Information and stories about Ethiopia

Lymphedema in EthiopiaPodoconiosis is a non-infectious and non-filarial skin disease that causes swelling of the feet and legs. It is one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) that is prevalent in rural regions of Ethiopia. Podoconiosis is one of the causes of lymphedema in Ethiopia, affecting almost 1.5 million people, and, in 345 districts, around 35 million people are at risk.

The cause of the disease is direct contact with the red clay soil. After people have prolonged contact with the soil on their feet, they start to suffer from itching and burning of their feet, followed by swelling if left untreated. Other causes include misunderstanding of the disease, lack of proper shoes, soap and water and moisturizer.

Treatment usually includes minimizing exposure to irritant soils by wearing shoes, washing feet with antiseptic soap and water to remove the soil, moisturizing skin and applying compression bandages as needed. Wearing proper footwear consistently is the best and most cost-effective prevention method.

Burden on People’s Health

Individuals with the disease experience physical disability, emotional distress and poor quality of life. Increased size and weight of legs make it difficult for the person to do daily activities, such as standing or walking. It also prevents the individual from working or finding employment. After lymphedema and skin change becomes chronic, stigmatization occurs. Affected people often cannot attend school, religious events or local meetings.

Impact on Poverty

It is tough for the poor and barefooted farmers of Ethiopia to defeat the disease because they are often unable to afford protective shoes. Research about early prevention of the disease relating to Ethiopian children indicated that high-income families are likely to have larger numbers of protective footwear, and thus less likely to contract the disease than low-income families.

The disease keeps people from working, and that puts the already afflicted rural farmers unable to create income. A study conducted in one of the southern areas of Ethiopia showed that the cost of podoconiosis is more than $16 million per year due to acute inflammation and swelling of the legs. Also, each affected person loses 45% of their working days per year.

The Latest Progress

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health has been working on ending this illness via the “National Neglected Tropical Diseases Master Plan,” updating the initiative every five years since 2012. Organizations, such as Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute and the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, collaborated with WHO to map the disease, covering 1,304 communities in Ethiopia. Overall, the partnership was also responsible for finding resources, as well as monitoring and controlling the disease. Among 345 targeted districts for Podoconiosis control, 150 have received treatment and prevention services and the country managed 67,588 lymphedema cases from 2016 to 2020. 

Potential Partners

Mossy Foot Project is an NGO that has been supporting people with Podoconiosis since 2000. They provide protective shoes including oversized ones without charge. They also perform foot washing and bandaging treatment for lymphedema at several clinics in the country.

Soles 4 Souls, The Shoe That Grows and Samaritan’s Feet are nonprofit organizations providing free shoes for the poor. They could be prospective donors for Ethiopian farmers. The Shoe That Grows program is specifically for children who need shoes but cannot afford a new pair every time their feet grow. Their shoes can expand in 5 sizes, so a kid can wear them for a longer time.

Podoconiosis, neglected tropical lymphedema in Ethiopia, has been an issue for the health and economy, especially those in underserved rural areas. Yet, the effort in fighting the disease has been growing as well. Continued support, such as providing shoes and foot hygiene, will result in the elimination of this disease and poverty reduction in rural Ethiopia.

– Naomi Kang
Photo: Flickr

Water Scarcity in Ethiopia
Only
57% of Ethiopians have access to clean water today. Time spent searching for clean water, a place to use the bathroom and money spent to treat waterborne illnesses contributes to the poverty crisis by impeding education and potential financial growth. These are four NGOs fighting water scarcity in Ethiopia.

Water4Ethiopia

Water4Ethiopia is an independent charity based in London working to improve water insecurity in Ethiopia. The organization has helped about 5,300 Ethiopians access clean water.

In many parts of Ethiopia, safe water is in relatively shallow ground, but the water supply is easily contaminated. Water4Ethiopia works with people local to the area to construct a protected hand-pumped well and treat it with a small amount of chlorine. Water4Ethiopia builds capped springs that transfer water to distribution points.

Water4Ethiopia has installed capped springs that move water to distribution points in Beku Golba, Saglie and Dodo. Hand-dug wells with pumps to distribute water have improved water conditions in Ababari, Kolle, Kidanemihret, Lower Woibla, Maje-Azwara, Mewagna and Kufif. Water4Ethiopia also implements hygiene and sanitation programs to ensure safe, clean water is readily available.

