Information and stories about Ethiopia

Female Genital Mutilation in Ethiopia
In eastern Africa, NGOs are beginning to reverse public opinion on a bloody ritual. Female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice involving the non-medical removal of external female genitalia, is a procedure that roughly 200 million women have undergone worldwide. While the cultural premise for FGM varies depending on the region, the practice stems from broader themes of repressing the female sexuality prevalent in eastern African society. Women experience female genital mutilation in Ethiopia for marital or religious reasons, and the societal precedent for FGM threatens young women with public shame and ostracization if they refuse the operation.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female genital mutilation usually involves the complete or partial removal of the clitoris, although the procedure varies in scope and can also include the removal of the labia minora or the closure of parts of the vaginal opening. This physical trauma can result in life-threatening infections and long term problems with menstruation and infertility. Additionally, the permanent disfigurement that FGM causes may instigate depression and low self-esteem.

The United Nations classified FGM as a priority of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, but the practice is still a problem in countries such as Ethiopia, where according to a 2016 study, 65% of women and 47% of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have undergone the procedure. The Ethiopian government banned FGM in 2005, but the criminalization of the ritual has done little to change public support for it. This is due in part to the fact that in Ethiopia, areas that are rural and lack public education resources include the highest prevalence of female genital mutilation in Ethiopia. In these areas, traditional healers usually perform the operation rather than licensed medical practitioners, meaning that legal threats hold less weight than they do in formal medical settings.

Kembatti Mentti Gezimma-Tope (KMG)

One organization, however, is having a profound effect on reversing the prevalence of FGM in Ethiopia. Kembatti Mentti Gezimma-Tope (KMG), is an Ethiopian NGO dedicated to raising public awareness on the harmful effects of female genital mutilation in the region of Kembatta Tembaro. One can translate KMG’s name to “Kembatta Women Standing Together,” and in the 22 years since it began its work, it has reduced public approval of FGM in Kembatta Tembaro from 97% in 1997 to less than 5% today.

KMG employs several strategies to combat public support for FGM, including public education campaigns to uphold women’s human rights and build trust with local communities. It also mobilizes public pressure against FGM, with public weddings for uncircumcised women (who traditionally others would consider ineligible for marriage). Additionally, trained advocates spread throughout the region who inform men of the health risks FGM poses to women and their ability to give birth.

Rohi Wedu

In the Afar region, Rohi Wedu, another NGO focused on public education is having an impact. Pastoral clans characterize the Afar region, of which the majority of the population is Muslim. Rohi Wedu’s campaign to end female genital mutilation has necessarily tailored itself to the dynamics of information sharing between different clans in the area. The organization worked in conjunction with UNICEF to select leaders and prominent figures from different clans to lead “Community Dialogue” sessions, who then learned to understand the harmful effects of FGM. These trusted community leaders then went on to disseminate the information to their respective clans, as well as to provide counseling to young and prospective parents.

Rohi Wedu’s locally-led education campaigns were incredibly successful, with up to 94% of focus group participants believing that practitioners in their area had abandoned FGM. The organization’s success was largely due to the fact that religious leaders led community dialogue sessions, which eliminated the religious precedent for FGM in the Afari clans.

The work that NGOs like Rohi Wedu and KMG are doing is proof of the efficacy of locally-led public awareness campaigns in combating the practice of female genital mutilation in Ethiopia. While millions of young women still experience cutting each year, the cultural shifts taking place in Ethiopia demonstrate that long term change is possible when it happens in accordance with local communities.

– Kieran Hadley
Photo: Flickr

literacy in EthiopiaThere are 781 million adults in the world who are considered illiterate. This statistic reflects more than just the ability of people to read, it inherently ties to the poverty rate. In fact, 43% of adults with low literacy rates live in poverty. There are multiple issues that contribute to this, however, the most influential factor is education. Several programs address literacy in Ethiopia.

The Relationship Between Literacy and Poverty

In the fight against global poverty, education is a sought-after resource. With increased education comes increased opportunities for those within the community to contribute to the economy and increase their prospects. In order to bolster educational efforts, children must be able to read. Literacy is the foundation of learning and is directly responsible for the success of children in education as a whole.

Without this vital skill, children are unlikely to move on to higher education or secure high-paying jobs. This stagnant economic standing is perpetuated through families because parents with low literacy rates are 72% likely to pass that low literacy rate down. The resulting generational illiteracy is a detriment to the growth of communities because it cements them into a lower economic standing.

The World Bank underscores the importance of literacy in the fight against poverty. It has coined the term “Learning Poverty,” which refers to the inability of a child to read and comprehend by age 10. The severity of learning poverty aids in the prediction of future literacy and economic success. Additionally, the World Bank believes that this statistic is a useful indicator of whether or not countries are meeting global educational goals.

In relation to poverty, these goals are paramount to the rate of sustainable development in impoverished countries. Moreover, poverty would reduce by 12% if all students in low-income countries could read. As nations meet educational goals and literacy rates increase, impoverished communities have the opportunity to create sustainable change in terms of their economic standing and overall quality of life.

Illiteracy and Poverty in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, with 109.2 million people. Unfortunately, the country also suffers from rampant poverty — in 2016, 24% of Ethiopia’s population endured conditions of poverty. Poverty is a multifaceted and complicated issue, however, one can generally find a low literacy rate in countries with corresponding high poverty rates. In Ethiopia, this holds true because slightly less than half of the population is illiterate. Given the extreme disadvantage that low literacy rates puts on communities, there have been multiple efforts to improve the Ethiopian education system and increase literacy in Ethiopia.

The READ II Project

READ II is a project that focuses on the education of children considered at risk of school failure or drop out due to the cognitive, emotional and physical effects of hunger, violence and displacement. READ II spans 3,000 schools across 50 districts, ultimately wishing to expand the basic model to reach 15 million learners. Specifically, within the Addis Adaba, Tigray and Amhara regions, the project is working to improve the preparedness of teachers, increase support for women’s education and push for the widespread education of English.

The Unlock Literacy Project

Unlock Literacy is a project founded by World Vision in 2012 that has reached a total of 1.7 million children in the endeavor to increase the literacy rate in impoverished countries. Unlock Literacy commits to the implementation of teacher training programs, better educational resources and appropriate reading materials. The program acknowledges the fact that oftentimes rural areas are unable to attain reading material applicable to the children receiving an education. As a result, Unlock Literacy has aided in the creation of more than 1 million new books in the common languages of the students. Unlock Literacy has also seen success as children who could read with comprehension rose from 3% to 25% after the program.

READ TA

READ TA was founded in 2012 by USAID in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education in order to advance writing and reading among 15 million early education students. With READ TA’s methods, more than $17 million goes toward training 113,385 teachers in safe and practical learning initiatives. In recognition of low literacy’s association with poverty, the program also seeks to improve the student’s overall understanding of class materials. READ TA has accomplished this by giving schools the necessary educational resources designed to appeal to the student reading it. Additionally, READ TA has adapted 320 educational materials to address the local context of communities living outside of administrative regions.

With organizations and programs committed to improving literacy in Ethiopia, the prospect of reduced poverty in the region is hopeful, as is reaching the goal of alleviating global poverty overall.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

Gender Equality in Ethiopia
Ethiopia faces many struggles, but the land where coffee originates from has many accomplishments as well. The continuous gender equality progression in Ethiopia is one of them. Gender-based roles constitute a significant part of the Ethiopian culture. It is also the primary reason for many families’ extreme poverty. However, through policy reform and promoting women’s political participation, noteworthy change in bridging the gaps between women and men is visible.

Policy Reforms Encourage Gender Equality in Ethiopia

Thanks to two reforms, research suggests that gender equality in Ethiopia is progressing. One reform is the Family Code, which was revised in 2000 with new developments. The re-evaluated version of the Family Code states that women receive equal rights throughout the marriage. This pertains to the entire term of their marriage, the duration of the divorce and after the finalization of the divorce. The revisions also note that the individuals must equally split all assets. As a result, the report states that women were less likely to involve themselves in domestic work. Instead, women found more sustainable employment outside of the household, which encourages their independence.

The second reform is the community-based land registration initiated in 2003. Ethiopia’s population has strong gender norms that tend to favor men and subordinate women in power roles. Research results show that as women migrate from the north of Ethiopia to the southern region, they tend to lose societal and household status. Women also have their “bargaining power” revoked from them, which can relate to property rights and ownership. However, this reform emphasizes the implementation of property rights for married women by creating “joint certification.”

A significant sign of independence in Ethiopia is property. However, men typically have land ownership in marriages. This reform opposes this gender-based norm in Ethiopia and allows women to access economic and political opportunities. When women own land, it increases their chances of earning money and controlling their own lives. Rules set by their husbands no longer have to confine them. They are also less likely to be victims of domestic violence. Ethiopian women who own property are significantly less likely to experience domestic violence within their marriages than women who do not own property.

Women’s Political Participation Rises

Women currently make up 37% of congress in Ethiopia. Considering only 22% of women represented congress in 2010, there has been significant progress ever since. However, the Ethiopian government’s values and trustworthiness will remain in question until women account for at least 50% of the parliamentary seats.

The country also needs to make political careers more accessible to women. The “motherhood penalty” requires women to attend to constant family duties and responsibilities, such as breastfeeding and always being present for the children. Endless motherly duties can hinder women’s potential political careers due to the amount of time it takes up. This is especially true if a women’s marriage is based on strong religious beliefs. Certain religious beliefs in Ethiopia tend to prohibit women from acquiring independence and hinder women’s decision-making abilities.

DCA

In Ethiopia, society perceives women as individuals requiring leadership from others and not as individuals able to lead. However, recent years’ progression contradicts that idea. The organization DCA (Dan Church Aid) emphasizes the idea of women empowerment. It holds and spreads the belief that every woman deserves fundamental human rights “economically, socially and culturally.”

DCA was created in 1995 to promote gender equality in Ethiopia. Since then, the organization has helped more than 3.2 million people in the world’s most impoverished countries deprived of everyday opportunities. Due to the continuous contribution of DCA and recognition from Ethiopia’s government regarding the encouragement of gender equality, the women of Ethiopia can seek more political positions and close those gender gaps within communities.

Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Period Poverty in EthiopiaPeriod poverty, or the lack of access to affordable menstrual hygiene products, is a serious issue in many countries around the world. Ethiopian society considers menstruation highly taboo, therefore, people rarely discuss the topic and menstrual education in schools is uncommon. This leads to stigma and shame for many girls, which are exacerbated by the difficulty of obtaining sanitary products, such as pads and tampons. In fact, 75% of Ethiopian women and girls do not have access to proper menstrual products and 25% cannot afford to use any sanitary products during their periods, often resorting to using makeshift products, such as dry grass or newspaper. The social stigma and poor hygiene surrounding menstruation create a barrier for young women receiving their education in Ethiopia. Throughout the country, 17% of girls are forced to miss school due to the inability to properly manage their periods, although this number is closer to 50% in some impoverished rural areas. To combat period poverty in Ethiopia, local organizations are stepping up to fight the stigma and develop affordable menstrual hygiene products.

3 Organizations Fighting Period Poverty in Ethiopia

  1. Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory: An Ethiopian woman named Freweini Mebrahtu used her background in chemical engineering and her experiences growing up with period poverty in Ethiopia to create the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory. This factory trains and employs local women to create washable, reusable sanitary pads that cost up to 90% less than average disposable pads. With proper care, the pads can last up to two years, making them more environmentally and financially sustainable for impoverished Ethiopian women. Mebrahtu’s factory creates 750,000 pads a year and has benefited nearly 800,000 women and girls since production began in 2009. Because of the widespread impact of her company, CNN voted Mebrahtu Hero of the Year in 2019.
  2. Dignity Period: Dignity Period, an organization started by American professor Dr. Lewis Wall, works to increase access to menstrual supplies and education in the Tigray and Afar regions of Northern Ethiopia. This organization works in partnership with the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory to create greater accessibility to menstrual products. Since 2014, Dignity Period has bought and distributed more than 150,000 free menstrual hygiene kits containing reusable pads and underwear. Dignity Period also works with Mekelle University in Northern Ethiopia to hold menstrual health training and workshops for both male and female students. These workshops refute common myths and taboos and give students scientific information about how and why menstruation occurs to end widespread beliefs that periods are shameful or a curse. Dignity Period has provided supplies and workshops to more than 336,000 students so far and saw school absences among girls drop by 24% in the areas where it focuses its outreach.
  3. Noble Cup: Founded by Sara Eklund, the Noble Cub is the first Ethiopian menstrual cup brand and provides a safe, affordable option for women suffering from period poverty in Ethiopia. These products can last up to five years even with limited access to water or sanitation, making the products financially sustainable in the long term. Noble Cup distributes these menstrual products and holds workshops with the slogan “Every Queen Bleeds” that teach girls about menstrual health and safety as well as female biology. The workshops aim to help eliminate the stigma surrounding menstruation in Ethiopia. Eklund also leads advocacy projects to make public facilities more period-friendly, such as adding trash cans to bathroom stalls and scientific research posters on female reproductive health issues.

Although period poverty in Ethiopia is still a serious issue, these organizations are working to fight the stigma and better the lives of women and girls throughout the country.

Allie Beutel
Photo: Flickr 

Manufacturing in Ethiopia
Ethiopia has cultivated a substantial amount of progress in transforming its economy in the last decade due to a sharp focus on government policies and development strategies to advance its budding manufacturing industry. The country notes a thriving working-age population (workers aged 15 to 29) and a large portion of these eager workers are women.

As the country’s priorities shift from agriculture to industry as its most dominant source of employment and profit, the role of women and manufacturing has become fundamental to actualizing Ethiopia’s goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2025.

Women take up about 80-90% of jobs created in manufacturing, and as much of a progressive hurdle that is for Ethiopia’s labor force, there is still much work that needs to occur to make the manufacturing industry all-inclusive. Addressing these issues is crucial to achieving sustainable growth and transformation in Ethiopia and government leaders are beginning to recognize faults and mobilize toward ensuring the representation of women in the workplace.

The Role of Women in an Expanding Industry

On average, around 62% of women have migrated from rural regions to work in the manufacturing industry. With women being the core reason why industrialization in Ethiopia has boosted the economy, there comes a question as to why women are dominating the scene in jobs such as agro-processing, textile and apparel, and leather goods sub-sectors. An improving economy is a relevant reason why women are seeking more work, but another factor is that the majority of women working in the industry have less education, are younger and are working with lower pay than men. This widens the faction of who can work and is a cheaper asset for industries.

Companies also tend to prefer women over men because they perceive them as more quality-oriented, dependable, committed, stable and obedient to leadership. For 89% of women, these industry jobs provide them with a steady income for the first time in their lives. A reported 78% said that their income has improved and 63% stated that their family’s standard of living has also improved since working in the manufacturing industry. As positive as this sounds, there is data that contradicts these points. On average, about 40% of workers’ wages go to housing payments and data shows that earnings are barely covering basic living costs.

Continual Challenges Women Endure at Work

The Ethiopian Constitution (1995), Labor Proclamation No.377 (2003) and other laws have provided protections for female workers’ rights. However, the lack of enforcement of these laws delays any real progress.

In the manufacturing workplace, women are experiencing discrimination and harassment as well as oppressive risks when traveling to and from work. A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report stated that women are only earning 77% of what men make even with proper education and experience. Opportunities to earn higher wages prove to be scarce due to gender segregation in the Ethiopian industry. This stems from a gross misconception that women are incapable of working in high-level positions, resulting in women having a difficult time obtaining leadership positions, with 60% of women in the garment production cutting stage, 95% in the sewing stage and only 15% in the finishing stages.

When women do reach managerial or ownership positions, they frequently face restrictions on resources, markets, materials and general information that is critical for a profitable business.

Breaking Barriers to Manifest an Economic Dream

Women and manufacturing in Ethiopia are two dynamic elements that have the potential to generate a level of economic prosperity that Ethiopia has dreamed of. But, in order to fulfill these goals, major improvements need to occur on the ground level as well as the policy level to make labor in the industry more gender-inclusive. The Government of Ethiopia, in cooperation with development partners, has already launched proposals that target the standing issues.

For instance, the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) has worked in partnership with the Department for International Development’s (DFID) Enterprise Partners Programme in establishing and delivering gender relations training packages for women workers and their, often male, managers in the industry. The training for women focuses on reproductive health, personal and menstrual hygiene, nutrition, sexual harassment, communications skills and confidence-building.

The Ministry of Industry (MoI) is also contributing to strategies and objectives for women and manufacturing in Ethiopia by setting up a gender coordination unit at each industrial park, especially at factories with more than 1,000 women workers. A 30% minimum quota is also in development for women in leadership and high-skill job employment that focuses on recruitment and promotions with annual rewards to those who perform best.

Visualizing an End to a Misogynistic System

The recognition of a woman’s value in the workplace is emanant, especially the role of women and manufacturing in Ethiopia. Although there is still much that Ethiopia needs to do, the country is making strides in ensuring women receive representation and equal treatment. On a political level, Prime Minister Abiy has appointed more women leaders in government, giving them as equal an opportunity as men. If businesses follow by example, Ethiopia will reach an economic transformation that could inspire other countries to do the same.

– Alyssa McGrail
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Ethiopia
The capture and trade of human beings for the sole purpose of sex, domestic servitude and/or forced labor is hardly anything new. It has had various names in the past, with one of the most notable being “enslavement.” While human trafficking has gained attention from governments and organizations worldwide, human trafficking in Ethiopia is prevalent and affects its residents.

Those Targeted

For years, migrants have been the main victims of human trafficking in Ethiopia. Another potential, vulnerable percentage of victims of human trafficking in Ethiopia are children of poor, pastoral backgrounds. This type of background ensures that the child would be susceptible to the promises of a better life; as a result, traffickers frequently lure these children to sell them into harsher, more cruel conditions. In 2018, both regional and federal governments intercepted 10,100 children and adults who had the intent of migrating for work, whereas they intercepted 27,877 men and women of transnational trafficking in 2019, many of them intending to leave Ethiopia for domestic work overseas. Meanwhile, in January 2020, reports determined that 62 potential child victims existed.

In 2018 and 2019, many trafficking cases involved the illegal smuggling of migrants. Migrants are more prone to experiencing trafficking because they may migrate illegally or through irregular migration, also known as “human smuggling.”

The Ethiopian Government’s Efforts

In 2020, the Ethiopian government made strides against human trafficking, despite it not meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in its region according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2020 Trafficking in Person’s report. With the realization that there is a need for a proportional focus on sex trafficking internally and labor trafficking transnationally, Ethiopia put two separate prosecution datasets into place. This resulted in a system to keep track of whether a crime is an internal or transnational crime.

According to the Trafficking in Person’s report, government officials investigated and convicted transnational traffickers and, for the first time in 20 years, reported holding accountable traffickers by strict penalties for victims they exploited in forced labor or sex trafficking within the country. Penalties for traffickers caught involve prosecution and conviction by authorities.

Though inadequacy might still be prominent with the Ethiopian government involving the overall scale of the trafficking issue, it has done better with taking care of victims by jointly operating migration response centers in Afar and Metema, and operating child protection units in several major cities.

The United Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

In 2020, the UNODC has decided to support Ethiopia in its efforts to end trafficking. According to an article from the United Nations, the UNODC has actively contributed to developing regulations by stiffening penalties for trafficking and smuggling for the country’s new Proclamation on countering Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants 1178/2000.

The UNODC regional project Enhancing Effective and Victim-Centred Criminal Justice Responses to Trafficking in Persons in Eastern Africa involves a Drafting and Consultation Workshop to help offer support. According to the same article from the United Nations, the UNODC organized the workshop that local officials hosted, bringing together expert prosecutors from the National Anti-Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants Task Force Secretariat, the Legal Studies, Drafting and dissemination Directorate, representatives from the Ministry of Labour and UNODC experts.

Additional Aid

The nongovernmental organization called Hope for Children has headquarters in Perth, Western Australia. Jacqui Gilmour founded the organization in 2004 as an anti-human trafficking program with the goal of helping and providing opportunities to women and children in Ethiopia. According to its website, self-help groups or collective savings and loans are key to this strategy. It also provides quality vocational skills training so that vulnerable women can gain access to employment opportunities in the Ethiopian workforce.

The head of this program is an educator at AGAR Ethiopia, a charitable society focused on the rescue and rehabilitation of traumatized people in Ethiopia. Agar means “supporter” in Amharic. Although no percentage of how many this program has helped is available, Hope for Children is adamant about raising awareness about the vulnerability of migrant workers and the physical/psychological abuse they might face at the hands of their employers. Through other programs, Hope for Children has impacted impoverished families and aided in the education of children in Ethiopia.

With progress in ending human trafficking in Ethiopia through the support of the UNODC and Hope for Children, the Ethiopian government seems more determined than ever to provide the protection that its people deserve, most notably for those migrating in search of a brighter future across borders.

– Thomas Williams
Photo: Pixabay

How Ethnic Violence in Ethiopia Deepens PovertyOver the past two decades, Ethiopia has experienced explosive economic growth, lifting millions out of poverty in the process. Between 2000 and 2016, the share of citizens living in absolute poverty dropped from 40%, the highest in Africa, to 24%. Under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who was appointed in 2018, the nation has also opened up politically. However, a persistent scourge for the country that has continued under Ahmed is ethnic violence.

Ethiopia is a melting pot of more than 80 ethnolinguistic groups all living under one multi-ethnic federation. Long-simmering conflicts over access to land and political power have frequently boiled over into violence. While ethnic conflict is tragic, it also has tangible and concrete impacts on the economic prospects of impoverished Ethiopians. Ethnic violence in Ethiopia is endemic in Oromia, the country’s most populated region, and the Amhara region, home to some of the most impoverished people on the planet.

Ethnic Strife in Oromia

Oromia makes up approximately one-third of Ethiopia’s total area and is home to 37 million people. The region has achieved significant food insecurity reductions in recent years. Still, an astonishingly high number of people, especially children, face impoverishment. In Oromia, 90% of children younger than 18 experience multidimensional poverty. This high number of vulnerable residents pairs poorly with the area’s history of ethnic tensions.

Despite being the largest Ethiopian ethnic group, the Oromos have not held power in modern Ethiopia. Consequently, Oromos have banded together within ethnic-nationalist movements, such as the Oromo Liberation Front, in order to push for political empowerment. The narratives promoted by such outfits have often been accusatory and hostile toward other ethnic groups. Ethnic resentment is baked into the Oromia region’s identity.

In 2018, the outlook in Oromia became particularly fraught. In the spring of that year, a scarcity of productive farmland led to an intense conflict between Gedeos and Gujis, two smaller ethnic groups. In the fall, Oromos clashed with other communities in two neighboring provinces. Just in the first seven months of the year, more than 800,000 Oromian residents had been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and become internally displaced.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) is a label that covers far too many Ethiopians in Oromia and beyond. Ethiopia was home to 2.9 million IDPs in 2018, the most in any country. Unfortunately, becoming internally displaced is often a precursor to falling into poverty. Farmers who fled Oromia in 2018 left their land behind, abandoning their entire livelihoods and becoming entirely dependent on outside humanitarian support. A World Bank report on the world’s forcibly displaced observed that displacement-induced poverty “condemns generations — mostly women and children — to a life on the margins.”

Luckily, Ahmed’s government has managed to break through some of the major fault lines, including between Oromos and southern Somali groups. The thousands of Gedeos facing displacement within Oromia two years ago have mostly been able to return. Yet to the north, the struggle of one ethnic group demonstrates that a steady home is no guarantee of prosperity.

The Plight of the Amhara

Under the Ethiopian monarchy, Amharas dominated the country’s government. However, since the overthrow of the emperor in 1974, the community has suffered a steep fall from grace. Similar to Oromia, poverty is inescapable for many in the Amhara region with 26% of the population living below the poverty line and 91% of children suffering multi-dimensional deprivation.

Due to poverty’s catastrophic toll, the Amharans lead the world in one undesirable area: The prevalence of trachoma, a disease that blinds millions of the world’s impoverished. Spread by flies and poor hygiene, the disease thrives in Amhara, where 84% of the population lives in rural areas and 47% of households lack access to safe drinking water. Entire villages complain of poor eyesight and intense pain that, without treatment, leads to blindness.

Adding to their misfortune, other ethnic groups demonize the Amharas for their involvement in the country’s imperial history, inspiring a sense of victimhood among Amharas that only creates new waves of conflict. In 2018, authorities of the neighboring Benishangul-Gumuz region accused ethnic Amharas of killing 200 people over a land dispute. One year later, Amhara’s regional president was murdered by the region’s own security chief, who had links to Amharan ethnic-nationalist groups, in a suspected coup attempt. This shocking development vastly destabilized the region and emboldened radical ethnic armed groups.

The aftermath of the assassination demonstrates another upshot of ethnic violence in Ethiopia that can worsen poverty: Profound instability. Following the coup attempt, a harsh crackdown on Amhara ensued, including the arrest of 250 people and, dismayingly, a total internet shutdown. Growing internet access across Ethiopia and other African nations is hailed as a major step forward developmentally, but internet shutdowns reverse this progress and exact millions of dollars in economic losses.

A More Inclusive Future

While the government’s efforts to quell ethnic violence in Ethiopia and its resulting human impacts have not always been successful, Ahmed has inspired hope that peace is achievable. The creation of a national commission focused on ethnic reconciliation is a step forward, as is the prime minister’s promise to reform the country’s federal system. In Amhara, the distribution of antibiotics has led to a major decrease in trachoma prevalence. Hopefully, Amharans who had their vision saved can soon open their eyes to a brighter future ahead— for them and all Ethiopians.

– Jack Silvers
Photo: Flickr

Productive Safety Net ProgramAccess to safe and adequate food is a basic human right under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, food insecurity has been a persistent issue around the world for decades. One key country that has suffered from high rates of food-insecurity is Ethiopia, with around 32 million people living in a state of hunger or malnourishment. However, in 2005, the Ethiopian Government implemented a new way to help meet the needs of vulnerable households through the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP).

Food Insecurity and its Effects on Health

Food security is a vital aspect of health and well-being. The main causes of food insecurity can be attributed to many influences such as low rates of agricultural production, shortage of water and poor sanitation, climate change and natural disasters, among a plethora of other factors.

Furthermore, food insecurity can have significant consequences on communities both in economic terms and in the effect of the physical health of individual members of the community. Research has shown that food insecurity is associated with increased health risks such as cognitive development problems in children, general malnutrition, higher incidents of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and many other ailments.

The Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP)

As rates of food insecurity grew across sub-Saharan Africa, the Ethiopian Government created the PSNP in 2005 in order to provide a more productive and systematic approach to aid vulnerable populations. As explained by the World Bank report on the program, “The PSNP incorporates a number of interesting features, such as public works activities geared towards improving climate resiliency; a risk financing facility to help poor households and communities to better cope with transitory shocks and the use of targeting methods that assist the most climate-vulnerable community members to obtain the full benefits of consumption smoothing and asset protection.”

Results and Impacts of the Program

The Ethiopian Government faced many challenges in implementing this program, such as difficulties in balancing female participation in public work programs and household responsibilities. However, PSNP has shown a positive impact on Ethiopia’s food-insecurity rates and therefore further expanded efforts from 2010 to 2014 with improved strategies and implementation tactics.

As a result of these efforts, the PSNP is credited with the reduction of poverty rates in Ethiopia by two percentage points as of 2014. Furthermore, the program successfully benefited more than one million participants as well as their families. Research shows that the program improved both food security rates and led to a reduced number of months households went without sufficient food. Not only did the program positively affect food insecurity rates throughout Ethiopia, but the PSNP also aided in the improvement of the general health and well-being of many individuals.

The Promise of PSNP for the Future

As recognized around the world, Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program has been widely successful in aiding the country’s impoverished population and improving Ethiopia’s food security rates. Because this program targets food insecurity through agricultural aid, financial aid and structural aid, these strategies have helped to create a strong foundation for these vulnerable populations. Although this program has encountered obstacles in its execution, the PSNP continues to show promise in combatting extreme poverty and food insecurity throughout Ethiopia.

– Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

The One WaSH National ProgrammeGlobally, at least 2 billion people do not have access to clean water. The ability to access clean water supplies and sanitation is a vital aspect of a country’s development. Improved water supply and sanitation positively affect economic growth and poverty reduction as water is essential domestically and agriculturally. Furthermore, clean water and sanitation are imperative to human health. Contaminated water can cause diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and typhoid. The issue of clean water is present worldwide and demands preventative action. Thankfully, the One WaSH National Programme is here to help.

Ethiopia is one country where the water crisis needs to be addressed. Close to 33 million people in Ethiopia lack access to a safe water supply and nearly 89 million don’t have access to basic sanitation. This lack of access is responsible for 90% of diarrheal disease occurrences, which is a leading cause of child mortality in Ethiopia. To fight this, the Ethiopian government along with partners developed the One WaSH National Programme in 2013. The goal was to drastically improve access to safe water and sanitation services throughout the country.

The ONE WaSH National Programme

The One WaSH National Programme aims to improve the health and well-being of communities in rural and urban areas. Their strategy to achieve this is to increase equal and sustainable access to clean water supplies, sanitation services and good hygiene practices. As explained by the IRC, “It combines a comprehensive range of water, sanitation and hygiene interventions that include capital investments to extend first-time access to water and sanitation, as well as investments, focused on developing the enabling environment, building capacity, ensuring the sustainability of service delivery, and behavioral change. It has rural, urban, institutional WaSH and capacity building components.”

Impacts of The Programme

Phase one of The One WaSH National Programme in Ethiopia began in October 2013 and lasted till July 2017. It boasted great results. In four years, 18.7 million people gained access to water supplies and the practice of open defecation reduced from 44% to 29%. Additionally, 1,280 school WASH facilities were constructed.

The One WaSH National Programme approved its second phase in 2018. This time, the overall growth and transformation of the program was the main target for improvement. Another objective was to diminish vulnerable infrastructure in drought-prone areas in Ethiopia. Doing so would create a climate-resilient water supply system that provides the community with safe and sustainable access to water. Results for this second phase are still being collected as it was expected to run through July 2020.

The Importance of Clean Water in Poverty Reduction

Access to basic water and sanitation are vital parts to improving the economy. As such, it is essential for eradicating poverty. Many health issues faced by the poor arise because of the consumption of contaminated water. Increased availability of basic water and sanitation services can aid in general public health and assist in reducing health care costs.

The ONE WaSH National Programme has not completely satisfied their goals of extending safe water supply to 98% of the country’s rural population and 100% of city dwellers. Nevertheless, they have made many great strides toward improving sanitation services. Overall, the program has contributed significantly toward improving the standard of living within these Ethiopian communities.

The ONE WaSH National Programme and similar endeavors have the power to greatly improved the population’s access to a safe water supply and reduce poverty in Ethiopia and worldwide.

Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

innovations in poverty eradication in ethiopiaEthiopia, officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is located in East Africa. It has historically struggled to keep a majority of its population out of extreme poverty. In 1995, 71.1% of Ethiopia’s population lived on less than $1.90 a day. However, thanks to innovations in poverty eradication in Ethiopia, this figure has decreased to 30.8% as of 2015. The top innovations in poverty eradication in Ethiopia include economic development plans and the expansion of social services. Foreign aid from allied nations, like the U.S., has helped make these innovations in poverty eradication in Ethiopia possible.

Economic Development Plans

The main mechanism for successfully reducing poverty in Ethiopia is its chain of innovative economic development plans. Beginning with the Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP) in 2005, Ethiopia has implemented a series of these plans. Each last five years in order to adapt to the new market. In 2010, the First Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP I) replaced the PASDEP. The Second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II) succeeded this plan in 2015.

The GTP II remains in place but is nearing the end of its five-year installment. The plan doubled down on the previous strategies’ prioritization of human resource and infrastructure development. As such, it has sustained economic growth in Ethiopia. This was most evident in Ethiopia’s huge spending increase in the education sector. Roughly one quarter of the nation’s total expenditures go toward education and training. Importantly, this far surpasses the allocated budget in every other nation in the region. Access to “universal primary education” also rose exponentially—an important milestone for the country. In addition, the plan called for large investments in roads, railways, power and agriculture.

The plan also focused on industrial development, strengthening the manufacturing industry to increase economic growth. Analyst for the Development Initiatives, Peace Nganwa, writes that “interventions that increase economic growth also contribute directly to poverty reduction.” Since the GTP II’s implementation, Ethiopia’s GDP has grown substantially. The total GDP grew from $64.6 billion in 2015 to $96.1 billion as of 2019, a whopping 48.8% increase.

Expansion of Social Services

Ethiopia’s focus on improved social services has dramatically increased the welfare of its citizens. Besides education, health, transportation, energy infrastructure and water and sanitation have expanded greatly. Health coverage in particular has been a priority for Ethiopia in the past few years. Substantial increases to healthcare funding brought Ethiopia’s access to health coverage to 98% in 2018. This was an important mark to hit, especially before the coronavirus pandemic reached the country.

Furthermore, water scarcity has historically been problematic for Ethiopia. The nation accounts for 7.5% of the global water crisis, affecting more than 62 million citizens. However, Ethiopia’s focus on the issue has helped reduce it significantly. This work has brought the country’s access to potable water to 66%. All of these social service expansions contributed to increasing the overall life expectancy of Ethiopians. Specifically, it now rests at 64.6 years.

International Assistance

Foreign development assistance made these innovations in poverty eradication in Ethiopia possible. In 2010, for instance, the $3.5 billion Ethiopia received in total foreign donations covered more than half of its spending. The largest contributor to this was the United States, giving $875 million.

As the nation plans another five years of poverty eradication measures, it faces one of the hardest challenges the world has come by: COVID-19. Ethiopia has proven that it can strategize to eradicate poverty within its borders. However, it needs assistance from foreign nations to make it truly achievable, now more than ever in the face of a pandemic.

– Asa Scott
Photo: Wikimedia