Djibouti Social Condition Facts

Social conditions

Poverty is widespread in Djibouti, where the social conditions of the vast majority of residents are difficult. A minority of the population has access to basic health care. According to the UN, every fourth Djibouti is dependent on some form of foreign aid.

The civil war in the 1990s and a number of years of severe drought subsequently deteriorated the living conditions of the Djibouti. The income from the foreign military bases (see Economic overview) has only a small elite share. Many leave the countryside in search of work in the cities. There, unemployment is already high and many end up in the slums of cities instead.

During the second half of the 2010, over half of the Djibouti in rural areas suffered from food shortages, just over one in three rural residents lacked clean water and nearly a quarter lived in extreme poverty, according to UN agency Ocha. The IMF estimates that the proportion of extremely poor Djibouti is even greater: 41 percent in 2018.

djibouti population

Life expectancy is low, only 53 in 2019. Infant mortality is high, mainly due to widespread malnutrition. Every fifth child dies before it is five years old. Every third child under five is hampered by the plant due to a poor diet. Diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis, malaria and measles contribute to the high infant mortality.

Many women die during childbirth. Female genital mutilation is a widespread and serious health problem.

There is a larger hospital in the capital Djibouti and smaller health care facilities in other parts of the country. Medicines must be imported and are often expensive.

The abuse of the narcotic plant qat (khat) is extensive. Many analysts believe that the abuse of qat contributes greatly to the poverty in Djibouti, as households spend a large part of their income on qat. Previously, it was almost only men who chewed qat, but nowadays it is becoming more common even among women and young people of both sexes. According to the UN Children’s Fund Unicef, 13 percent of children aged 13 to 19 chew qat.

Family life and clans

A household in the Djibouti countryside often consists of several families. When a woman marries, she moves into the man’s family, which usually consists of several generations and generations. A man can marry up to four women. Since nomads rarely manage to build strong relationships with their neighbors, the family is all the more important. The older generation is treated with respect. In the cities, many live in nuclear families.

Like most nomadic people, the clan is an important part of the Afar and Issa people’s social lives. The children in the countryside are raised both by their family and by the clan members. In issa, education is somewhat freer than in aphas where discipline is tougher.

Afar is divided into two classes. The higher class is called asaimara (red man). The lower class, adoimara (white man), owns neither livestock, housing nor land.

The situation for women, children and LGBTQ people

Women are generally better off in Djibouti than in many neighboring countries, but gender discrimination occurs in, for example, education and inheritance law. Women are often subjected to violence and almost all girls are sexually abused despite being prohibited by law.

A quarter of the seats in the National Assembly are reserved for women. In 2008, the government legislated that women should hold at least 20 percent of the executive positions in the public sector.

Prostitution is forbidden, but still occurs, partly because there are so many foreign soldiers in the country.

Child labor and child labor are prohibited, but are still common.

Homosexuality is prohibited under Sharia law.


Infant Mortality: 50 per 1000 births (2018)

Percentage of HIV infected: 1.2 percent (2018)

Proportion of HIV infected among young women

0.6 percent (2018)

Proportion of HIV infected among young men: 0.4 percent (2018)

Proportion of population with access to clean water: 76.9 percent (2015)

Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 63.6 percent (2017)

Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 4.4 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on health care per person: US $ 70 (2016)

Proportion of women in parliament: 26 percent (2018)



Support for action against Somalia

Djibouti supports Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia and allows the US to use military bases in Djibouti to bomb targets in Somalia.

Human rights activist arrested

Jean Paul Noël Abdi, head of a Djiboutian human rights organization and Amnesty International’s representative in the country, is arrested for criticizing the government.