Information and stories about Ethiopia

Digital Healthcare in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is a land-locked country located on the eastern side of the African continent, making up the greater part of the distinctive “Horn of Africa.” It is home to one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, increasing by around 2.5% annually. Ethiopia’s manual, primarily paper-based health care system has proven to be ill-equipped and ineffective at efficiently providing for citizens. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made the inadequacy of the country’s current system even more apparent. It propelled the development and expansion of digital health care in Ethiopia.

The Need for Digital Health Care

As of 2020, the World Bank still classifies Ethiopia as a low-income country (LCI). Nearly half of the country’s population lives below the international poverty line. More than 18% were in need of humanitarian assistance in 2021. This is a result of the pandemic among other recent hardships, including drought and internal conflict.

The current life expectancy in Ethiopia is 66.24 years at birth, well below the world average of 72.6 years. This is largely due to the “severe underfunding of the health sector,” resulting in an inadequate number of existing health institutions, the inefficient delivery of medical supplies and great challenges when it comes to extending much-needed health services to those living in pastoral areas.

With 79% of Ethiopians residing in rural lands, this is a huge problem. Furthermore, greater than 50% of the population must walk more than 6 miles to reach the nearest health facility, according to the JDC study. This means that many Ethiopians go untreated for conditions such as malaria, tuberculosis, meningitis and COVID-19. The expansion of digital health care in Ethiopia will help mitigate disparities between rural and urban areas. It could extend the reach of health care providers to those in need.

The United States’ Role

In December 2019, just before the onset of the pandemic, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health. It invested $63 million in Ethiopia’s health sector. The project launched in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, with the name “Digital Health Activity” or DHA.

The Digital Health Activity aims to modernize Ethiopia’s health information systems in the following ways:

  1. Consolidating patient medical information by transitioning from paper-based records to an electronic medical record (EMR) system.
  2. Training both policymakers and health care providers in the utilization of technology to better reach rural Ethiopians in need of health care.
  3. Partnering with local universities to develop courses in innovative health and inspire young Ethiopians to choose career paths in the health sector.
  4. Creating a digital COVID-19 surveillance system that allows for better contact tracing and expedited test results.
  5. Supporting the development of the Digital Health Innovation and Learning Center in Addis Ababa to encourage the continued modernization of Ethiopia’s existing Health Information Systems.

By the end of its first year, the DHA had already made great progress. Its first annual report showed that the DHA provided supervised assistance to more than 3,000 health facilities.

It trained 1,100 health care professionals in open-source software to better collect and manage health data. The DHA also created an online ordering system. This allows health facilities to process orders more efficiently and provide medications to patients in a more timely manner.

Digital Health Care and COVID-19

The Digital Health Innovation and Learning Center (DHILC) experienced its inauguration as the first of its kind in August 2020 in Addis Ababa. The Ministry of Health funded the center in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It serves a variety of purposes, including the development and testing of new digital applications. This will help revolutionize health care in Ethiopia as well as the establishment of a call center to offer remote support to users.

The prediction is that the DHILC would solve approximately “85% of users’ minor health information system-related problems.” It has been crucial in the testing and development of applications related to COVID-19.

There are now several apps that aid in the management of COVID-19 in Ethiopia. This includes a toll-free recording app that has provided accurate and reliable COVID-19 health information. Various applications work to educate patients on COVID-19, screen travelers for the virus and deliver timely test results. They provide contact tracing services and help manage the spread of the virus in Ethiopia.

The development of digital health care in Ethiopia was long overdue. But thanks to the innovative efforts of the Ministry of Health and USAID, citizens who once struggled to obtain access to quality health care can now access it remotely.

By providing more accurate information and up-to-date training for professionals, this new age of digital care has the potential to raise Ethiopia from low to middle-income status. It could improve the health and well-being of citizens in every area of the country.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr

ethiopias-biggest-threat-hunger
Researchers have directly linked quality nutrition to a reduction in the risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and in some areas, malnutrition. In less developed countries like Ethiopia, this reality is even starker. The threat of hunger in Ethiopia is extremely prevalent, requiring significant attention.

