictatorship countries is in some cases associated with human rights abuses, violent crackdowns on the political opposition and indigenous people. In the last two decades, however, some of these countries have moved towards embracing democracy, which has brought an influx of government institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign investment working to promulgate poverty alleviation.

The State of Poverty in 10 Dictatorship Countries

  1. Cambodia – In June of 2018, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was officially qualified as a military dictator by Human Rights Watch. Through an environment of fear, Cambodia has been littered with human rights abuses, crackdowns on the opposition, coercion and repression of the media. In September of 2018, the United Nations Development Program stated that 35 percent of all Cambodians are still poor regardless of the decline in the Multidimensional Poverty Index. In 2006, the Ministry of Planning established the IDPoor Programme to guide government services and NGOs to provide target services and assistance to the poorest households. As of December 2017, The IDPoor Programme has assisted 13 million people and has covered 90 percent of Cambodians.
  2. Cameroon – Current Prime Minister, Paul Biya, seized control of Cameroon from his fellow despotic predecessor in 1982. Biya has since ruled the central African country with an iron fist. In 2014, 37.5 percent of the people were living in poverty. However, a development NGO called Heifer Cameroon has been playing a positive role in alleviating the strains of poverty for Cameroon’s most poor and vulnerable communities. Heifer Cameroon has assisted 30,000 families by spurring job creation among the rural poor through focusing on the dairy industry along with other livestock.
  3. Eritrea – Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, took power after its independence and has since entrapped his citizens in a cloud of fear. Furthermore, the nation was rocked by internal war, drought and famine. According to estimates of The World Bank, 69 percent of Eritrea’s population lives below the poverty line. Despite these conditions, Eritrea has drastically improved its public health conditions. Indeed since its liberation, life expectancy has increased by 14 years to 63 years. And over 70 percent of the population now has access to clean water, compared to just 15 percent in 1993.
  4. Ethiopia – In 2000, Ethiopia had one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, but by 2011, the poverty rate had fallen by 14 percent. In 2018, Ethiopia became Africa’s fastest growing economy in the sub-Saharan African region. However, some of the country’s development schemes have been wildly unpopular, such as the mass land-grab that is displacing Ethiopians so the government can lease out the land to foreign investors. On the other hand, some developments have actually made improvements in average household health, education and living standards.
  5. Madagascar – Madagascar has experienced a long period of political instability since its independence in the 1960s. Current President Hery Rajaonarimampianina was democratically elected in 2014. Rajaonarimampianina has prioritized recovering Madagascar’s relationship with foreign investment agencies, like The World Bank, IMF and The African Union. Unfortunately, in 2018, 75 percent of Madagascar’s population are still living under the poverty line.
  6. Myanmar – From 1966 to 2016, Myanmar existed under a military dictatorship that bore multiple wars spurred out of hatred and persecution of Rohingya Muslims and Christians. The crackdown and ethnic cleansing created a major refugee crisis. Today, Myanmar is reportedly inching towards democracy, but the military, headed by Gen. Than Shwe, still has major sway. In 2015, 35 percent of the population of Myanmar lived in poverty.
  7. Rwanda – Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime is often associated with maintaining peace and stability since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. However, critics of Kagame cite numerous human rights abuses and fear that the President is leading the country towards dictatorship. Still, Rwanda has taken major strides in addressing and decreasing the poverty rate. Between 2000 and 2010, the poverty rate declined by 23.8 percent. Recent economic growth within the country has been evenly distributed and pro-poor, with the majority of the Rwandan population benefiting from this economic growth.
  8. Sudan – President al-Bashir came to power in 1989 and reigned with a brutal dictatorship in Sudan until his exile in 2015. Poverty in Sudan is endemic. In 2018, 2.8 million were in need of humanitarian aid and 4.8 million were food insecure. Such high rates of poverty engender low literacy levels, crumbling infrastructure, little to no access to health services and high rates of food insecurity.
  9. Tunisia – President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali headed Tunisia’s dictatorship until 2011 when he was ousted by a people’s revolution. However, that stability was maintained by the military, which performed countless human rights abuses. However, poverty reduction strategies have rung successful as the poverty rate in Tunisia fell by 10 percent from 2000 to 2015.
  10. Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe, who was the President of Zimbabwe for 37 years until 2017, had long been seen as a dictator and is attributed by The Economist as “ruining” Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s policies led to hyperinflation and an infrastructure system in disrepair. Build Zimbabwe Alliance claims that 72 percent of the population still lives under the poverty line. The main causes of poverty in Zimbabwe are the economic recession of 2008 and global warming’s impact on agriculture.