There are in-progress projects that Water4Ethiopia organized to meet its mission to end water scarcity in Ethiopia. Water4Ethiopia hopes to implement hand-dug wells with hand pumps in communities such as Lolo and Marwenz.

Lifewater

Lifewater is an organization that focuses on regions that are hard to reach and implements custom solutions to improve water scarcity in Ethiopia. Lifewater has built over 500 water sources in more than 395 villages. About 88% of WASH solutions are still running, and more than 198,000 people have improved their water sanitation. A core value of Lifewater is “serving the least, the lost, and the last.”

There are five types of custom water solutions engineers at Lifewater use that include hand-dug wells, drilled wells, protected springs, rainwater harvesting and rehabilitated wells. A team of engineers collaborates with the community to determine the best approach for a specific community. Every village is different in its resources, population, distance from water sources and time spent in line waiting for water.

Testing water quality has allowed 88% of water solutions to remain in place and continue to provide communities with water. The goal is to meet the WHO guidelines for having international water sources within one kilometer of one’s house with waiting times of less than 30 minutes.

Lifewater lists fundraisers on its website and shares periodic updates for funding and the progress of water solutions. Recently completed water projects in Ethiopia include hand-pumped wells in Erbaye Huleti, Kenchota and Shefele.  

The Millennium Water Alliance Ethiopia Program

The Millennium Water Alliance (MWA) has created a sustainable water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) program outlining a five-year plan to help Ethiopia attain clean, low-cost water by 2030. This plan prioritizes increasing access in schools and hospitals, the functionality of water solutions and budgeting to ensure solutions last.

The MWA has recently taken a broader approach to improve water conditions. The organization considers the big picture rather than only focusing on infrastructure by focusing on sustainability to ensure water solutions operate long-term.

Researchers at the MWA utilize water point data to determine which districts in Ethiopia need WASH assistance. The Water Point Data Exchange (WPdx) works alongside the WASH program to monitor water accessibility and cleanliness in regions. Reporting collected data on the WPdx allows for collaboration between NGOs and the Ethiopian government to allocate resources.

The MWA also continues to learn about water scarcity in Ethiopia and effective methods to share with other NGOs or government organizations to recreate similar infrastructure in other regions. Thus far, the MWA has successfully provided clean water in Ethiopia for more than 2 million people in hard-to-reach areas.

Hope H2O

Hope H2O is a Canadian volunteer organization that develops educational and WASH projects in Ethiopia. Its mission is to enhance water sanitation and quality of life for Ethiopians. Dating back to 2010, Hope H2O has assisted more than 25,000 Gimbichu District residents.

Hope H2O strategies include large concrete reservoirs, water taps, drains and technology to track usage. All materials used for infrastructure came from Ethiopian merchants and community members that professional plumbers and masons assisted.

The organization works to ensure water points are accessible to most of the community and that the community understands proper sanitary procedures to keep water access points clean. Hygienic methods taught include consistent hand washing and designated family latrine pits that will not contaminate nearby water sources.

Work done in the Menjigsso Gora community improved an old government-installed pump and stationed a generator to extract safe water into a reservoir with a wide service zone. Creating water points in the local elementary school improved school conditions and education in the community, as it was previously difficult to retain teachers.

Hope H2O is currently in phase two of its project in Germama Village. The project entails the construction of sanitary water facilities and community sanitation education. COVID-19 and political unrest halted progress for about six months in 2020 until construction resumed.

Looking Ahead

Access to clean water is a human right vital for the health of Ethiopians and the fight against global poverty. Without water, families are unable to handle other factors contributing to their financial state. It is important to ensure every person has access to basic human needs and these NGOs are working towards that goal.

– Mikada Green
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is the only African nation to never have experienced colonization, excluding the brief occupation by Mussolini during WWII. This rich lineage goes back further than any anglo-sphere country. From the images of the 1980s-90s famine to the current genocidal crisis in the Tigray region, Westerners may see poverty in Ethiopia, along with most of Africa, through a calamitous lens. While this view threatens to tokenize the pain of a people, it also has the potential to prompt radical change.

In recent years, Ethiopia has made headlines with its record economic growth and industrial advancement. Still, Amnesty International reports that more than 5.2 million people are currently in need of food aid in Tigray, the province at the epicenter of news coverage. Alongside the charges of human rights violations, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the already challenging situation. More than 22 million people are living below the poverty line with a 27% poverty rate expected only to rise. The fear of Ethiopian suffering being ignored on a global stage is what resonates in most reports from the area. However, unification through global affairs makes room for a conversation about geopolitical positions. Civil War, poor health services and global shelving continue to hurt Ethiopians and keep the country in constant economic struggle.

