Causes of Poverty in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest countries, with about 44% of its population living in poverty. However, Ethiopia also has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Causes of poverty in Ethiopia include a variety of actions stemming from natural disasters as well as man-made actions. However, the main causes of poverty in Ethiopia are brought on by the effects of its economy revolving around agriculture.

About 80% of Ethiopia’s people work in agriculture. Because agriculture is the primary source for Ethiopia’s economy, most of its population takes up much of its rural areas than its urban.

Smallholder farmers form the largest group of poor people in Ethiopia. These farmers lack basic infrastructure, socially and economically, such as health care and educational facilities. They depend on their agriculture for most of their living essentials. Because so many of these farmers live in poverty, they also lack the ability to update their tools to grow better crops.

Beyond the difficulties faced by farmers just to bring in enough money to live, they must also contend with many natural disasters. Ethiopia is a country in conflict with its frequent natural disasters, thus making it even more difficult to farm in the country. Droughts, overgrazing and deforestation have degraded Ethiopia’s land over the years. It has made it difficult for the country to feed itself. Natural disasters have become one of the main causes of poverty in Ethiopia because so many of the country’s inhabitants rely on the weather for their income.

As if difficulty making a living were not enough, Ethiopia’s poverty is further worsened by the recent war. The consequences of the war with Ethiopia’s neighboring country, Eritrea, have been compared to those of World War I, leaving a legacy of economic burden in the country, with millions of dollars spent by an already poor economy.

Furthermore, Ethiopia’s poverty is also caused by rising global market prices. Because of the increase in prices, the situation in the country has worsened. With restrictions to access food and other supplies, households have limited resources and cannot purchase the necessary amount of things such as food and fertilizer. Ethiopia’s unstable conditions have driven investors away from the struggling society.

An economy based on poor agricultural conditions, war and high-priced goods in world markets are some of the main causes of poverty in Ethiopia. The causes of poverty in Ethiopia are varied and deep, but aid is sure to help this country more in the future.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Ethiopia

With a population of more than 98 million people, Ethiopia has a depth of history and diversity that has captivated the world for centuries. It has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, yet common diseases in Ethiopia are still a pressing problem.

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that more than half the population of Ethiopia doesn’t have access to healthcare, cases being more prominent in rural areas. An estimated 42 percent of people living in rural areas are within walking distance of health facilities, while 75 percent of people living in urban areas are within walking distance. Furthermore, many of the healthcare facilities lack adequate medicines and supplies and are staffed by under-qualified workers.

As reported by the WHO, the most common diseases in Ethiopia, responsible for 74 percent of all deaths and 81 percent of disabilities per year, are malaria, prenatal and maternal death, nutrition deficiency, diarrhea, acute respiratory infection and HIV/AIDS.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), consisting of a large group of parasitic diseases, are also a prominent problem throughout Ethiopia. Ethiopia has the highest number of NTD cases in sub-Saharan Africa, including trachoma, podoconiosos and cutaneous leishmaniasis.

However, progress has been made to combat common diseases in Ethiopia. As reported by the World Bank, between 2005 and 2013, “the number of small health posts or clinics nearly quadrupled from 4,211 to 14,416, the number of health centers increased from 519 to 3,245, and the number of public hospitals grew from 79 to 127.” Furthermore, with World Bank-funded programs promoting citizen participation in helping to improve living conditions, NGOs, communities and civil society organizations are increasingly communicating and developing plans to address common diseases in Ethiopia.

Yet, there is still much work to be done. The country still reels from recent protests that killed hundreds of people and battles entrenched ethnic divisions perpetuated under the current government. As Ethiopia fights to end inadequate and inaccessible healthcare, there must be increased communication between citizens and all governmental and non-governmental agencies and organizations.

With repressive anti-terror laws, this is a daunting task, yet one that must be addressed if common diseases in Ethiopia are to be eradicated. The entire population depends on international and national pressure to increase funding and expand infrastructure that will be accessible to all people no matter their ethnicity, religion, geographic location, gender and many other factors that divide the country.

Joseph Dover

Photo: Flickr

Ruled by kings until 1974, the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Republic now remains in the relatively early stages of development. With a total population of 99.4 million, Ethiopia has the second largest population in Sub-Saharan Africa.  However, it is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Fortunately, Ethiopia is also one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and education and development in Ethiopia have become a legislative priority. Between 2005 and 2011, Ethiopian economic growth averaged to 11 percent, and although the country is still heavily reliant on agriculture, it has been working toward the lofty goal of becoming a lower-middle-income economy by 2025.