According to USAID data in Ethiopia, more than half of infant deaths are a direct result of malnutrition. Children who survive past the age of 2 years old experience irreversible threats to their physical growth and delays in their cognitive development. This lack of proper nutrition places children at a disadvantage within schools, leading them into the same cycle of poverty wherein the food systems in Ethiopia continue to perpetuate their malnutrition. As of 2021, more than 70% of Tigray’s population is still hungry with 400,000 individuals facing hunger on a fatal level.

The high rates of malnutrition in Ethiopia are a result of several factors, with food insecurity and less access to nutritious services being among the most prominent determining factors. Increased incidence rates of infectious diseases and inadequate maternal and child feeding practices follow closely behind. A combination of household wealth and income, education levels and a family’s ability to plan long-term drive all of these factors. Despite the threat of hunger in Ethiopia, some organizations are providing help.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

Within the past decade, several programs and organizations dedicated to fighting world hunger have worked within countries in Eastern Africa to not only provide food to its civilians but to support local farmers. The World Food Programme (WFP) is among one of the most active of these organizations in Ethiopia. The WFP has worked in many areas, donating resources, helping smallholder farmers develop better climate resistance and implementing school feeding programs. Most recently, the World Food Program has called for action from governments and their constituents while articulating how they will respond to the crisis.

The World Food Programme’s three main objectives now and in the coming months are to:

  • Provide emergency food assistance to the Northwestern and Southern regions of Tigray to reach over 2 million individuals in need of emergency food assistance.
  • Increase its emergency nutrition response to reach as many as 70 districts.
  • Continue to advocate for increased funding of $203 million to bolster its response program.

These goals aim to increase the quality of life for families in Ethiopia, and, since late September 2021, the World Food Programme has succeeded in doing just this. According to recent news and press releases, the WFP has helped communities in Ethiopia in one leading way.

Progress in Ethiopian Food Systems

The World Food Programme’s largest success in Ethiopia has been creating a system for farmers to access and manage their own finances. Having the ability to save money and apply for loans supports sustainable farming while empowering working women and providing a sense of self-sufficiency for many adults. The WFP has worked closely with villages in Ethiopia by helping small farmers pair up with the Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA), allowing communities to buy materials for personal businesses and ensure financial protection from the future. In 2002, the World Bank approved a loan of $85 million to Ethiopia’s food security program, all of which have contributed to these efforts of helping small farmers learn to support themselves. The WFP also aids Ethiopia in dealing with urgent issues by directly providing communities with emergency food. Since July 2021, the WFP has provided over 135,000 individuals with emergency meals.

USAID has also worked to promote agriculture and secure food systems in Ethiopia over the last decade. The implementation of its Feed the Future initiative has focused on supporting sustainable agriculture-led growth, bolstering resilience and improving nutrition. USAID has estimated a 19% decrease in poverty because of its efforts in the areas where it has worked from 2013 to 2018. In 2019, USAID’s Feed the Future initiative recognized its achievements of reaching 5 million children under the age of 5 years old with nutritional aid as well as tending to 131,000 hectares of improved land. This is due to improved technologies and practices provided by nonprofit organizations. Moving forward, USAID is seeking to continue working on strengthening resilience programs for farmers who rely solely on agriculture.

Collective Vision is the Future’s Hope

While the world continues to face many challenges, hunger may be one of the most pressing humanitarian concerns at the moment. Additionally, while it is important to sufficiently nourish everyone, it is even more important to ensure that each person has the knowledge and resources they need to continue healthfully providing for themselves moving forward. Organizations like the World Food Programme have already taken a strong initiative to achieve this goal in the countries that need it most, like Ethiopia. Other hands-on organizations like USAID have also spread their assistance to reach more countries, including attempting to strengthen the food systems in Ethiopia.

While the threat of hunger in Ethiopia may seem like a challenge that is far too expansive for any individual to tackle alone, organizations have shown how collective thought and collaboration can make a world of difference in reaching those most in need. With the continued support of governments and more specifically, involved constituents, countries can set aside their differences and work together towards achieving this common goal.

Chloé D’Hers
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and International Adoption in Ethiopia: 8 Questions Answered
Due to decades of poverty and other factors, Ethiopia has one of the largest orphan populations in the world. In the past decade, Ethiopia has become one of the most common countries from which U.S. citizens can adopt children. However, Ethiopia’s ban on international adoption in 2018 has affected thousands of Ethiopian children living in poverty. International adoption in Ethiopia is an extremely complex process. Netsanet Waal, an international adoptee, explained to The Borgen Project that after she lost both her parents to AIDS, she and her little sister Mekdelawit lived in an orphanage in Ethiopia. Their adoptive parents, Rhonda and Tracy Waal, adopted Netsanet and Mekdelawit in 2007. Here are eight questions and answers about international adoption.

