Malnutrition in Djibouti
Throughout its long history, Djibouti has served as an important part of international exchange. Located in the center of the Horn of Africa, Djibouti has been a principal port of trade, exchange and shipping for nations like Saudi Arabia, France and China.

Yet, in spite of its historical significance, Djibouti’s small population of 886,000 people, most of whom are urban residents, cannot afford food or proper dietary provisions. This number includes children, approximately 109,000 under the age of five, who are at risk of stunted growth, improper mental development and death due to malnourishment. It is estimated that 29.8 percent of children under the age of five in Djibouti are underweight.

In recent years, severe drought has caused the traditionally pastoral society of Djibouti to lose up to 70 percent of its livestock. With less than .10 percent of Djibouti’s land considered arable, it is difficult to maintain sustainable agriculture or for families to feed themselves. Due to a combination of high communicable disease infection, low crop production and extreme poverty, child mortality rates are increasingly high, with 81 of every 1,000 live births resulting in death. Though child mortality has declined considerably in the last 24 years, children continue to suffer greatly in the region.

Djibouti has one of the world’s highest rates of chronic child malnourishment. The latest statistics provided by WHO show that 18 percent of children suffer from malnutrition and 5.6 percent face severe acute malnutrition. Djibouti currently ranks at 165 of 187 countries in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index, indicating poor development and improper nutrition throughout the average Djiboutian’s lifetime.

In an effort to combat malnutrition and child mortality rates in Djibouti, a number of international organizations have developed programs and assistance intended for the ‘under-five population’ and mothers. In June of 2014, the World Bank announced a $5 million dollar credit to the Social Safety Net Program, which provides food assistance and cash-for-work incentives to mothers with young children. It emphasizes the ‘first 1000 days’ of a child’s life as being critical to developing proper nutrition and health.

In 2011, UNICEF installed a therapeutic feeding center in the Balbala community in Djibouti, offering treatment and nutritional supplements to malnourished children. The feeding center also offers resources to mothers in order to prevent future cases of malnutrition. The World Food Programme has also been a leading contributor to food and health assistance in Djibouti. Its assistance in Djibouti has helped over 90,000 people in Djibouti, especially children.

The WFP said, “WFP also helps fight against malnutrition by providing fortified food to children under five, as well as to pregnant and nursing mothers at health centers in both urban and rural parts of the country.”

Additionally, The World Bank, WFP, UNICEF and other organizations have helped Djibouti become self-sufficient by aiding in efforts focused on education, environmental sustainability and useful crop production. These efforts have contributed to the ongoing decline of malnutrition throughout Djibouti.

Candice Hughes

Sources: The World Bank, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2, WHO 1, WHO 2, World Food Programme
Photo: Flickr


Djibouti is a small country on the Eastern coast of Africa populated by malnourished people. Because of its location, Djibouti is a shipping hub for Eastern Africa, and so it has a large urban population. Still, a World Food Programme Emergency Food Security Assessment in 2012 found that three-fourths of assessed households were “severely or moderately food insecure.”

In rural areas, where one-third of Djibouti’s population lives, there is a severe hunger crisis. One in five children aged one to four  years is malnourished and, in the rural areas, about 70,000 people were food insecure in 2012. In the slums, Arhiba and Balbala, there is a high rate of child mortality from malnutrition.This is in part due to the fact that the country has very little natural resources and there have been recurring severe droughts in the region.

Additionally, in recent years Djibouti suffered from a cholera epidemic. The droughts have damaged food production from crops and livestock in rural areas, and because the rural villages are spread out across the country, it is difficult for aid organizations to send food and healthcare to each community.

Many rural families have moved to cities in search of work and a better life. However, work is often difficult to find and, with more people migrating to the cities, the unemployment rate has increased quickly. Other rural families are fleeing to the slums to escape the harsh conditions of rural life.

Most households are receiving assistance, without which they could not survive. Fewsnet found in a 2012-2013 report that, in some areas, “households are marginally able to meet minimum food needs only through accelerated depletion of livelihood assets and adoption of unsustainable coping strategies such as charcoal sales.”

Prices and unemployment are rising as the droughts continue. The people of Djibouti need strategies for clean water, agriculture, health and nutrition. Until these needs are met, World Food Programme, Action Against Hunger and other organizations and governments are working to provide citizens with basic needs and helping the government develop programs for sustainability.

-Kimmi Ligh

Sources: Relief Web, Action Against Hunger, World Food Programme, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

Compared to surrounding countries, the educational system in Djibouti is flourishing. Though illiteracy remains a problem in the small country in the Horn of Africa, the government has made significant progress in the last decade to make education accessible to a greater percentage of the population. For many reasons, the future of education in Djibouti looks even brighter.

1. Modeled after French educational system
The French educational system has consistently been considered one of the strongest in the world. It separates schooling into three levels (primary, secondary and higher education) and focuses on ensuring that all children enter primary school at a young age. The structure of Djibouti’s educational system is modeled after the French system, and the African country maintains the tradition of trying to enroll as many children as possible in the first years of primary education.

2. Not exclusively French
Although Djibouti follows France’s example, education is not exclusively available to those that speak French. In the past, education in Djibouti was somewhat of an elitist concept. People that spoke the native language could not attend the schools because the lessons were taught in French. Fortunately, this idea has been abandoned and schools readily accommodate the various languages spoken in Djibouti.