With an emphasis on education and development in Ethiopia, the country has seen impressive results.  As a result, universal education has become close to reality in the country. In 1990, Ethiopian university enrollment had peaked 10,000 students.  By 2015 enrollment skyrocketed to 360,000 students.

Training in technical and vocational careers has also significantly increased. From 1999 to 2014 the number of students in these fields rose from 5,264 to 271,389. The emphasis in these areas hopes that workers will be well suited for the growing construction and manufacturing sectors.

Despite skyrocketing employment, there remains a disconnect between schools and skills demanded in the market.  Even though the number of educational institutions has increased, the quality had decreased. Many students have since graduated with skills are unfit for the available jobs. This issue has led to some unemployment in the newly educated youth workforce.

Despite such economic pressures, overall unemployment has decreased. According to the World Bank Group, a major contributor of Ethiopia’s annual foreign aid, the country has been taking all the right steps forward. By decentralizing resources to regional governments, focusing on infrastructure and reorienting expenditures the country has seen enormous growth.

Today, Ethiopia requires continued aid to accelerate job creation and vastly decrease poverty in the country. This continued support will allow education and development in Ethiopia to continue to thrive.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Ethiopia
Despite being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia still suffers from structural and economic problems. The deadliest diseases in Ethiopia are often preventable. However, a lack of resources can make them difficult to prevent or treat. Here are the top three deadliest diseases in Ethiopia:

1. Lower Respiratory Infections

Lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, are the number one cause of death in Ethiopia. This infection accounts for 10 percent of deaths each year. Acute respiratory infections, which are typically shorter term but when untreated can lead to death, are especially common. On average, Ethiopian children suffer from four to eight infections each year. Undernutrition is a culprit in the high rate of infections in Ethiopia. In a study, the World Health Organization found that in Ethiopia, 42 percent of children hospitalized for pneumonia had a severe vitamin D deficiency. Improving access to nutrients is key to reducing infections, since undernutrition increases the severity and prevalence of lower respiratory infections.

2. Diarrheal Diseases

Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of rotavirus, the most common cause of severe diarrhea around the world. Diarrheal diseases cause eight percent of deaths in Ethiopia each year. They are also a leading killer of children, causing 14 percent of deaths in children under five. Diarrheal diseases can sometimes be treated with rehydration tablets. However, they are more easily prevented through improvements in sanitation and water and access to the rotavirus vaccine.

3. HIV

HIV/AIDS is one of the deadliest diseases in Ethiopia. It accounts for seven percent of deaths each year and has led to a seven-year decrease in life expectancy. One of the greatest issues in Ethiopia is passing of the disease during birth. There are approximately 90,000 HIV-positive pregnant women. This results in around 14,000 HIV-positive births and 800,000 orphans due to the disease annually. In order to combat this, the government has been pushing to increase partner and family counseling programs that work to educate and reduce transmissions to pregnant women. Progress has been made, as HIV testing and partner counseling has increased in recent years from 13 percent to 51 percent.

Despite the deadliest diseases in Ethiopia being easily preventable, they remain widespread. That said, recent increases in resources and support show promising progress in combating and halting the spread of these diseases in Ethiopia.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

What Are the World's Fastest Growing Economies?
Though the U.S. is known as the world’s largest economy, many of the world’s fastest growing economies are those of developing nations. Among factors such as foreign aid, increased tourism and more trade, developing nations become some of the world’s fastest growing economies as more people are lifted out of poverty and become consumers.

Here are five of the world’s fastest growing economies based on World Bank data from 2013-2015 (the most recent data available):