8 Questions and Answers About International Adoption

  1. How did international adoption become so common in the United States? As Europe’s refugees fled to the United States after World War II due to post-war developments, the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 helped introduce international adoption and migration into Western culture. During the 1950s and 1960s, the number of international adoptions surged, notably among families compelled to adopt for religious reasons. Media coverage of global crises in impoverished countries increased in the 1980s. As a result, adoption became a more promoted practice in American culture and society.
  2. What are the benefits of international adoption? Every child deserves to have a family and international adoption provides a way for children to feel loved, safe and supported. When middle-class and upper-class families adopt children from impoverished countries, a child’s quality of life typically increases. Even more, international adoption improves foreign relations by facilitating dialogue between countries. International adoption also has a meaningful impact on those who come in contact with adoptees. In small towns with little diversity, adoptees can reshape many U.S. citizens’ perspectives on different cultures. 
  3. What are the negatives of international adoption? The cost of international adoption is extremely high. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, international adoption can cost between $20,000 and $50,000. The high price of international adoption makes it inaccessible to many families, suggesting that many capable families cannot adopt for financial reasons. Additionally, as immigrants, children adopted from other countries often enter communities that do not resemble their own. Therefore, adoptees can struggle with discovering their identity and personhood until later on in their lives, if they ever do. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Waal spoke about how her upbringing in the small rural town of Mount Vernon, Ohio affected the way she perceived herself as a black woman. Waal explained that she did not have any Ethiopian influences around her, and she struggled to connect with the culture of her home country because she grew up in a predominantly white town.
  4. How did Ethiopia become a country known for orphan adoption? Ethiopia’s food shortage from 1983-85 caused an estimated 1 million deaths and forced millions more into extreme poverty. The AIDS epidemic devastated Ethiopia as well. AIDS started spreading in Ethiopia in 1984; about 12% of women and 8% of men in Ethiopia were HIV positive by 2000. Children and youth also became more likely to contract HIV during the early 2000s through mother-to-child transmission. When BBC reporter Michael Buerk traveled with World Vision in 1984 and reported on famine and poverty in Ethiopia, it inspired Americans to aid the country. Waal explained how her adoptive parents had witnessed the famine on television as children. The parents felt that God was calling them to adopt later in 2007. At the time, Ethiopia was the fourth poorest country in the world. The Waal family wished to help by adopting two of the 4.9 million orphans in Africa at the time, and they were not the only family considering such a decision.
  5. How does poverty affect Ethiopian children today? Ethiopia had a 24% poverty rate in 2016, which means that thousands of kids grow up without access to education and resources. Less than 20% of children living in poverty can finish elementary school, while less than 25% have received basic vaccinations.
  6. Why did the Ethiopian government ban international adoption recently? The Ethiopian government banned international adoption in Ethiopia in 2018. Ethiopian officials pursued this course of action as they believed it would protect orphans; officials were worried about the psychological problems and physical abuse that adoptees could suffer. When asked about the benefits of international adoption, orphanage administrator Abebayehu Fikad explained, “Even if we are poor, it’s better to be with our society,” in an interview with NPR.
  7. How did the ban of international adoption in Ethiopia affect orphaned children? Ethiopia continues to face an orphan crisis. Today, 800,000 of Ethiopia’s 4.5 million orphans have lost their parents to AIDs, and there are specific orphanages aiding children in such situations. Many of the children will likely live in orphanages until they age out of the system.
  8. Who is aiding Ethiopian orphans? NGOs including Save The Children are advocating for Ethiopian orphans and children. Save the Children has touched millions of lives through its work on the ground and its child sponsorship program. Save The Children has also assisted more than 1 million parents in helping their children and provided protection for more than 800,00 children experiencing crises. In addition, Save the Children has established programs to enhance education, literacy and career-building skills for unprivileged children.

Looking Ahead

Although international adoption in Ethiopia does have negative aspects, millions of children in Ethiopia do not have basic access to family, shelter or food. Although the international public cannot adopt in Ethiopia, individuals can still support Ethiopian children living in poverty by donating to the Save the Children cause.

