Eritrea, with its population of some 5.2 million has been described as one of the most secretive states in Africa following its harrowing thirty year struggle for freedom from Ethiopia and its disastrous border war between 1998-2000, again with Ethiopia. Today Eritrea is an impoverished nation with around 80% of its population reliant on subsistence farming however poor rainfalls and regular droughts mean Eritrea is unable to grow enough foods to meet its population's needs. Overall 81% of the child population in Eritrea lives in poverty. Eritrea is in 181st place out of 186 countries and territories in 2013 when ranked in terms of life expectancy, literacy, access to knowledge and the living standards of a country.
Just 22% of children in Eritrea have access to safe water (of the 5,365 known boreholes about 3,374 offer unprotected water and a further 1,233 are known to be contaminated leading to a prevalence of waterborne diseases including bacterial diarrhoea, Hepatitis A and typhoid fever), whilst a mere 13% have access to sanitation facilities leading to regular epidemics of diarrhoea, malaria, and respiratory infections. The infant mortality rate is a staggering 55%. Of the 2,368,000 child population of Eritrea, 18,000 have been orphaned by AIDS, with over three thousand infected themselves, although by African standards these rates are fairly low with only 0.8% of the overall population infected.
There are 240,000 orphans in the country in total, about one out of every ten children aged 17rs and younger, and there have been attempts of late to place 40,000 orphans back within their extended families from institutionalised orphanages. Child enrolment in elementary school is just 35.3%. and the average child who does attend has six years worth of schooling. Around 58.6% of the population are literate, however this figure is just 47.6% for girls. Each child in Eritrea, as they become an adult, is required to undertake national service for a minimum of twelve months however often the period of enlistment is much longer than that, with one in every fifteen Eritrean citizens in the armed forces such is the country's distrust of neighbour Ethiopia. Life for children in Eritrea has been described "no educational and career prospects, and the only thing they can look forward to is a lifetime of quiet servitude."
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