  1. Ireland
    · 2013: 1.4%
    · 2014: 5.2%
    · 2015: 7.8%
    After the world financial crisis of 2007-2009, the economic activity in Ireland dropped sharply. After reaching the world’s largest budget deficit in 2010, Ireland accepted a loan from the European Union and International Monetary Fund to provide capital to its banking sector. In addition to the loan, lower taxes and increased public spending helped Ireland’s economy recover and reach the EU’s highest growth rate for 2014 and 2015. Low corporation taxes also attracted multinational companies to Ireland.
  2. Ethiopia
    · 2013: 9.9%
    · 2014: 10.3%
    · 2015: 10.2%
    The economy of Ethiopia has grown quickly for the past decade. This is mostly due to progress in Ethiopia’s agriculture and service industries. New infrastructure connecting previously isolated regions of the country also fuels economic growth. Rich in ancient cultures, Ethiopia is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations, providing millions of jobs to Ethiopians.
    However, as of 2014, nearly 30 percent of Ethiopians still lived below the poverty line. Ethiopia is still susceptible to droughts, with a severe drought occurring from 2014-2015. Droughts can be catastrophic for the 80 percent of Ethiopians that are employed in the agriculture industry.
  3. Palau
    · 2013: -2.4%
    · 2014: 4.2%
    · 2015: 9.4%
    Expanded air travel to the Pacific has increased tourist traffic in the island nation. While tourism is the main contributor to the economy of Palau, it also thrives from trade and fishing. Palau exports shellfish, tuna, copra (dried coconut kernels for oil making) and garments. Palau has also received about $700 million in aid from the U.S. from 1994-2009 under the Compact of Free Association, in exchange for unrestricted access to Palau’s land and waterways for strategic purposes.
  4. Ivory Coast
    · 2013: 8.7%
    · 2014: 7.9%
    · 2015: 8.6%
    The West African country is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans. It is also a large producer and exporter of coffee and palm oil. Over two-thirds of Ivory Coast’s population is employed in agriculture or related activities.
    Though Ivory Coast was plagued by a recession in the ‘90s, a civil war from 2002-2007 and sporadic violence in years following, the country has remained mostly peaceful since 2011. This has attracted foreign investors and promoted economic growth. While the poverty rate has decreased, 46 percent of the population still lives in poverty and a small number of arms still remain in the nation.
  5. Uzbekistan
    · 2013: 8%
    · 2014: 8.1%
    · 2015: 8%
    Formerly part of the Soviet Union, the government of Uzbekistan still operates a command economy, regulating production and prices. Economic growth in Uzbekistan is driven mainly by state-led investments. The majority of the population lives in rural areas and the main focus of agriculture is cotton. Uzbekistan also exports gold and natural gas.

Though these are only the top five of the world’s fastest growing economies from 2013-2015, many other developing nations are not far behind. The economies of Nauru, Laos, India, Tanzania, Cambodia, Burma and the Dominican Republic have also grown quickly in recent years.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Ethiopia
Erratic rainfall negatively affects the water quality in Ethiopia and can cause famine and food shortage. In addition, war diverts resources that could be used for clean water projects.

Essential for survival, water is something most people can access very easily. The number of people in Ethiopia with access to clean water has doubled, from 29 percent in 2000 to 59 percent in 2015. Yet 41 percent of the population lacks adequate access to safe water.

Ethiopia has endured four severe droughts since 1974 and is currently facing the worst drought it has seen in 50 years. The water crisis can be attributed not only to severe drought but also to lack of government funding and infrastructure.

Best-selling author and YouTuber John Green went to Ethiopia with Bill Gates. “When I asked people about their greatest needs, almost all of them–from the Women’s Health Army volunteers to children–cited clean water first.”

Women spend hours every day carrying 50-pound cans filled with clean water for their families. Because of the distance that many women must travel to get clean water, families often utilize any water they have access to, regardless of its safety.

One method of improving water quality in Ethiopia is to implement rainwater harvesting techniques. Rainwater harvesting initiatives have helped those facing drought in India, China and Mexico and could be the answer to improving water quality in Ethiopia on a widespread basis. Rainwater harvesting helps people provide themselves with clean water from a reliable source that can last through even the driest seasons.

When asked about rainwater harvesting by the BBC, Dennis Garrity of the World Agroforestry Centre said, “Ethiopia, often regarded as a dry country, could collect enough for half a billion people…The time has come to realize the great potential for greatly enhancing drinking water supplies…by harvesting more of the rain when and where it falls.”

In a study assessing the impact of rainwater harvesting systems in the Abreha Weatsbeha watershed, the community utilized sustainable land management methods such as integrated soil and water conservation practices. Farmers learned to use conservation structures and vegetation in the upper part of watersheds to contribute to the amount of groundwater discharged in the lower part of the catchment.

