Ethiopia is known as a historically prolific country that is endowed with abundant natural and agricultural resources. Yet, a list released by the U.N. detailing the least developed countries in the world declares Ethiopia as one of the poorest countries in the world.
Life expectancy in Ethiopia is estimated at 57 years for males and 60 years for females. These statistics indicate rudimentary health care infrastructure, but also lack of access to sanitation facilities, clean water and nutritious food. The list below explores the top diseases in Ethiopia that are a consequence of its geographical location, living standards and level of development.
- Neglected tropical diseases
Neglected tropical diseases can be defined as a class of transmissible diseases that exist predominantly in tropical regions. These diseases are associated with delayed physical and mental development and blindness. Due to the incapacitating effects of these diseases, the true economic potential of underdeveloped countries is not realized.
As a result of its proximity to the equator, Ethiopia bears the burden of neglected tropical diseases that include conditions such as trachoma and schistosomiasis. Trachoma is caused by a bacterial infection that primarily targets the eyes, causing irritation and in advanced stages, blindness. Schistosomiasis is a disease transmitted by parasites residing in freshwater snails. Its acute effects include itchiness of the skin or visible rashes.
A 2012 study published in Parasites and Vectors estimated that approximately 5 million individuals out of 94 million individuals in Ethiopia are afflicted by schistosomiasis. Ethiopia’s widespread prevalence of neglected tropical diseases has important implications as these conditions often cause disability and can, therefore, reduce the potential to work.
These diseases can be addressed by establishing local campaigns to distribute medicines, subsidies and donations by pharmaceutical companies and increasing awareness about the mechanisms of transmission.
Although malaria is a worldwide phenomenon, its effects are particularly felt in countries that are not equipped with appropriate health care and education services. An article published in the Malaria Journal stated that countries such as Ethiopia are particularly predisposed to malaria as a consequence of poor living conditions and remote sources of clean water.
It is estimated by the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health that each year, four to five million people in Ethiopia suffer from malaria, and even greater numbers are at risk. In order to address the vast numbers of malaria cases in Ethiopia, campaigns should be set up locally that provide clean water.
The local population should also be educated on ways to keep their households clean, and in particular, avoid stagnant water, which is a potent breeding ground for parasites and mosquitoes. A humanitarian organization called Nothing but Nets has initiated the anti-malaria revolution by distributing millions of mosquito nets to families all across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Statistics published by the World Health Organization postulate that 1.2 million people suffer from HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia. In addition, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that HIV infection is the third most common cause of death in Ethiopia, contributing to 7% of total deaths in the country. AIDS is an important cause of concern due to its manifold mechanisms of transmission. Children may risk contracting the viral infection if their mothers had the virus at the time of childbirth.
AIDS prevention strategies should focus on raising awareness about the methods of transmission. Provisions should be made to subsidize preventive measures such as contraception and sterile needles.
- Rotaviral Diarrhea
To provide context to the devastating effects of this variant of diarrhea, Dr. Adamasu Kesetebirhan, Minister of Health in Ethiopia states that, “Diarrhea takes the lives of more than 38,500 Ethiopian children under five each year, rotavirus being responsible for close to two-thirds of the deaths.” The virus spreads rapidly among children and is especially pernicious because of its ease of transmission.
The rotavirus responsible for this type of diarrhea causes severe dehydration and fever. Currently, measures are being implemented throughout Ethiopia to distribute rotavirus vaccines in an attempt to reduce the prevalence of this condition.
Hepatitis, another viral infection, is especially common in Ethiopia. Its methods of transmission include consuming contaminated water, living in unclean environments and eating poorly cooked meat. A recent statistic concerning viral hepatitis suggests that approximately 10 million individuals in Ethiopia are affected by the disease. Considering that transmission is greatly contingent upon hygiene and safety, clean practices such as washing hands regularly and chemical purification of water should be encouraged.
The above list outlining the top diseases in Ethiopia emphasizes the need to transform healthcare infrastructure and services in the country. Financial and food aid may be required from foreign countries to support the country during its initial stages of trying to reduce the prevalence of top diseases in Ethiopia.
– Tanvi Ambulkar