Growth in the Private Sector

The widespread famine of the mid-1980s shocked the world with images of Ethiopia’s hunger-ridden communities. As the country developed in the aftermath, the rate of poverty reduction in rural areas remained mild, moving from 30% to 26%. In contrast, urban development led to poverty falling from 26% to 15% in the same period. From 2004 to 2016, the blooming of business and subsequent decrease in urban poverty ensued. By 2015, the Ethiopian government was following economic leaders like China and South Korea in expanding government policy to encourage private business and development. As the private sector expands and more companies look to Ethiopia for cheap labor, poverty has started to drop. The country sought to meet China’s jaw-dropping achievement of lifting more than 800 million people out of poverty and decided to expand infrastructure, education and health through borrowing from state banks and foreign aid.

For a decade the economic growth rate was 10%. Buildings were cropping up all over the country’s capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s proximity to global markets in Europe and Asia makes it a realistic option for manufacturers of textiles that have started to set up shops in the region. This made Ethiopia one of the fastest-developing African nations and sparked global recognition of the country’s goal of reaching middle-income status for its citizens by 2025.

The Situation in Tigray

A racialized civil war occurred after president Abiy Ahmed postponed the election due to take place in August 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tigrayan government said this was fundamentally unconstitutional, Abiy responded by withdrawing funding to the region and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) answered with violence. Ethiopian and Eritrean militaries saw this as a political opportunity to get back at Tigrayians for an age-old border dispute.

As a result, ethnic cleansing has devastated communities. Alongside the brutal harm inflicted on the Tigrayan ethnic group, an 18-month-long internet blackout followed in the Northern part of Ethiopia, which is home to more than 7 million people. On November 28 and 29, a massacre of 800 people occurred in Aksum but was underreported due to the communication disconnect. Even the Tigrayian language is becoming a barrier as it is nonexistent on Google Translate. Silos have burned down and mass rapes have already become history.

War deprives people of basic resources that are essential to survival. In a country already struggling to win the fight against poverty, a fight among brothers is not helping anyone. Yet, in a hopeful twist, the Tigrayan rebels released a statement this week saying they are ready for peace talks in a rush to find diplomatic answers to the crisis. This came after last month’s fighting left many marred; again violence erupts and those responsible vacate the spotlight leaving the people without a solution, only scars.

Solutions

Spreading awareness of poverty in Ethiopia is one way to get acknowledgment that leads to holding people accountable. The media does not always cover countries like Ethiopia, but they are important. To help showcase Ethiopia and other countries on the global stage, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez proposed the Ethiopia Stabilization, Peace and Democracy Act in 2021. This Act will allow the U.S. to help end the civil war and may help the country thrive through financial, technical and diplomatic support, while also seeking accountability for crimes against humanity in Ethiopia.

– Shane Chase
Photo: Flickr

Drought in Ethiopia
The Oromo Liberation Army and Tigray Defense Forces in Ethiopia are actively in conflict with the Ethiopian government and have received labels as terror groups in the country. However, due to the ongoing drought in Ethiopia, the groups have been working to establish a nationwide truce to allow humanitarian groups to provide aid to the affected areas of Ethiopia where people do not have access to food and resources. The drought is the worst the nation has seen in the past 40 years and has contributed to more than 20 million people needing dire assistance this year. The impact of the drought on the already impoverished country has been so drastic that the role of the military structures in Ethiopia is changing with the idea of a potential truce to improve the impoverished conditions during an ongoing conflict.

Ethiopia’s Conflict

Millions of Ethiopians have been displaced due to the conflict between rebel groups, including Oromo Liberation Army, Tigray Defense Forces and the Ethiopian National Defense Force which has been ongoing since November 2020. The war has political roots, such as an election, power struggle and claims of marginalization of certain minorities. Both sides have engaged in war crimes resulting in genocide, sexual violence and widespread looting and destruction of property. In addition to these direct results of war, humanitarian crises and famine have also come to light due to environmental and economic factors.