3. Number of schools
Djibouti is a small country. Approximately 846,000 people inhabit its less than 9,000 square miles. Given that most of these people live in the capital city, the number of schools in Djibouti is impressive in comparison to other developing countries. In terms of public schools, there are 81 primary schools, 12 secondary schools and two vocational schools. There is also a university.

4. The University of Djibouti
The University of Djibouti is the only institution of higher education in Djibouti, but its effects on the educational system seem much greater. The university offers arts, science, law and technology instruction. The professors are qualified to teach their respective subjects and frequently communicate with professors outside of their own country. The university highlights education on topics related to current affairs in Djibouti, such as the economy, to guarantee that its students graduate with comprehensive knowledge about the market and the “real world” that they will enter.

5. Gender equality
Truthfully, more boys than girls go to school in Djibouti. However, compared to many developing nations, the ratio reflects an improved sense of gender equality. The drop-out rate for females is 1.6 percent, while it rests just below 1 percent for males. At the start of schooling, however, the Ministry of Education in Djibouti takes care to establish equal educational opportunities for boys and girls.

6. Government attention
The government recognizes the importance of education, and has taken steps to make the educational system a primary focus. The country’s national budget allocates more than 20 percent to education and has done so for the majority of the 21st century.

7. Rising enrollment
Due to the government’s high attention to education and the tradition of French education, Djibouti works to increase enrollment rates of children in primary schools. In 2002, 43 percent of primary-aged children were enrolled in formal schooling. That statistic increased to 66 percent in 2006 and 71 percent in 2009. The enrollment rate has been increasing steadily since then.

Most of the progress in education in Djibouti has occurred in the capital city, also called Djibouti. The more secluded and rural areas of the country still need to see improvements in accessibility and quality of education, like many other developing countries.  However, the attention to educating citizens of all ages proves that the government of Djibouti is one of the most proactive in encouraging the growth of academics.

— Emily Walthouse

Sources: Maps of World, UNICEF, Study Lands, Africa Africa
Photo: Vimeo

The decision made by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to send financial support to the United Nations World Food Program for the Republic of Djibouti is coming at an imperative time for the country. Djibouti has been experiencing a drought for the past several years and its population, particularly those living in rural areas, is in desperate need of food assistance. USAID has already sent the first installment of the $4 million dollar commitment to Djibouti.

Almost immediately, USAID and its partner, Food for Peace, jumped in to restock Djibouti’s stores of yellow spit peas and vegetable oil. Djibouti is where USAID stores these items for its food assistance programs so it was vital to keep the warehouses fully stocked. As the drought continues, the food situation is expected to become even worse.

This current partnership between USAID and Food for Peace is not the beginning of a relationship between the U.S. government and Djibouti. For the past decade, USAID has been working with the country to reduce hunger and malnutrition. Since 2006, the number of child deaths as a result of malnourishment has reduced from 20% to 0.2% in 2012. This is in part due to USAID’s support of the Famine Early Warning System, a program that observes the country’s food security and raises alerts when the food situation turns for the worse.

This program, and many others that USAID supports, are helping the government of Djibouti to not only recognize famine and hunger, but also learn how to combat and prevent it. While short-term solutions are critical for aiding in ending immediate hunger, USAID is also concerned with long-term solutions, including services that guarantee food for children, pregnant and nursing women, building community gardens, and the overarching issue of reducing poverty.

As for now, USAID’s most recent contribution will be critical for those living through this devastating drought. More food aid will be delivered in the next few months.

– Mary Penn

Sources: Sabahi Online, All Africa
Photo: Council on Foreign Relations

Poverty in Djibouti
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.

– Martin Drake
Source: World Bank, Reuters, Washington Post
Photo: The Guardian

Great Green Wall in Africa

The Great Green Wall is a wall of vegetation that, in essence, holds back the Sahara Desert with vegetables and fruits. The Sahara Desert is notorious for being dry and arid, having very little ability to support, in terms of nutrition, those that live near it. In Senegal, however, the construction of the Green Green Wall has led to an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables from the arid desert, which has helped to combat high levels of malnutrition and deal with climate changes in the area.

The Great Green Wall project is an initiative to plant a wall of trees from Senegal to Djibouti, which is basically across the entirety of Africa. 11 countries are supporting members of this project, which aims to block desert winds and maintain the moisture in the soil and air by building a wall of trees.

Of course, the green in the Great Green Wall is the end result of the tireless work necessary in planting and nurturing tree saplings. In parts of Senegal, ripe tomatoes and purple aubergines show that the project works, yet, in many other parts, progress has been slow and is still incomplete. This does not mean that these parts have not already begun to benefit; it just means that political commitment and community support is very important to ensure that the trees have the potential to reach their full height.

A woman living in Widou Thiengoli, Khaira Haidara, says “When I was young, there was more water in the village and we produced our own crop of millet. This project has brought positive changes to our lives, giving us different things to eat, and now we worry less about food.”

These are the benefits of the Great Green Wall project and, because of the stage of the project, more benefits are sure to come. Other benefits that are the result of the Great Green Wall project are increased opportunities for occupation within the community as people who used to go into town to find work are now able to work with and cultivate their land. This results not only in work but more food, helping to combat malnutrition that is rampant in many parts of the area surrounding the Sahara Desert.

The Great Green Wall is a step in the right direction for sustainability. It, while still under construction, has already begun to benefit those that live around the Sahara Desert.

– Angela Hooks

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: TreeHugger