There are more than 41,000,000 children living in Ethiopia, 650,000 of them orphaned by AIDS, with a further 92,000 infected themselves. In total there are a staggering four million children who are orphans in Ethiopia, and is estimated that a further 200,000 children are becoming orphaned in Ethiopia every year. To understand some of these figures it should be noted that one in four Ethiopian women die during pregnancy or childbirth, a figure exacerbated by the fact that only 6% of all births are attended to be a suitably qualified and knowledgeable health professionals, partly because those who do get educated move abroad to earn their money. For example, there are more Ethiopian trained doctors living in Chicago than in the whole of Ethiopia. This lack of suitably qualified adults in all aspects of Ethiopian society is reflected in the general cultural aversion to education by society. Although children are expected to complete eight years of primary education which is free, two years in lower secondary school and the same again in higher secondary school, in reality most people in Ethiopia would prefer their children to work rather than attend school and by doing so complete household chores and contribute to the family income.
This is even more true in rural areas when attendance rates are much lower than in urban areas. This is reflected in literacy rates of 50% for males dropping to just 35% for females. As such 44% of all Ethiopian children grow up in poverty and few of them can expect to see their fiftieth birthday. For those who do manage to survive there are the ongoing issues of food security with around five million Ethiopians in chronic food shortage given the repeated droughts of recent years. This is having an impact on children living in urban areas of Ethiopia as the lack of food production is driving up prices in cities such as Addis Ababa where malnutrition is becoming ripe with the price of wheat alone having gone up by 80% in just twelve months.
Most Ethiopian children live in rural communities in large family groups often having six brothers and sisters. Despite these large families, most rural homes which are self-built or inherited have just two rooms, one for storage and the other for everything else. Neither have electricity nor running water which is collected from a nearby well either by the mother or the children. Ethiopia has one of the poorest clean water and sanitation rates in sub-Saharan Africa and indeed the entire world with 98% for urban areas and just 26% in rural areas although this has improved from 17% for safe water and 4% for sanitation since 1990. In some areas in south-west Ethiopia women and children have to make 3-5 round trips a day to collect dirty water in jerry cans with each trip lasting some three hours.
Roles are very traditional with the men working their small farms of usually three acres or less (85% of the population relies upon agriculture) whilst women cook, clean and look after the children with older girls sweeping the home and helping to care for their younger siblings whilst boys tend to the livestock and looking after the land. Girls in Ethiopia can marry at age 14yrs whilst boys can marry at 18yrs and can choose their own brides whilst girls have no choice. When not working or after school Ethiopian children enjoy playing football, basketball and volleyball as well as hide and seek. Ethiopian children are taught from a young age to be respectful of their elders, not to talk back or interrupt their parents and to have self-discipline with boys who are considered studious gaining the respect of their family and local community.
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