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, ordered offensive forces to fight the rebel forces. The government intervention and blockades in Tigray have limited access to 9.4 million people across northern Ethiopia in need of humanitarian aid. Road access for supply trucks with medicine, nutritional supplies and general aid has had its limitations due to such blockages, further exacerbating the famine.

The Impact of the Drought in Ethiopia

In addition to the ongoing Ethiopian conflict, the drought has played a part in increasing humanitarian needs across Ethiopia. The worst Ethiopian drought in decades has led to widespread harvest failures and livestock deaths decreasing food insecurity, increasing famine and increasing acute malnutrition in the country.

Required humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia will be 40% higher in 2022 than in 2016 as a consequence of the El Nino drought. The ongoing Ethiopian conflict in northern Ethiopia is further increasing the severity of the situation, as it is currently affecting more than 8 million people. As the drought in Ethiopia continues to ravage more parts of Ethiopia, this number will likely increase.

The Ceasefire

In March 2022, the Tigray Defense Forces and the Ethiopian government established a humanitarian truce to prevent mass starvation in the northeast region of the country – almost 40% of Tigray’s 6 million people are victims of famine. The purpose of the ceasefire was also to allow emergency humanitarian aid the opportunity to relieve the pressure of the refugee crises, mass displacement and critical environmental issues. U.N. fuel shortages have added to the issue as aid workers had to travel by foot to deliver supplies. However, the added safety of a ceasefire has enabled aid workers to make unrestricted deliveries, presenting a semblance of hope for faster recovery in the region.

Recent Developments

In August 2022, the U.N. called for another ceasefire after the northern region of Tigray saw more bouts of violence during the attempted ceasefire. Peace talks between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front will likely begin soon, but may now be pushed back or indefinitely postponed. Neither side will admit to commencing the attack, but the fighting has nonetheless increased tension between the groups. As a result, political negotiations and unrestricted access to those in need have halted with the return of fighting, as both sides have released opposing statements regarding further steps in the conflict.

– Nethya Samarakkodige
Photo: Flickr

Digital Ethiopia
In 2020, less than 19% of the Ethiopian population had access to the internet. The Ethiopian government widely owns Ethiopia’s internet and telecommunications systems, which has been the source of much criticism. The Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce itself noted that the lack of liberalization in the telecommunications and digital sectors limits competition and dampens efficiency, ultimately stalling the development of the nation. Given that it is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, Ethiopia’s comprehensive strategy, Digital Ethiopia 2025, has significant plans to bring the country fully into the modern age.

The Digital Landscape in Ethiopia

People in Ethiopia have very limited internet access. On one hand, the infrastructure is not widely organized or well-oiled; outages occur regularly. The cost of an internet package surpassing the actual income of a household is not uncommon in the country. Internet cafes, or hotspots where people can access the internet, are many Ethiopians’ best hope for a fast and reliable access. Hubs are typically located in Ethiopia’s bustling urban regions.

On the other hand, barriers to access are not just structural, but also political. The Ethiopian government’s monopoly on Ethio Telecom has made it difficult to manage access for the entire country. Whatsmore, the state has periodically shut down internet access for political reasons, such as in the aftermath of Āmara president Ambachew Mekonnen. The government’s strict control over telecommunications in Ethiopia not only limits the possibilities of nationwide commerce but also disconnects Ethiopia’s economy from the rest of the world.

Digital Ethiopia 2025

The goal of this new digitization strategy is to bring technology to the people of Ethiopia, as well as to its industries. Digital Ethiopia 2025 focuses on e-commerce and the ability to digitize services in traditionally non-digital industries, like agriculture and manufacturing. Utilizing modern technology to operate in these spaces will create room for investment in agriculture technology. Digitization in the public sector, such as the implementation of a national ID database, would mean a boost in efficiency as Ethiopians all around the country connect to the internet through one streamlined system.

The other big push that Digital Ethiopia 2025 is championing is the privatization of the telecommunications sector. The government’s explicit control over media and news, internet traffic, and trade via telecommunication not only pose threats to privacy but also limits competition. The original plans to sell a large stake of government-held Ethio Telecom ended up on hold in May 2020, largely due to economic shifts as a result of COVID-19. However, moving forward with plans will likely be the key to advancing the market capacity of Ethiopia’s telecommunications sector and the economy as a whole.

Looking Ahead

Digital Ethiopia 2025 is Ethiopia’s first major step towards a more connected and efficient economy, as well as towards more protections for Ethiopians and their access to information. These efforts are critical to modernizing the economy and creating a self-sustaining digital sector.