– Abby Adu
Photo: Flickr

How These 3 NGOs Are Helping Eritrean Refugees
The ongoing conflict in the Tigray province of Ethiopia has wreaked devastation. In November 2020, after months of political turmoil, the Ethiopian government launched a military offensive against Tigray regional forces. As a result, an estimated 353,000 people are in the worst classification for food security and thousands more have died. U.N.-backed data also show that 1.7 million are near maximum risk of food insecurity. Because of the crisis, several NGOs are taking on the fight in helping Eritrean Refugees. Here is how three NGOs are helping Eritrean refugees.

The American Team for Displaced Eritreans (TATDE)

John Stauffer founded The American Team for Displaced Eritreans (TATDE) in 2010, which is an organization that provides aid to Eritrean refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. and around the globe. TATDE works with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by providing refugees in the U.S. and globally with adequate housing and resettlement support. This includes a new apartment checklist and a picture dictionary that translates Tigrinya, a prominent language that Eritrean people speak, to English.

In collaboration with other NGOs, TATDE assists in fielding emergency calls from Eritrean refugees on the run, defecting Eritrean individuals officials and those facing deportation. Some noteworthy work includes a scholarship program designed to provide nursing and other medical training to refugees living in camps.

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provides clean water, education, medical aid and shelter to those who have had to flee or have experienced displacement. Operating in more than 30 countries and with about 15,000 humanitarians, NRC aims to rebuild futures and save lives. Working with Eritrea’s Ministry of Education, NRC helps provide Eritrean refugees with educational and economic programs. The main goals include:

  • Offering training in hairdressing, electrical installation, masonry, plumbing and irrigation skills and fishery.
  • Providing business starter kits to recent graduates of business management, thus incentivizing them to start their own businesses.
  • Ensuring that teachers receive hands-on training and classrooms have the proper tools and supplies.
  • Maintaining and supporting the training curriculum helping Eritrean refugees.

To date, about 6.6 million people have benefited from the WASH program in Eritrea. The WASH program focuses on providing sanitary water to displaced people in refugee camps and shelters. The program helps use safe water for drinking, cooking, personal hygiene, solid waste management and public restrooms.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

In the first six months of 2020, UNHCR responded to the crisis by providing food and sanitary assistance to refugee camps on a monthly basis. Due to the current conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic, the work helping Eritrean refugees significantly slowed down. Access to the refugee camps remained suspended from July 13, 2020 to August 4, 2021, after violent clashes in the region prevented staff from reaching the refugee camps. UNHCR plans to allow for 200 refugees to receive regular cash assistance and 400 to receive protection assistance.

Progress is slow and while the Eritrean refugees still face hardships, efforts by NGOs like the UNHCR, The Norwegian Refugee Council and The American Team for Displaced Eritreans continue to show the good in humanity.

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

Combatting Elderly Poverty in EthiopiaThough Ethiopia has one of the fastest-growing economies in its region, it remains one of the poorest nations in the world with a per capita annual income of $883 in 2019. Along with many inevitable health and wellness concerns that come with old age, a rising concern for seniors is deepening poverty.

Elderly poverty in Ethiopia poses a major threat to the well-being of older people, leaving them particularly vulnerable to economic insecurity in countries without social protection systems that offer high coverage and adequate benefits. However, important developments have been made in Ethiopia to support the aging population and combat elderly poverty.

Gender Dynamics within Elderly Poverty

Gender inequality manifests in elderly poverty, with older women being at much greater risk to experience poor living conditions than older men. The U.N. outlines multiple factors that contribute to this phenomenon, arguing “women’s lower labor force participation, the large number of women who are self-employed, and the fact that women often have shorter and interrupted careers due to childbearing and rearing” contribute to older women being particularly vulnerable to poverty.

Pension coverage is also often significantly lower for women because there is a gender-pension gap. The gender pension gap refers to several factors that contribute to fewer women receiving pensions than men. This is indirectly impacted by gender discrimination built into the pension system itself, “including the disproportionate exclusion of women from being automatically enrolled into a pension scheme.” In comparison to the 287,666 men who received civil servant pensions in Ethiopia in 2018, only 31,222 women received the same pension.