The groundwater table is now only three meters beneath the surface, even in the driest season (it was previously 15 meters underground). Farmers now have their own shallow irrigation wells and the community has 388 hand-dug wells. The people in Abreha Weatsbeha call these groundwater ponds their “water bank.” Thanks to the “water banks” rainwater harvesting systems create, quality of life and water in Ethiopia can greatly improve.

Mary Barringer

education system in Ethiopia
Even with one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The education system in Ethiopia is less than satisfactory and while it is free and compulsory, only 60 percent of children are enrolled in full-time education.

Education in Ethiopia is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 to 16, but with poor facilities and underprivileged backgrounds, many children do not get a high quality, full-time education. In Ethiopia, 95 percent of primary school teachers receives training, which is higher than the world median of 92 percent. While the quality of teaching is high, the ratio of teacher to a child is 1:64, so children are not able to receive the attention that they need in order to reach their full potential.

Prior to secular education being introduced in the early 1900s, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church dominated education in Ethiopia. Before 1974, the Ethiopian literacy rate was below 10 percent. Since then, the emphasis has been put on increasing this rate and it now stands at 49 percent. Even though this is very low compared to the rest of the world, it is a massive improvement for education in Ethiopia.

Although education in Ethiopia has improved over past years, there are still many difficulties that exist within the system. Currently, core subjects such as science and maths are being taught in English. As this is neither the teachers’ first language or the students, the concept of the subject gets lost in translation into Amharic.

Another downfall to education in Ethiopia is the lack of good governance. This occurs throughout the schools and universities across the country and puts the level of quality education at risk. And while the number of school dropouts has reduced, many students still finish school before reaching higher education, which limits their opportunity in the future.

Ethiopia joined the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2004, which has since given grants in order to improve the level of education. Ethiopia has received four GPE grants over the course of 10 years and is currently in its third grant. Between 2014 and 2017, Ethiopia will receive $100 million in order to improve the quality of general education throughout the country.

Previous GPE funding has significantly improved education in Ethiopia. Now, each child in education has a textbook, and 60 percent of schools were inspected in 2015. Teacher training was also provided to 100,000 adults in order to increase the number of qualified teachers throughout the entire school system.

Now, the focus in Ethiopia is to keep children in school and progress to higher education and to reduce the number of school dropouts. This can be done through vocational education, such as technical vocation and education programs. This will ensure that even those who are not in education will receive some kind of training, and will be learning new or improving existing skills.

Georgia Boyle

Photo: Flickr

On August 19, the U.S. committed to providing 35 million dollars in aid to Ethiopia after their devastating drought and recent floods. The announcement came from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Ethiopia Mission Director, Leslie Reed, on World Humanitarian Day. Aid will go toward immediate humanitarian emergencies to help Ethiopia adapt to the threat of climate change and supporting the country’s developmental progress.

In 2015, Ethiopia was hit by the worst drought in decades. More than 10 million people were estimated to need humanitarian assistance, according to OXFAM. The severity of the drought was aggravated by El Niño, which periodically warms the Pacific region and affects climate patterns all over the world. The World Meteorological Organization reported that the current El Niño is one of the strongest recorded.

The drought has impacted 85 percent of Ethiopia’s population that engages in agricultural production. The dry spell destroyed farming livelihoods and escalated food prices, food insecurity and malnutrition.

Due to the effects of La Niña, flash flooding has caused further damage in Ethiopia. According to Ethiopia Drought Response Situation Report No. 3., there have been an increased number of cases of waterborne diseases due to poor sanitation and hygiene. The number of people displaced has reached 631,508, according to the report. While a portion of this number is due to conflict, 47 percent were displaced from March to June solely due to the floods.

On August 12, the Ethiopian government asked for $612 million for immediate food aid through December of 2016. Since October 2014, the U.S. has contributed 774 million dollars in aid to Ethiopia. The funds have provided clean drinking water, food for nutrition, malnutrition treatment and health services.

USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) was sent to Ethiopia in March 2016 and has been working with the Ethiopian government to provide technical assistance, administer humanitarian assessments and bring aid to Ethiopia. DART provided four million dollars worth of drought resilient seeds for 226,000 families to grow food.

Other international humanitarian organizations are also contributing to relief efforts. Concern Worldwide and Goal Global worked to stabilize Tigray, a region in northern Ethiopia severely impacted by the drought. The aid groups provided supplementary food to women and children experiencing malnutrition.