 – Hannah Yonas
Photo: Flickr

in-progress-community-mobilization-promotes-covid-19-vaccines-in-ethiopias-remote-villages
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how difficult it can be for people living in remote areas to get access to vaccinations and routine immunizations. However, it has also shed light on the ways communities work together to overcome obstacles and keep themselves and their loved ones healthy. Ethiopia is one country that is having a challenging time vaccinating its citizens. Luckily, community mobilization may provide the answer to distributing COVID-19 vaccines in Ethiopia.

How Ethiopia Distributes COVID-19 Vaccines

Promoting COVID-19 vaccines in Ethiopia is no exception. Many Ethiopian children often miss their vaccinations because they live in remote villages. Mothers have to walk for hours to reach public community spaces where immunizations take place. However, the help of volunteers is proving to be crucial in the vaccination of children and the spread of essential information about COVID-19 vaccines in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia comprises several kebeles, which are small administrative districts. Within each kebele, there are “health posts” where health workers distribute vaccinations. However, many people cannot reach these posts because of geographical challenges and uncertain weather conditions. Therefore, health workers have taken it upon themselves to travel, by foot, to the most remote villages in each kebele. These walks can easily take over four hours one way, especially if the hilly terrain is muddy from recent rain. Regardless, these workers go anyway since they plan and communicate about these trips in advance. The districts send vaccines to health centers within each kebele via ambulances and motorcycles. Then, health workers go to the health posts to pick up the doses.

The Importance of Transporting Vaccinations

Many people do not go to the vaccination posts. Instead, they wait for the health workers to reach their closest destinations. It is usually up to the health workers and community mobilizers to ensure that children receive their vaccines. Even though the community is aware of how crucial vaccinations are, very few have their children receive vaccinations. The health stations do vaccination performance evaluations every month; these evaluations reveal that dozens of children miss their vaccinations. Thus, the on-foot outreach trips of these health workers are absolutely essential.

Health workers analyze the monthly evaluations and compile lists of which children have missed their vaccinations. They then arrange the supplies to give the needed doses. According to the evaluations, many of these children miss their vaccinations because it is difficult for mothers to make the journey to the health posts where vaccinations take place. Additionally, mothers often give birth at home with traditional birth attendants, meaning they do not register their children for immunizations. In addition to transporting vaccination doses, health workers are responsible for running in-service and vaccination outreach programs at marketplaces, churches and schools to share accurate information about COVID-19, the COVID-19 vaccine in Ethiopia specifically and other important immunizations. They work with community elders and religious leaders to run these meetings.

Obstacles to COVID-19 Prevention

These efforts were not easy to implement, however. Many people living in Ethiopia’s remote villages reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic with denial. It was also incredibly difficult to implement COVID-19 prevention policies due to Ethiopia’s weak health system and infrastructure and difficulties with population mobility. It was not very challenging to practice regular handwashing, but it was difficult to implement social distancing policies in religious institutions, marketplaces and other meeting areas. Additionally, a lack of trust in the media and government posed challenges to implementing these policies.

Despite these obstacles, the efforts of health workers and volunteers have proven successful, as vaccination rates are increasing. Groups of volunteer women living in these remote villages are also helping by promoting public trust in the COVID-19 vaccine. When COVID-19 first broke out, many villagers were in denial about its existence. However, a two-day social mobilization training on COVID-19 organized by UNICEF helped curb the initial spread, encourage community members to take the virus seriously and implement prevention measures. The training also served to teach volunteers who now visit other homes to share information on family health, environmental hygiene and sanitation. By getting their COVID-19 vaccinations, health workers and volunteers set examples for their communities.

Overall, the efforts of health workers and volunteers are proving successful as vaccination rates are increasing. Also, intense community mobilization and engagement, with support from UNICEF, the Ethiopian government and district health offices, further encourage vaccine uptake. Additionally, it shows just how important it is to mobilize and communicate relevant and accurate health information for the good of promoting public health.

– Shiloh Harrill
Photo: Flickr

https://borgenproject.org/food-insecurity-in-africa/After little to no rain since 2020, the Horn of Africa drought is plaguing several countries, causing displacement in Ethiopia. The UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations have been working with local disaster prevention centers to provide food, water and shelter to the thousands who find themselves within the affected areas.