These 10 dictatorship countries have taken strides in increasing access to education, healthcare and economic growth. Such programs have been most successful in regards to pro-poor poverty reduction. The political outlook of some of these countries is improving, but there is still a lot of work needed to improve poverty in all of the countries listed.

– Sasha Kramer

Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Eritrea
One in three people, or 2.4 billion of the world’s population, don’t have access to sanitation facilities. This number equates to about 946 million people who still defecate in the open. Health problems intermix with poverty to create havoc in some of the poorest regions of the world, and such circumstances become prevalent with sanitation in Eritrea, Africa.

Eritrea

The World Health Organization reports that Eritrea remains one of the poorest countries in Africa. The country has experienced independence from Ethiopia for only 16 years, and with this separation comes some developmental setbacks.

In 2018, 66 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and there remains an extreme lack of resources and poverty alleviation programs.

State of Sanitation

In 2008, Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) was adopted by the government of Eritrea. The goal of the program was to end open defecation — a practice that leads to a variety of health concerns such as diarrhea, intestinal worms, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis and polio trachoma. To be open-defecation-free, each household in a community or village must have their own latrine.

In 2010, only 3.5 percent of the rural population of the country had access to a latrine. This meant that over 96 percent of the population continued to practice dangerous hygiene, including open defecation. UNICEF, along with the Ministry of Health, devised a plan to help aid the country’s poorest gain proper sanitation in Eritrea.

Program Design for Proper Sanitation in Eritrea

Education and communication were the program’s two objectives in the effort to disperse proper sanitation in Eritrea. To do this, they first had to alter the taboo tied to talking about the bathroom and toilets.

Additionally, the design took into consideration the Millennium Development Goal of 2015 to have 54 percent of people able to access proper sanitation.

The program evaluated the country by six regions, or zobas, in which reside nine ethnic groups of indigenous people. To best address the concerns of each region, a case study was performed within each ethnic group to discover the specific morals and barriers in accessing sanitation.

In 2012, 52.8 percent of the population within these regions used unimproved water sources, which includes unprotected public wells or rivers and streams. Additionally, sanitation access was scarce, with only 47.3 percent having access to a latrine; in fact, over 75 percent of the rural population defecated in the open.

Tigrinya

The Tigrinya is the largest ethnic group in the country and makes up 55 percent of the population. In 2012, Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) surveyed the area on hygiene and sanitation and identified a variety of barriers in the group’s understanding of hygiene.

Firstly, the scarcity of water was a huge problem in the area. Not only did humans share water sources with animals, but also problems of distance and protection of wells raised health concerns regarding sanitation in Eritrea.

Culturally, Tigrinyan people felt that water was holy. As a result, most people felt there was no need to boil water before consumption; however, water can carry bacteria that can lead to such illnesses as schistosomiasis, giardiasis, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and vomiting.

Effective Social Support

To combat cultural and physical barriers within this group, UNICEF designed a plan specific to Tigrinyan. For instance, people were concerned that wood latrines would collapse if they used them, and thus preferred stone latrines.

However, stone materials are difficult to transport, so UNICEF educated the Village Health Committee on how to properly construct the latrines so there would be no chance of collapse. This social support provides the proper knowledge and motivation to follow through with the construction of latrines and sanitation facilities.

Successes

In 2015, almost 600 villages in Eritrea achieved open-defecation-free-status. This statistic represents 30 percent of the rural population of Eritrea — 586,000 people — who now have access to proper sanitation.

Additionally, since the adoption of CLTS the child mortality rate for children under five has dropped. In 2008, the inaugural year of the program, the child mortality rate was 89 percent. The World Bank reports in 2016 that the rate has dropped to 45 percent.

Although the progress is below the MDG of 54 percent with access to improved access by 2015, there have been significant strides in ending preventable diseases from improper sanitation in Eritrea.

– Taylor Jennings

Photo: Flickr