Policy Progress

In 2018, only 15% of Ethiopia’s older population received any kind of social protection. As stated by HelpAge, “Older persons have virtually no access to either formal or informal savings and loans opportunities. Unless supported by civil society, poor older Ethiopians are unable to engage in regular saving activities.” Given the large coverage gap in social protection for the elderly, many argue that the nation should explore a dedicated social pension to combat elderly poverty in Ethiopia.

Despite its flaws, Ethiopia has made notable progress in the world of social protection interventions in the last few years. Two World Bank-funded projects have been instrumental in laying the groundwork to support seniors: the Ethiopian Rural Productive Safety Net Program, which launched in 2005, and the Urban Productive Safety Net Program (UPSNP), which launched in 2016.

The Ethiopian Rural Productive Safety Net Program is designed to support the Government of Ethiopia in improving its rural safety net systems. There is a specific focus on nutrition and food security, flood and drought risk management, and rural infrastructure and service delivery. Expanding the safety net in rural Ethiopia is central to supporting the lives of the thousands of seniors who live outside a city center and need social programs and systems to maintain a liveable quality of life. The UPSNP is designed with similar features but targeted towards poor households in urban centers.

Moving Forward

HelpAge outlines a few key recommendations to improve elderly poverty in Ethiopia, including increased advocacy from citizens toward local government and more awareness around the issue itself. Moreover, the organization argues an increased focus on older women is necessary, especially widows, in social protection interventions.

There is a long road to dismantling elderly poverty in Ethiopia, but the creation of necessary systems to support the aging population has proven to be a viable start. Knowledge, advocacy and cooperation with the government to address systemic issues within pension plans can definitely move the needle forward to alleviate poverty within the elderly community.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Flickr

The WeekndThe Weeknd is famous for his singing, songwriting and producing career. He performed at the halftime show in the 2021 Super Bowl and even won an Oscar for his song “Earned It,” which was featured in the film “Fifty Shades of Grey.” What many don’t know about The Weeknd is that he is a philanthropist who quietly donates to several organizations that help global poverty relief.

The Weeknd’s Background

Much of The Weeknd’s philanthropy ties back to his cultural roots. Born as Abel Tesfaye, The Weeknd’s parents are Ethiopian immigrants. Although Tesfaye grew up in Toronto, Canada, his first language was Amharic. Amharic is one of the two main languages of Ethiopia, further showing his connection to the region.

Ethiopian Philanthropy

A significant portion of The Weeknd’s philanthropy goes toward his parents’ home country of Ethiopia. In April 2021, he donated $1 million to World Food Program USA, which is the U.S. affiliate of the United Nations World Food Programme. This donation will fund two million meals in Ethiopia. Specifically, these meals will benefit people who do not have access to food in the northern Tigray region where there is an ongoing ethnic conflict with Ethiopia’s neighboring country, Eritrea. Civilians suffer the most from the conflict. They are often in danger, living in poor conditions and risk rape, violence and death.

When announcing his donation to World Food Program USA, The Weeknd stated in an Instagram post that, “My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are being displaced out of fear and destruction.”

Prior to The Weeknd’s donation, the World Food Programme provided corn, rice and vegetable oil to 60,000 people in the northern Tigray region. The program also began an initiative to support pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as children in the region, with the goal of reaching 875,000 people. The program also has two refugee camps in Tigray, open to people seeking safety and help.

Donations to Beirut

The Weeknd’s philanthropy extends beyond Ethiopia, as he donated to COVID-19 relief as well as relief for Beirut, Lebanon. Following an explosion at the Port of Beirut, The Weeknd donated $300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon. The explosion damaged homes, infrastructure and hospitals. It injured 6,000 people and killed 180. The detonation also damaged the city’s main hospital and other clinics, making it difficult to treat victims. The explosion was also at the city’s port, which drastically affected their ability to trade and receive imports. Additionally, the poverty rate in Lebanon jumped from 33% to 45%. It came mainly as a result of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion. Global Aid for Lebanon raised more than $1.2 million to provide food, treatment and infrastructure aid to those impacted by the explosion.

The Weeknd’s philanthropy has benefitted many lives and helped many get the assistance they needed following unsafe conditions. While he is a quiet philanthropist, he has been instrumental in helping vulnerable people in global poverty.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Flickr

Water scarcity in EthiopiaEthiopia’s water supply is scarce — only 42% of the population has access to clean water. For those that don’t have access to clean water, women bear the brunt of the work to get it for their families. Therefore, water scarcity in Ethiopia is, though some might not realize it, a women’s issue.