Horn of Africa Drought: Zero Rainfall

Ethiopia is experiencing one of the worst droughts that have occurred in the last 40 years. “We have never seen a drought like this, it has affected everyone, we have named it ‘the unseen,” said Ardo who lives in the Eastern Somali region of Ethiopia.

The UNHCR has been working with local communities impacted by the drought by providing water, shelter and clothing. The U.N. agency and other regional disaster management organizations assisted more than 7,000 drought-affected households. However, despite the humanitarian assistance, the needs of the communities are steadily growing. “The most pressing issue here is a lack of water, as well as effective water management,” said Abdullahi Sheik Barrie, a field associate in the UNHCR office in the capital of the Somali region.

Following the deterioration of water sources, livestock is dying which removes people’s ability to provide for themselves. While the drought is predicted to continue during the next couple of months, Shabia Mantoo, the UNHCR spokesperson announced the estimated cost to adequately address the crisis. “To deliver life-saving assistance and protection to some 1.5 million refugees, internally displaced people, and local host communities…UNHCR is appealing for $42.6 million,” said Mantoo during a press briefing.

Problem Solving

USAID is also providing assistance to people in the Somali region. The agency has declared a $488 million budget for providing humanitarian aid to Ethiopia. USAID’s funding will cover, “food supplies, including sorghum, peas and vegetable oil.”

Although almost 1 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes in the hopes of finding food and water, humanitarian organizations claim that this number will continue to rise and there is an approaching risk of a fifth failed rainy season. As such, the World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled the drought affecting the Horn of Africa a grade three health emergency which is its highest rating. “We don’t know where the bottom is yet for this crisis…the fact is that we are in a devastating situation already and the likelihood is that it’s going to continue,” said Michael Dunford, the head of the WHO in Eastern Africa in an interview with the Telegraph.

Lives At Stake

Abdul Risac, mayor of a small city in the Somali region called Buaro, told the Telegraph that his communities have no other form of income and lack proper methods to deal with this drought. Selma, a 20-year-old mother of two who recently arrived at a displacement camp once had 100 goats and sheep but now has none. “We realized we couldn’t survive so we came to this place, ” she said to the Telegraph.

Selma also added that her family, like many others, can only return to their homes if they acquire livestock. “It’s my dream to return, but now we’re goatless and have no way of breeding more animals. It’s hard to know what our options are. All I know is being a pastoralist,” she concluded.

While the Horn of Africa drought is expected to persist, the UNHCR and USAID are providing their support in the form of life-saving funding for internally displaced persons in Ethiopia.

– Henry Hyman
Photo: Flickr

Tackling Poverty Barriers in Ethiopia
Ethiopia, a country in East Africa, is one of the world’s least developed countries. Despite improvements in recent years, the country’s economic progress is declining due to the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread conflict throughout the country. The current Human Development Index (HDI) ranks Ethiopia at 173 out of the 189 countries on factors including life expectancy, literacy, poverty and many other dimensions. Although Ethiopia is struggling with a lack of housing, education and family stability, one organization is addressing poverty in Ethiopia: the Wegene Ethiopian Foundation.

The Current State of Poverty in Ethiopia

Nearly one-third of the 108 million people in Ethiopia are living in poverty, both in rural and urban regions. There is very limited work in the country, with 75% of the workforce in Ethiopia working in the agriculture sector. This is an unstable sector because of regular periods of floods and droughts, which can lead to loss of income and food supply.

In Ethiopia, 72% of people live without proper sanitation and only 42% of the population has access to clean water. Almost 80% of the deaths in the country come from preventable communicable and nutritional diseases. 

There is the regular production of general medical practitioners and (some) specialists, but the production is not meeting the high demand for health professionals and equipment and drug shortages are an ongoing issue assisting in further health care difficulties.

Quality education is not prevalent in the country as only 85% make it past grade five and 54% make it past grade eight. Only half of the total population has the ability to read and write. Matters are even worse for females since traditional practices lead to early marriages and female genital mutilation, with little opportunity for women to advance and grow out of poverty.

Conflict in Ethiopia

Since 2020, Ethiopia has been addressing the government conflict with the Tigray region of the country. In November 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offense against Tigray forces after there was an attack on an Ethiopian military base. This came from months of disagreement and conflict over human rights issues between the government and Tigray’s dominant political party, which has turned into a severe humanitarian crisis all over Ethiopia.

