Unique among African countries, Ethiopia has never been colonized and arguably the oldest independent country in Africa. It has rich tradition and a long history. Ethiopian civilization can be traced back to 1100 BC. We are familiar with Ethiopia from passages in the Old and New Testaments of the bible. The demographic composition consists of a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural history with an estimated population of 64 million. Although Amharic is the official national language, there are an astonishing close to 80 languages spoken in Ethiopia, with 200 dialects. Ethiopia is the second largest country in Africa, almost twice the size of Texas. The vast majority of Ethiopians are farmers. Agriculture is a way of life and the primary source of income.
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world with per capita income of only $110 dollars per year. Agriculture accounts for half of the country’s GDP, 90% of exports and 80% of total employment. Often the agriculture sector suffers from drought and poor cultivation practices leaving over 5 million people in need of food assistance each year. The image of famine and drought has long defined the world’s view of Ethiopia. For many years war and natural disaster have contributed to the deterioration of the quality of life.
As one of the least developing countries, Ethiopia is faced with many social and economical problems. Ethiopians are suffering from the lack of basic needs of life, such as food, health care, housing, education, safe and healthy environment. Ethiopia’s rapid population growth presents great problems for a nation struggling to be self-sufficient in food. The population is growing by 3% each year and approximately 45% of the population are below the ages of 18. In Ethiopia the average life expectancy is only 48 years compared to 78 years in US.
For many years, natural and man-made disasters have rendered Ethiopia heavily depending on external food assistance. Significant part of the country’s population cannot produce or purchase enough food to meet minimum requirement. Ethiopia evidences some of the worst malnutrition found in the world. The education system in Ethiopia is the worst in terms of quality and quantity. The country has one of the lowest rates of enrollment in the world, with only 33% of boys and less then 20% girls enrollment. Education in Ethiopia is poor due to inadequate teachers, materials and school facilities. Access to health care and social services is also extremely poor. Only about 20% of Ethiopians have real access to some form of primary care and live within a few hours walk of a health care facility. Health care facilities are extremely limited in the major cities and completely inadequate outside of the cities. Each day people are suffering and dying from the lack of sufficient health facilities, insufficient equipment and shortages of medical supplies.
In Ethiopia there is about one physician for every 40,000 people and one nurse for every 14, 000 people. Most of the diseases are largely preventable and curable with minimum inputs. Poor hygiene, sanitation and the lack of clean drinking water are some of the primary causes to the major health problems in Ethiopia. In many parts of Ethiopia the lack of safe drinking water is one of the main problems for children and adults. Accordingly the United Station only 30% of the rural population and 24% of the total population have access to clean and safe water. For the rural communities the only source of water are ponds and puddles, causing them to suffer and die from such diseases as choler and dysentery. Even worst only 6 percent of rural and about 20% of the total population have access to adequate sanitation.