Poverty in Eritrea
Poverty in Eritrea remains a problem. While the country’s economy was doing well from 1993 to 1997, Eritrea was suddenly thrown into turmoil both by nature and politics. Due to challenges like drought, famine and recurrent war, poverty in Eritrea is on the rise and doesn’t seem to be stopping.

Eritrea fought with Ethiopia for 30 years before winning its independence. As any new country would, it had to deal with socio-economic hardships of a newly forming nation. Agriculture is its major source of income as well as food, as is the case for many African nations.

While Eritrea may be known as one of the world’s youngest countries, it is also one of the poorest. In 2005, the annual per capita income was $150. Out of 175 countries in the Human Development Index, Eritrea is ranked 155th.

Poverty and food insecurity in Eritrea are widespread and increasing. According to the Rural Poverty Portal, “even in years of adequate rainfall, about half of the food that the country requires has to be imported.”

While Eritrea’s government has implemented some poverty alleviation measures, these attempts have not mitigated poverty as they should have. This is partially due to the lack of resources and overall poorly implemented programs. Poverty in Eritrea has become rampant, and more than 66 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Access to sanitation was only available to 13 percent of Eritreans in 1997, and only 22 percent had access to clean water. Widespread malnutrition and inadequate healthcare also result in high infant mortality rates and low life expectancy.

Poverty in Eritrea barely allows its people to survive, let alone receive a proper education. The literacy rate is estimated at 49 percent. In addition, a weak education system does not help to relieve the issues associated with poverty.

While Eritrea still lacks resources and foreign aid, it will not be able to support itself after natural disasters and an ongoing war have ravaged the country. This young nation will require aid and guidance as it seeks growth and prosperity.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Eritrea
Located in the Horn of Africa, the country of Eritrea is bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti and has a population of about 5.6 million. Constant conflicts, the threat of war and severe droughts have transformed Eritrea into one of the poorest nations in Africa. Because the country has little money to spend on health care, many diseases in Eritrea remain a constant threat to travelers and citizens.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals traveling to Eritrea are at risk of contracting typhoid, malaria, meningitis, rabies, yellow fever and hepatitis A and B. These diseases can be contracted through contaminated food and water, sexual contact, mosquito bites or non-sterile medical or cosmetic equipment. Many of them, however, are highly preventable through vaccination.

Diseases such as rotavirus are the leading causes of fatal diarrhea in children under five in Eritrea. In 2010, an estimated 1,201 children under five died from rotavirus.

The Zika virus is also a growing concern among Eritrea’s citizens. As in many countries, non-communicable diseases in Eritrea are steadily growing more prevalent. These diseases include cardiovascular diseases, malnourishment, hypertension, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and cancer.

However, it is also important to note that Eritrea’s government has made substantial progress in disease control and improving the overall health of its citizens. In 2000, as a member state of the United Nations, Eritrea adopted the eight Millennium Development Goals, committing to further development and human security. Since then, Eritrea has made tremendous strides in providing health care to its 5.6 million citizens.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that eight of Eritrea’s major vaccine-preventable diseases are no longer a public health issue. Cost-effective vaccinations for diseases in Eritrea that still pose a concern, such as rotavirus, have also become available.

Public health concerns such as measles, maternal and neonatal tetanus in Eritrea have been reduced to less than 90 percent as of 1991. Eritrea has been certified as dracunculiasis-free and polio-free due to an increase in vaccinations. In addition to this, the country is seeing a steady decline in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, with HIV infection rates in the population at less than 1 percent.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr

Citizens Fleeing Eritrea Because of Poverty and Forced Labor
Since 2012, one in every 50 Eritreans (nearly twice the ratio of Syrians fleeing from civil war) has sought asylum in Europe. According to the U.N., 5,000 Eritrean men and boys are leaving their families and fleeing Eritrea each month.

The U.N. estimates that 400 thousand Eritreans, or nine percent of the population, have fled in recent years. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly one-quarter of the 132 thousand migrants arriving in Italy between January and September of 2015 were Eritreans.

Poverty in Eritrea is extreme. The CIA World Factbook reports the nation’s GDP purchasing power as $8.7 billion, ranking Eritrea 162nd in the world. Unemployment in the country is estimated at just 8.6 percent, but the poverty rate is estimated at 50 percent. More specific numbers are nearly impossible to acquire due to Eritrea’s secretive nature.

Why are people fleeing Eritrea? In June 2015, the UNHCR released a 500-page report detailing the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations going on in Eritrea, violations that have created a climate of fear in which dissent is stifled. The report found that a large proportion of the population was being subjected to forced labor and imprisonment.

According to the report, the people of Eritrea are not ruled by law, but by fear. The Eritrean government denied repeated requests by the commission for information and access to the country. To gain insight into the situation, the commission conducted 550 confidential interviews with Eritrean witnesses in eight countries and received an additional 160 written submissions.

Conscription for 18 months is required of each Eritrean adult but is often extended indefinitely and carried out for years in harsh and inhumane conditions. Thousands of conscripts are subjected to forced labor that effectively abuses, exploits and enslaves them.