Thousands of people have died in this ongoing civil war and around 400,000 people are undergoing famine-like conditions, according to German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). As this war continues, it could push Ethiopia into worse conditions.

The Wegene Ethiopian Foundation: Addressing Poverty in Ethiopia

The Wegene Ethiopian Foundation is a nonprofit NGO that a group of friends started with the goal of changing one person’s life at a time, hence their slogan “One child at a time.” Wegene is dedicated to improving the lives of struggling children and families in Ethiopia. The approach is simple and community-based, with a special focus on improving local impoverished lives: friends, neighbors and others part of the community

The organization has multiple programs in place to address what it sees as the “critical barriers” of poor education, poor housing and family instability:

  • Education: Academic scholarships, tutoring, laptops and a Knowledge Center: a multipurpose center with a variety of resources (books, school supplies, computers, etc.) and college and job preparation services.
  • Housing: Home repair or family relocation, provision of basic day-to-day necessities and clothing drives.
  • Family instability: Career development, small business grants and mother and child relocation from “toxic households.”

“Wegene” in Ethiopia’s official language Amharic, means ’empowering my community or my people’.” As of 2019, Wegene supported 90 families, 36 of which became self-sufficient. Poverty is still present in Ethiopia, but the Wegene Ethiopian Foundation is addressing poverty in Ethiopia and is actively giving families opportunities and resources to have a successful life.

– Dylan Olive
Photo: Flickr

Egypt’s Water Crisis
The once bountiful Nile River in Egypt is the victim of overpopulation in the nation, now barely reaching the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile serves as the main supply of water in Egypt, a source that now seems to be quickly drying up. The construction and use of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, has dried the Nile River even further. The construction of the dam has received backlash from critics as it only exacerbates the depletion of the river even further, contributing to Egypt’s water crisis.

The combination of the dam, growing population and an ongoing drought leaves Egypt with the threat of complete water scarcity by 2025, putting the livelihoods of millions of farmers in danger. According to the World Bank, Egypt’s agriculture sector employs about a quarter of the 102.3 million population, with agriculture, forestry and fishing accounting for about 11% of the country’s GDP in 2020.

This, in turn, threatens the food supply of Egypt, further impoverishing an already impoverished country with a poverty rate of 32% as of 2020. Egypt’s water crisis has reached a dire point.

Causes of Egypt’s Water Crisis

Long periods of drought and an increasingly hot and arid climate have shrunk the Nile River, the main source of water in Egypt, an issue common for many water supplies all over the world. However, in development mostly unique to Egypt, the construction of a dam on the Nile River has shrunk the amount of available water even further.

The GERD has placed a large amount of strain on the already dwindling supply of water in the country. The GERD, completed in 2020, is the latest development in a dispute over the Nile’s fresh water basin, a water source essential to the survival of many Middle Eastern and North African countries. Ethiopia now appears to have the upper hand in this dispute, with the GERD granting Ethiopia access to a fairly stable amount of water, while restricting the access of other countries, including Egypt.

However, the most significant contributor to Egypt’s water crisis is the country’s population growth. Egypt’s population increases at a rate of around 2% per year. While that number may not sound like much, the constant and steady growth places a lot of stress on an already low amount of usable water. There is simply not enough to go around. The United Nations estimates that Egypt will reach the point of absolute scarcity by the year 2025, which many fear may mark the point of no return for the African nation.

The Impact of Water Scarcity

Beyond the obvious impact of Egypt’s water crisis on the everyday lives of people living within the country, the lack of water will cause large amounts of damage to Egypt’s food supply. The agriculture industry of the country supports nearly 50% of the nation’s population and uses 86% of the fresh water in Egypt, as of 2020. If Egypt were to reach the state of absolute scarcity, millions of people would be out of work, forcing a large portion of Egypt below the poverty line, not to mention the food insecurity that would also occur. In a country already struggling with poverty, less food and less water would only serve to make matters worse.

Taking Action

The Egyptian government is working to address Egypt’s water crisis. These efforts include the passing of the National Water Resources Plan in 2017 with an intention to contribute $50 billion worth of investments in the water sector by 2037. In 2020, Egypt committed to contributing $2.8 billion to increase its desalination capacity, so that it can convert greater amounts of salt water into fresh water. This offers a great renewable source of water. This combination of efforts offers some hope to the nation.

Egypt relies on aid from other countries and organizations around the world as well, remaining optimistic that help will come.