While men work and try to earn money, mothers, wives, and young girls carry the water burden, both physically and metaphorically. These women walk long distances, often three hours or more to get clean water for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and more. These long distances take away valuable time from these women’s lives. Mothers often have to bring their young children on these long journeys or risk leaving them by themselves. Instead of spending time taking care of their children or working, many take six to eight hours every day collecting water and returning home. As for young girls, many sacrifice their education to get water, causing their chances of escaping poverty to dwindle. Women also have to carry heavy jerry cans for long distances, which could lead to physical strain or other health issues.

The Economics of Water Scarcity in Ethiopia

Water scarcity in Ethiopia affects 61 million people who do not have access to safe water. Although the water that they have access to may not be safe, many Ethiopians have no choice but to pay for their dangerous water supply. Water from sources like unprotected ponds and shallow wells can cost some Ethiopians around 20% of their total income.

Since this water is not safe, many people also get sick from water-borne illnesses like cholera and diarrhea, which takes time, money and energy away from working or finding a way to earn money, catapulting Ethiopians further into poverty.

Organizations Helping Supply Water

There are several organizations with a mission to supply water to people in countries that face water scarcity, including Ethiopia. WaterAid UK is one of these organizations. The organization supplies areas with a scarce water supply, like remote villages, with access to clean water. For example, WaterAid UK installed a 400-meter pipe from a spring which pipes water down to the center of the village of Ferenji in Ethiopia. The organization has supplied 26.4 million people with clean water since its establishment in 1981.

Another organization bringing clean water to Ethiopia is charity:water. Founded in 2006, charity:water uses different methods including piped systems, hand-dug wells, drilled wells, gravity-fed systems, spring protections and latrines to provide Ethiopians with clean water. Their efforts so far have helped 3,025,007 Ethiopians gain access to safe water.

A Progressive Future

Water scarcity in Ethiopia proves to be a burden for women, causing them to sacrifice work, education, money and providing for their families. Many do not have a choice but to make the long treks to retrieve clean water, but several organizations use their resources and funds to build water sources for Ethiopians. These efforts will help lessen the water burden for women across Ethiopia and allow them to focus on progress for themselves and their families.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact on Ethiopia 
As of August 2021, Ethiopia had 292,731 documented COVID-19 cases and 4,518 deaths in a population of more than 118 million. However, COVID-19’s impact on Ethiopia is far more complicatedAside from the clear health (medical and mental) implications of COVID-19, the pandemic affected other areas significantly, including poverty, nutrition and sanitation. The United Nation’s Ethiopia Assessment explored the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ethiopia.

Health and Nutrition

Despite being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, 26% of Ethiopia’s population lives below the poverty line. In April 2021, there were studies on maternal and child nutrition and health during the early days of the pandemic compared to 2019. The studies showed a decline in these services in March and April 2020. The COVID-19 surge redirected nearly all resources and services. Therefore, there were few resources and services for other programs.

Healthcare workers, government and non-governmental organizations alike helped restore the services. A major factor in mitigating the negative impact of COVID-19 on Ethiopia’s health and nutrition was an awareness campaign. The campaign aimed to teach COVID-19 prevention utilizing volunteers in the community, including frontline workers and university students.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

A major factor in winning the battle against COVID-19 is appropriate hygiene, such as handwashing. However, people in Ethiopia do not always have adequate access to water. This places further strain on the community. In Ethiopia, “60-80% of communicable diseases are attributed to limited access to safe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene services.” For example, people in Ethiopia do not always wash their hands after using the latrine. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the many areas in which lower-income countries are at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping their citizens protected.

However, UNICEF partnered with the ONEWASH National Programme in 2013. This partnership established projects to guarantee access to a safely managed water supply, specifically to vulnerable groups like children and women. UNICEF and the ONEWASH National Programme aim to increase not only equitable and sustainable clean water supplies and sanitation services but also proper hygiene practices in rural and urban areas.