According to the UNHCR’s report, women conscripts are at extreme risk for sexual violence during national service. All sectors of the economy rely on forced service, and all Eritreans are likely to be subject to it at some point during their lives. The commission concluded that, “forced labor in this context is a practice similar to slavery in its effects and, as such, is prohibited under international human rights law.”

Mandatory conscription has not remedied poverty in Eretria. Instead, it has exacerbated it. Commission chair Sheila B. Keethrauth urged commitment from the international community to end the climate of fear in Eritrea.

“Rule by fear — fear of indefinite conscription, of arbitrary and incommunicado detention, of torture and other human rights violations — must end,” said Keethrauth.

Aaron Parr

Photo: Flickr

 

10 facts about Eritrean refugeesThere are approximately 321,000 Eritrean refugees living in Europe and thousands more reside in other areas around the world.

These refugees fled a country that operates on a system of invasive state control and extreme repression that consistently borders on human rights abuse. In a nation with few freedoms, it is not hard to understand why so many citizens have fled to other countries.

Here are 10 facts about Eritrean Refugees and the actions done to assist them:

  1. Eritrea is one of the world’s quickest-emptying nations with almost five thousand Eritreans leaving the country every month.
  2. There are approximately half a million Eritrean refugees residing in Ethiopia and Sudan, while Eritrea holds a population of only 6 million.
  3. The Eritrean refugees who have money are willing to pay up to $5,000 per person to flee the country according to The Guardian.
  4. Eritrean refugees are the third largest group that crosses the Mediterranean Sea by way of Libya to Italy.
  5. Many Eritreans settle in Ethiopia, a neighboring country that holds the largest number of refugees in Africa, according to Al Jazeera. Refugees in Ethiopia live in government-sanctioned camps that provide very little.
  6. There are over 40,000 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees living in Sweden and Norway, destinations many Eritrean refugees hope to reach, according to The Guardian.
  7. Some nations, including Israel, have deported Eritrean refugees to countries in Africa such as Rwanda, where their travel documents are confiscated and they are smuggled elsewhere.
  8. The conscription national service policy, where boys are required to serve in the national service at age 17 and can be required to stay for the majority of their lives, is a key reason citizens flee Eritrea according to The Guardian.
  9. Eritrean refugees are fleeing a country with no freedom of speech, religion, movement or political opposition. Citizens can be held in detention without charge or trial and many are tortured during their stay.
  10. The EU attempted to stop the flow of Eritrean refugees into Europe by giving development aid to Eritrea according to The Guardian; however, assisting those who have already escaped Eritrea and putting pressure on the Eritrean government to end abusive policies would be better use of the aid.

Reducing the number of Eritreans fleeing to the EU does not address the root of the cause. Refugees will continue to take unprecedented risks in their journey across the Mediterranean until political change occurs in Eritrea.

The above 10 facts about Eritrean Refugees are by no means exhaustive but provide insight to the current conditions of these displaced individuals.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights calls Eritrea “an institution where slavery-like practices are routine,” exposing the corruption and abuses that cause so many refugees to be displaced. One can only hope that the Eritreans’ time as refugees will be limited and future change for their country is on the horizon.

Amanda Panella

Photo: World Bulletin

hunger in eritrea
Situated between Sudan and Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa, Eritrea is a nation of both plenty and dearth. Food grows abundantly in the nation’s nutrient-rich fields, but nearly every year, Eritrea makes global headlines for a hunger crisis.

A particularly severe food shortage in 2011 left as many as two-thirds of Eritreans hungry. Last year’s shortage was among the worst in Africa–only Comoros and Burundi had more serious food insecurity–and was classified as “alarming.”

Eritrea is one of many African nations with both an economy based in agriculture and a paradoxical inability to feed its people. Though nearly 70 percent of Eritreans are involved in the agricultural sector, Eritrea currently only meets a third of its estimated food needs (the other two-thirds being met by international food aid programs). Though Eritrea’s economy is technically growing, it isn’t growing quickly enough to sustain a population of over six million people.

Being one of the least-developed countries on the planet makes it difficult for the government to implement lasting changes to prevent hunger in Eritrea, as the infrastructure and supplies for long-term economic changes and aid programs are largely lacking.

In the past three years, the Eritrean government has focused on improving agricultural infrastructure in order to decrease food insecurity, and though hunger has declined during that period, it has not declined significantly enough for Eritrea to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal (that of halving hunger and poverty levels by 2015).

Another issue causing continued hunger for Eritreans is that the government is rather secretive and has been accused of deliberately withholding information regarding the substandard living conditions of its people.

During the 2011 famine that swept through the entire Horn of Africa, Eritrea publicly stated that it was unaffected despite the overwhelming majority of its people living in hunger that year. Eritrea’s government faces no opposition and forbids freedom of the press, allowing it to mask subpar conditions more easily than other, more transparent governments.

To some extent, food insecurity can be expected in a country with a climate like that of Eritrea. Situated in the Sahel desert, Eritrea experiences periodic droughts which affect its agricultural output. That said, the number of people hungry in Eritrea remains alarmingly high even with the implementation of food aid programs and efforts to improve infrastructure.

Elise L. Riley

Sources: BBC, All Africa, World Food Programme, World Bank, UN
Photo: Trust