– Thomas Schneider
Photo: Unsplash

USAID Partners in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is currently enduring its worst drought in decades. The nation has not experienced a successful rainy season “since late 2020” and the continued lack of rainfall has had devastating consequences. The drought directly affects more than 6 million Ethiopians through water shortages, crop failures and livestock deaths. This is especially devastating because the agricultural industry contributes 40% to Ethiopia’s GDP and employs roughly 75% of Ethiopians as of March 2022. The ongoing Tigray War only exacerbates the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia as fighting in the north of the country continues to displace civilians and disrupts access to economic markets. Both of these developments place a disproportionate burden on the rural population who stand as the most economically vulnerable. Based on the most recent available data from 2016, the percentage of Ethiopians living below the national poverty line is 15% in urban areas but 26% in rural areas. The drought only threatens to broaden this divide as it most negatively affects rural populations that depend upon agriculture. In light of this crisis and its effects on impoverished rural populations, many USAID partners in Ethiopia have stepped in to help.

USAID’s Response

The United States is Ethiopia’s largest donor of foreign aid and the two countries have a close developmental relationship that goes back to the early 1900s. The United States Agency of International Development (USAID) distributed $402 million worth of humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia during the fiscal year 2021 and continues its commitment in the face of this deepening crisis. USAID channels funds through partner organizations like UNICEF that have specific directives and fields of expertise. Here are three major USAID partners in Ethiopia that are delivering specialized care to those in need:

3 USAID Partners in Ethiopia

  1. Catholic Relief Services: Partly due to the drought’s widespread effects on livestock and agriculture, an estimated 20.4 million Ethiopians lack dependable access to food as of December 2021. Partnering with USAID to combat this growing food insecurity is the Catholic Relief Service (CRS), a nonprofit whose mission is to provide emergency relief to victims of civil conflict and natural disasters around the world. It leads the Joint Emergency Operation (JEOP), which comprises numerous development-based NGOs and other USAID partners in Ethiopia. Since June 2021, the JEOP has reached approximately 3.4 million people affected by the crisis with crucial food assistance, which it sources primarily from U.S. agriculture.
  2. UNICEF: With the financial support of USAID, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is currently conducting an extensive immunization campaign in the war-torn Tigray region. In the first two months of 2022 alone, the campaign successfully provided measles vaccinations to almost 700,000 children. This is part of a larger children’s health campaign that also saw the simultaneous distribution of vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets. This is crucial in Ethiopia where the under-five child mortality rate is 48.7 deaths per 1,000 lives as of 2020. UNICEF intends to provide measles vaccinations to 3 million Ethiopian children by the end of 2022.
  3. International Medical Corps: The International Medical Corps (IMC) is a USAID partner that delivers emergency medical services during times of crisis. In Ethiopia, the IMC has concentrated its efforts on those displaced by the Tigray War. The IMC currently manages 23 mobile medical units that have served more than 804,000 displaced people since the onset of the conflict in November 2020. These units have also administered about 233,000 outpatient consultations while screening 146,510 children younger than five as well as pregnant/lactating women for acute malnutrition as of February 2022. Mobile medical units are crucial as the conflict renders many of the country’s health care facilities inoperative. Mobile care is especially important in remote areas with even more restricted access to traditional care. USAID provided the IMC with $4 million in the fiscal year 2021 to fund its activities in the region, and in total, the IMC and other USAID partners have implemented more than 60 of these life-saving mobile medical units across the country since the start of the conflict.

Looking Forward

In a major win for USAID partners in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian government decided in February 2022 to lift the national state of emergency (SoE) that had been active since early November 2021. The SoE had justified the unwarranted detention of foreign aid workers and generally impeded international assistance programs. All aid workers are no longer arbitrarily detained on account of suspicions of connections to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and humanitarian relief efforts can continue with renewed vigor. The U.S. Department of State has also praised this development as an important step toward the peaceful conclusion of the Tigray conflict, which bodes well for the overall stability of the region.

With this hopeful development in Tigray and the sustained assistance efforts of the international community, there is cause for optimism. Ethiopia has weathered the turbulent onset of this crisis, but there is still a need for long-term solutions, especially with regard to rural poverty. For the time being though, the humanitarian initiatives of USAID and its partners help lay the crucial groundwork in human capital, which is a solid first step in Ethiopia’s equitable development.

– Jack Leist
Photo: Flickr