In order to withstand this ongoing emergency, Ethiopia will need support from the international community. Although El Niña rainfall is predicted to last through until December, the country will need support in adapting to the harsh effects of climate change in the future.

Erica Rawles

Photo: Flickr

Dr. Jill Biden

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, promoted women’s rights, immigration and education during her recent trip to Africa. She visited Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger, where she focused on matters associated with economic empowerment and educational opportunities.

In each country, Dr. Biden met with local citizens in many different places in order to engage in government and civil society and focus on issues relative to each country. Here are some of the highlights of her three-country trip.


  • Dr. Jill Biden’s first stop in Africa was Ethiopia. She first visited a transit center for refugees at the International Organization for Migration. There she learned about the refugee screening process for those hoping to resettle in the US.
  • With a focus on women’s empowerment and women’s rights, she attended an event in the high-tech center in Addis Ababa funded by the U.S. Embassy. There, she handed out certificates to girls who completed computer training.
  • Finally, she met with female members of Ethiopia’s parliament and cabinet, as well as entrepreneurs and other members of the community.


  • First, Dr. Biden attended a reception for humanitarian aid workers from the U.S. Embassy. She addressed the El Niño drought by gaining information from the USAID Food for Peace Program about food security.
  • She traveled to primary schools, the first of which was assisted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program. Biden learned about the USAID Girls Empowerment Through Education and Health Activity (ASPIRE) at a second primary school.
  • Finally, Dr. Biden met with local farmers learning about how the maize trade influences economic empowerment and with Malawi’s First Lady Madame Gertrude Mutharika to discuss their collective pledges on women’s empowerment.
  • It was Dr. Biden who announced that 20 million dollars have been donated through the World Food Program to assist food insecurity in Malawi.


  • Dr. Biden visited the Marie Stopes International Clinic to discuss family planning and reproductive health with Nigerien women.
  • She discussed with local residents the issues surrounding the Boko Haram conflict and the humanitarian crisis in the state. After meeting with President Mahamadou Issoufou, she talked to young Nigeriens about youth participation in local elections.
  • Dr. Biden discussed empowerment through job creation and its positive effects on the national economy, and she participated in a roundtable at the U.N. Development Program to discuss gender inequality, education and protection.

Dr. Jill Biden’s focuses on women’s empowerment and education are based on the notion that education is a tool that can be used to lift communities out of poverty. By developing self-confidence through education, girls and women in Africa can become active participants in their local communities.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Voice Of America


Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) has just started two new Hydropower projects with a price tag of over $45 million. The new Hydroelectric dams will be located on the Genale Dawa and Dabus rivers with construction expected to start in 2017.

Second Growth and Transformation Plan

The two new Hydropower projects are part of a larger initiative called the Second Growth and Transformation plan (GTP). The first GTP, which lasted from 2010 to 2015, was a success that resulted in the creation of a second GTP that encompasses this hydroelectric project.

The first GTP emphasized economic growth, expansion of public services and political stability. A crucial part of the plan was to reach the Millenium Development goals (MGDs) put forward by the U.N.

Ethiopia has made serious economic progress in the past decade, maintaining a GDP growth rate greater than 10 percent since the mid-2000s, which is double the average sub-Saharan African growth rate.

Even more impressively, Ethiopia has seen a 33 percent reduction of the population living in poverty since 2000. The high growth rate and government projects have been crucial in decreasing poverty in Ethiopia.

Hydroelectric and geothermal power are very important for Ethiopian development. The country is home to 12 river basins and part of the Great Rift Valley, making it a prime location for sustainable energy.

However, not all of that potential has been realized. Of an estimated 50,000 MW of power that Ethiopia could produce from hydroelectric and geothermal sources, only 2,000 MW are currently being generated.

Continuing the Progress

While it may seem like Ethiopia has a long way to maximize its energy production levels, it’s important to note just how far it has come. Since 2000, Ethiopia has increased its energy production 3.5 fold, with especially high annual increases since 2013.

Not only will increased sustainable energy production help Ethiopian citizens, but a proposed energy deal with Kenya (the third fastest growing economy in the world) will bring a big boost to the Ethiopian economy.

The new hydroelectric dams will generate 672 MW, a significant increase to Ethiopia’s current power levels. The two new dams are expected to begin generating power in 2021.

John English

Photo: Flickr