Government and Human Rights

The U.N. assessment on Ethiopia reported that the human rights situation in Ethiopia was improving. Due to government reforms and restructuring, opposition parties, women and different factions had a newfound voice in the government. However, human rights abuses remained. The pandemic exacerbated these abuses resulting in a state of emergency followed by delayed elections.

When the government postponed elections, the Tigray region chose to defy these orders and hold them anyway. This caused tension between the Tigray region and the federal government. Prime Minister Ahmed ordered military action against the Tigray region in retaliation for an attack on the federal government purportedly from the Tigray region. Additionally, in the western and southern parts of the Oromia region, “government counterinsurgency campaigns against armed rebel groups resulted in serious human rights and abuses against local communities by all sides.”

There are long-reaching implications of postponed elections. However, Ethiopia finally held elections in June 2021 with the ruling party winning a second term.

Looking Forward

COVID-19’s impact on Ethiopia is evolving as the vaccine rollout continues and the country implements information campaigns on COVID-19 prevention and hygiene and sanitation programs. The World Health Organization (WHO) through COVAX and the ACT accelerator shipped 38 million COVID-19 vaccine doses worldwide, providing vaccines to more than 100 countries. The efforts to fight COVID-19 in Ethiopia are not in vain and continue to positively impact countries around the globe.

– Tiffany Pate
Photo: Flickr

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance DamThe Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will allow over 65 million Ethiopians access to electricity. Many estimate it to cost as high as $5 billion. Using two large turbines, the dam will bring more than 6,450MW worth of power to the country.

Project Background

Construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam began in April of 2011 and finished in July of 2020. The dam can hold up to 74 billion cubic meters of water, which makes it the largest hydropower project in Africa.

Located in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region, about 30 km upstream from Sudan, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation identified the site between 1956 and 1964. But, construction only actually began after surveys in 2009 and 2010.

Funds from local taxes, donations and government bonds raised the necessary $4.8 billion to cover construction costs. Ethiopian’s at home and abroad provided the first $350 million. Then, the state-owned Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation invested some of its own revenue, as well as money borrowed from state-owned banks.

Controversy

Despite the benefits some say the dam will have, the project is not without controversy. Over the last decade, the governments of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan are working to come to an official agreement on how the GERD will operate.

The Egyptian government voiced strong opposition to the GERD stating that it will cause major disruptions to the Nile. Egypt depends on more than 90% of its water from the river. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that Egypt is facing “an existential threat” because of this project.

For Egypt, the main concern lies in the impact on the water supply of previous dams on the Nile. They worry GERD will do the same. The annual flooding of the Nile is one of the most important natural events that occur throughout Egypt’s history. Egypt relies heavily on this annual event for its agriculture. Additionally, there is concern that the GERD could alter this flooding and/or interfere with the flow of sediments that are vital for growing food in the region.

Furthermore, the Sudanese government expressed concern over the effect of the dam on its people and their water rights. In June 2021, Sudan and Egypt released a joint statement. They urged for a legally binding agreement between the countries before Ethiopia began its second filling of the dam.

Water Rights

The Nile Waters Agreements of 1929 and 1959 gave Egypt and Sudan the right to all the water in the Nile. These agreements also gave Egypt the right to veto any upstream construction, such as the GERD. However, The agreements did not include Ethiopia. Therefore, Ethiopia does not recognize the agreements as legitimate.

Since Ethiopia does not recognize the Nile Waters agreements, Egypt and Sudan pushed to get a legally binding agreement. The new agreement would place restrictions on the amount of water Ethiopia may hold in the dam. However, Ethiopia refused to agree to any of these restrictions, instead favoring looser guidelines that are not legally binding.

However, the international community supports Egypt’s calls for a formal agreement. The United States warns that filling the dam without an agreement in place would lead to heightened tensions in the region. In July 2021, the United Nations Security Council made another attempt at mediating the conflict, the latest in the decade-long struggle to reach an agreement. These talks also failed and Ethiopia proceeded to fill the dam.

Looking Ahead

Despite the controversy and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s effect on Egypt and Sudan, it appears that the Ethiopian government will continue to move forward with filling the dam. In July of 2021, the second filling of the dam was completed. Even with the controversy, the project will provide electricity to millions in the region who previously did not have access. This is sure to have a positive impact on the citizens of the region.

