I have been in Ethiopia for a week for work. Undernutrition remains a huge issue here. More than 1 out of 4 women in Ethiopia is affected by undernutrition and anaemia. Child undernutrition remains high with 44% of children under five years of age stunted, or chronically undernourished and 10% wasted, or acutely malnourished.
Yet, the nutrition situation has been steadily improving in Ethiopia with impressive reductions in stunting prevalence in the last 10 years by 24%. Even more impressive is the reduction in child mortality in the last 10 years from 166 to 88. Cut in half! Not too shabby for one of the poorest countries in the world. See the Demographic Health Statistics Figures below.
Despite this, the Horn of Africa crisis still looms. Last year’s devastating drought and subsequent famine took its toll, particularly on women and children. The latest statistics indicate that there will be another drought this year, which leaves many vulnerable and in need of lifesaving food assistance, medicine and treatment for acute malnutrition. How tragic.
Ethiopia has long been the poster child for emergency famines, with chronic food insecure areas. Where Ethiopia sits within the continent does not help either – with continuing political emergencies in Somalia, Sudan, Northern Uganda and Eritrea – these shocks will present massive challenges within the Horn of Africa.
But it is also becoming a poster child of potential in tackling food insecurity and improving nutrition. There are MANY external international agencies working in the country, and large investments are being made in health, agriculture and nutrition. The government of Ethiopia is strong, proud and determined. Some external workers indicate that it is difficult to work with government because they want to control and own who does what in their country. Perhaps with the reductions the country has seen in undernutrition and mortality, we shouldn’t criticize their model or government too much…
I must say that Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia is impressive. I have never seen so much construction in my life, with a lot of the investment by nationals. New hotels, malls, condominiums, conference centers, and roads. Driving down every road seems to have some sort of 15 story + building going up.
As the Imperial Motto of the Ethiopian Empire says: “Ethiopia stretches her hands unto God.” No doubt.