Why is Eritrea Poor
It easy to simply throw every poor country into the same bucket and assume that it will always remain so. However, every nation has a different past and a different culture, which is one of the reasons that we must take these factors into account when judging how well they fare today. Most countries, such as Eritrea, a relatively small country on the African coast, have complex backgrounds. In an effort to better understand the current state of the country, one must first ask the question: why is Eritrea poor?

Eritrea’s modern history dates to the late 1800s. It was during this time that European colonization was widespread throughout Africa. In Eritrea’s case, the Italians invaded during this time.

The country tolerated the Italians up until World War II when the British took control of the area. At this point in time, Eritrea was a relatively well-developed country. In the 1950s, due to Ethiopia’s sacrifices in World War II, the lands that now belong to Eritrea were “awarded” to Ethiopia.

If the country was so developed then, why is Eritrea poor now? The concise answer to this is that Ethiopia was poorer than Eritrea, and thus the Ethiopian government focused on building strong industries within Ethiopian lands and neglected the Eritrean economy. This marked the beginning of the country’s recession. Then, in 1961, the most influential event in Eritrean history began: the war for independence from Ethiopia. This left little resources for the development of a stable industry.

What made this war especially chaotic was the continued influence of the Cold War. These events complicated matters so much so, that it left little resources for development of a stable industry. Why is Eritrea poor? This is why.

The war ended in after 30 years in 1991 and the country was formally established in 1993. Unfortunately, the Ethiopian military destroyed large parts of the country during the war, including whatever industrial buildings Eritrea had to its disposal.

An effective government was not established yet, and many Eritreans, during and after the war, had to fend for themselves. Eritreans were left to their own demise that they developed a culture of self-reliance, which they now pride themselves in.

This self-reliance, in the end, turned out to be more harmful than helpful. In 2006, during a severe drought, the country’s government declined humanitarian aid from NGOs such as the U.S.-based Mercy Corps and the Ireland-based Concern for this reason. At this time, 80 percent of the population lived off of subsistence farming, and the country housed an undernourished population of about 30 percent. Eritrea also had to recover from another war with Ethiopia, which lasted between 1998 and 2000.

Why is Eritrea poor? The answer to this question lies in the country’s conviction of trying to make ends meet on its own and its endless clashing with Ethiopia.

Due to these issues, the international community has not been very keen to invest in the country more recently. Eritrea has industries which are waiting to be capitalized on, such as minerals and a wide seafront, but it has a lack of money to begin these endeavors. Landmines left over from the previous wars also make mining especially expensive, leaving mineral deposits untouched.

There is an improvement on the horizon though: the Eritrean government is paying its citizens more fairly and is looking do some initial landscape scouting for mining. Furthermore, the country’s GDP has consistently grown since 2008.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in EritreaEritrea is a northeast African country on the Red Sea coast with a population of 5.8 million. In recent decades, Eritrea has made great strides in improving the health of its population as part of the Millennial Development Goals. In particular, Eritrea has focused on child health and has made progress in eliminating childhood diseases such as measles with improved immunization and nutrition programs. Between 1993 and 2008, the number of Eritreans vaccinated against measles skyrocketed from 34 percent to 95 percent. Diseases in Eritrea remain a consistent health threat, however, because despite these health improvements, poverty in the country creates health challenges.

Much of Eritrea’s current health concerns revolve around vecsor-borne and mosquito-borne illnesses such as Yellow Fever and Malaria. Malaria has been one of the country’s top concerns in recent decades, as Eritrea has made a conscious effort to reduce the spread of the disease and joined the African Leaders Malaria Alliance. Since approximately 70 percent of the population lives in high-risk areas, the Eritrean government has responded with a variety of strategies, such as the promotion of national campaigns and community based-programs encouraging medical checkups. Today, nearly 70 percent of children below age five now sleep under insecticide-treated nets, and more than 60 percent of citizens own at least two ITNs. These measures have succeeded, helping Eritrea reduce annual malaria incidence by 85 percent between 1998 and 2012.

As a whole, Eritrea’s vaccination coverage has improved so much that it is now among the top African countries based on DTP3 disease coverage. DTP3 immunization, which covers diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, has been at 99 percent since 2008, far above the African average of 64 percent.

However, diseases connected to diet and nutrition such as diabetes and diarrheal diseases also pose a threat to the Eritrean population. An estimated 22,700 children under five are projected to be affected by severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2017, and according to national data, half of Eritrean children are stunted. UNICEF Eritrea has made fighting these diseases a top priority, and provides women and children with water and nutritional supplies as well as hygienic services and child protection services as part of its Humanitarian Action for Children.

One of the main issues preventing Eritrea from further reducing the spread of disease is the lack of doctors and physicians in the country. Although the number of physicians in Eritrea doubled in recent years, medical staffing remains far below estimated needs and targeted goals for the future, and as a result, diseases like tuberculosis and yellow fever remain a threat.

In the future, Eritrea can look to its success with controlling the spread of malaria as a prime example of the effectiveness of awareness campaigns coupled with immunization and nutrition programs. As Eritrea grows as a country, it will face new health concerns regarding immunization and disease. Preventing diseases in Eritrea will continue to be a part of the government’s goals as part of the 2030 Millennial Development Goals, as the country aims to secure a prosperous future for its people.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr

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

Fleeing EritreaSince 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.

High Rates of Fleeing

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%, but the poverty rate is estimated at 50%. More specific numbers are nearly impossible to acquire due to Eritrea’s secretive nature.

Reasons for Leaving

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

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. 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: Flickr

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