– Taryn Steckler-Houle
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Solutions to PovertyChanging ecosystems from economic development have increased the risk of poverty and food insecurity around the world. Informal sectors, which mostly exist in lower-income countries, sidestep environmental regulations. This further degrades the environment and puts more people at risk of poverty. However, these high-risk environments also provide an opportunity to implement environmental solutions to poverty and lower the risk of environmental destruction.

Demi-Lune Agriculture to Stop Desertification

In the past century, deserts have expanded rapidly due to industrialization and rising global populations. This threatens millions of people living on the periphery of deserts who farm for a living, people who may see their crops dry up in coming years. Environmental solutions to poverty often focus on stopping the expansion of deserts.

For example, farmers on the periphery of the Sahara Desert have adopted a new style of farming to adapt to the desertification of their farmland: half-moon agriculture. This environmental solution to poverty, introduced in the 1980s, has many benefits.

Half-moons retain water much more efficiently than traditional agricultural techniques, an important feature in water-scarce climates. Farmers can easily understand and execute the process, which only requires basic tools, increasing its usability in communities with poor education and literacy.

In West Africa, half-moon agriculture has led to an incredible transformation of the landscape, with formerly arid land now covered in grass, trees or crops. Binta Cheffou, a farmer in Niger, planted half-moons in the 1990s when her community’s land was bare and unproductive.

Now, according to Cheffou, “Many people are no longer hungry” due to increased livestock yields and more agriculture. Communities using this environmental solution to poverty have witnessed a large increase in biodiversity as well, a useful safeguard against ecological disasters.

Planting Trees to Reduce Landslides

Natural disasters pose a large barrier in the fight against poverty, causing $210 billion in damage in 2020, according to major insurers. Landslides, a common disaster in developing countries, kill nearly 4,500 people each year, according to earth scientist Dave Petley. There are several environmental solutions to poverty and natural disasters, including a simple one: planting trees.

Landslides largely occur in environments where erosion is widespread and the ground can no longer hold its weight. These conditions often emerge just after deforestation and unregulated mining, where people extracting resources leave hillsides barren and organic structures rotten.

The lack of organic structure holding the slopes together leads to these tragic natural disasters. Reverting the hillside to its natural state with biodiverse trees can provide the structure necessary to prevent landslides while also providing revenue to those caring for the trees.

This strategy, popularized worldwide in the past few years, has seen major success in preventing landslides and reducing poverty. In Ethiopia, studies in communities with tree-planting initiatives noted a dramatic increase in community income and food supply. In Indonesia, research confirmed a decrease in landslides where trees were present. The study found that coffee trees prevent landslides especially well with the added benefit of providing coffee beans for communities to harvest and sell. This would decrease the motivation for unregulated logging and mining, further reducing landslide risk.

Cleaning Rivers for Clean Water

Rivers serve as key assets for countries to fuel their development. Rivers can provide power, food, drinking water and trade routes. Furthermore, recreational activities on rivers provide economic stimulation. However, many of the world’s key rivers, especially in developing countries, are experiencing a crisis of pollution and wastewater. This pollution costs countries billions of dollars. As such, key environmental solutions to poverty should focus on cleaning rivers and ensuring proper wastewater systems to prevent pollution.

In Indonesia, where riverway pollution costs $6.3 billion each year, or 2.3% of GDP, the government aims to make river water drinkable by 2025. Indonesia is implementing several strategies to address river pollution and protect the environment, including tree planting to combat erosion and regulations to ensure water factories produce drinkable water from rivers. Indonesia also focuses on environmental education as many people discard domestic trash in rivers without considering the consequences.

India also suffers from polluted rivers. The Ganga River, sacred to Hindus, serves almost 400 million people, providing water for drinking, irrigation and industry. It also deposits significant amounts of plastic into the Bay of Bengal and is filled with damaging pollutants which cause waterborne diseases that kill 1.5 million children per year.

The Indian government is focusing on the tributaries to the Ganga, ensuring clean water flows into the major river for a long-term cleaning strategy. So far, the government has spent $3 billion on cleanup initiatives since 2015 and has doubled sewage capacity.

The Future

These environmental solutions to poverty can increase both wealth and living standards. Studies show that access to a green and clean environment can boost mental health and life expectancy. Clean rivers, green hillsides and re-purposed desert land can provide access to these benefits worldwide. Going forward, governments should focus on innovative solutions to both improve the environment and reduce poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr