Djibouti is a small country in the Horn of Africa. Surrounded by Ethiopia and Somalia, the country has a strategic location and fruitful fishing waters. However, regional instability has put pressure on Djibouti’s economy and resources, heightening poverty levels. Djibouti has taken on many refugees and immigrants from Ethiopia and Somalia, burdening its already weak economy.
The average unemployment rate in the country is around 45% and over half of the very poor in Djibouti have no employed members of their family. Poverty in Djibouti is also affected largely by poor education, health, and nutrition. Djibouti has a literacy rate of 57%, life expectancy at birth is 49 years, and 26% of children under five years old are chronically malnourished.
This data underscores the need to invest in human capital to alleviate poverty in Djibouti. Pro-poor education strategies need to be adopted with a particular focus on education for women and girls, who have a much higher illiteracy rate than men. Preventive health programs should also be enacted to develop human capital. Women often have too many children at too young of an age, and education could increase the ability of couples to space their children properly and promote family planning methods.
USAID has enacted several programs to address poverty in Djibouti. USAID works with Djibouti’s Ministry of Education to develop a teacher training plan and has trained over 1,200 teachers in the country. USAID has also, according to its website, supported parent-teacher associations, linked secondary schools with university mentors, and developed strategies to improve access to education for girls. USAID has also contributed to programs combating polio and tuberculosis, in addition to aiding food distribution to combat malnutrition. The U.S. is currently the largest contributor of humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa, where Djibouti is located.
The effort to combat poverty in Djibouti suffered hardship in 2011 when the eastern Horn of Africa was hit with its most severe drought in 60 years. The drought-affected more than 10 million people, inducing high child mortality rates and sharply increasing food prices in the region. Djibouti is still in the process of recovering from the crisis.
USAID’s website describes Djibouti as a “unique and strategic partner for the United States.” The U.S. maintains the military base Camp Lemonnier in the country which serves as a staging ground for U.S. counter-terrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
Djibouti’s government is committed to peace and holds moderate views compared to some others in the region which includes the conflict-prone countries of Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Combating poverty in Djibouti is crucial to the stability of the region, and could lead to more prosperous economies on the Horn of Africa that contribute to the global economy.