Ethiopia Social Condition Facts

Social conditions

Most Ethiopians live in rural areas under scarce conditions. The country is often suffering from famine and the rapid population increase is tempting to already strained resources. Despite major investments in health care and education since the 1990s, Ethiopia ranks far below the UN index on human development.

In the mid-1990s, almost half the population lived in poverty, a proportion that fell to just under a quarter 20 years later. Yet, around 25 million Ethiopians were estimated to be poor in 2019. Still, illiteracy is widespread, food shortages are a major problem and mortality in infectious diseases is high.

The proportion of residents with too low nutrient intake decreased from almost half of 2004 to less than a third a few years into the 2010s. It is still a high level and many people also risk being starved again if the crops fail.

ethiopia population

However, life expectancy has increased rapidly and mortality among children has decreased. The most common cause of death is diarrhea, usually caused by waterborne parasitic diseases that lead to dehydration. The proportion of residents with access to clean water is steadily increasing, but from a low level. More than a third of the population is now estimated to have clean water, while fewer than one in ten residents have a functioning drainage system.

Infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS are a major health problem. Malaria contributes to many of the deaths of children under five. However, much is spent on preventative work and many children now sleep protected by impregnated mosquito nets.

AIDS does not spread as widely in Ethiopia as in some other countries in Africa, but the viral disease is still a major societal problem. About one in 100 adult residents are estimated to be HIV infected. Women are affected to a much greater extent than men, and urban residents more than rural residents. Investments are being made in information campaigns to reduce the spread of HIV and to increase the distribution of brake medicines.

The few Ethiopians who have a formal job are entitled to pensions and certain social benefits, but most are outside the weak social insurance system. Informal systems exist, where people within a neighborhood, profession or family gather funds and help one another as needed.

Daily life

In general, life is somewhat easier in the cities. But housing shortages prevail and slums are growing. To remedy the housing problems, the authorities have built large residential complexes in the suburbs of Addis Adeba. In the countryside, schools and health centers have been built, which were previously rare outside the cities.

A traditional dwelling is a round hut with a peaked roof and walls made of braided branchwork and cushions or mud.

The woman has a vulnerable position. Domestic violence is common. Many are given away as young, although by law you must be 18 years old to enter into marriage. Rural women carry the greatest workload and are often forced to walk several hours a day to fetch water. Maternal mortality is very high. Many women suffer from complications during childbirth because of their genital mutilation. About three out of four women in Ethiopia are estimated to have been subjected to genital mutilation, although it is now prohibited by law. The proportion of young people is lower.

Child marriage is common, it happens that girls are given away when they are only seven years old. In the state of Amhara, the average age of marriage is 15 years among girls.

In most ethnic groups, a patriarchal family pattern dominates, with men having a dominant role. Relationships are counted on both sides but are more important on the father’s side. In marriage, the newlywed couple usually settles near the husband’s family. Often there is a wedding gift from the husband’s family to the woman’s. What it consists of varies, it can be livestock or money. Marriage is considered to represent a union between two families, they are generally arranged even though those involved often have something to say about. Divorce is unusual.

It is not uncommon for large families where three or four generations live together under one roof. High age gives status and adult children are expected to take care of their parents as they age. The upbringing of the children is the responsibility of the whole family.

Children, especially in rural areas, are expected to participate in household chores. Girls often have more tasks than boys and are more often forced to stay home from school because of it. Body saga is formally prohibited in school, but it is common anyway.

Homosexuality is prohibited by law and can result in long prison sentences. In society, LGBTQ people are generally discriminated against.


Infant Mortality: 39 per 1000 births (2018)

Percentage of HIV infected: 1.0 percent (2018)

Proportion of HIV infected among young women

0.4 percent (2018)

Proportion of HIV infected among young men: 0.2 percent (2018)

Proportion of population with access to clean water: 39.1 percent (2015)

Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 7.3 percent (2017)

Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 4.0 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on health care per person: 28 US dollars (2016)

Proportion of women in parliament: 39 percent (2018)



Ethiopian troops enter Somalia

Hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers are reported to enter Somalia. The troops move to the town of Guriel in central Somalia where they join a Somali militia group that stands on the Mogadishu government’s side in the fight against al-Shabaab guerrillas. The troop movement is said to be the largest since Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia in 2006. The data is denied by the Ethiopian government.


Large food shortage due to drought

The UN reports on alarmingly high death rates among Somali refugee children. The number of refugees across the border is increasing rapidly due to the ongoing drought disaster. Even in Ethiopia, many are suffering from the famine; The UN Food Program WFP reports that 3.7 million Ethiopians are assisting with food.


Death sentences are converted

The president transforms the death sentences into life imprisonment for 23 of those convicted of crimes during the military regime 1974-1991. The death sentence remains against the former dictator Mengistu and two others who are abroad – pardon can by law only include those who serve a prison sentence.


The government is accused of killing civilians

The ONLF rebel group claims that the government has killed around 100 civilians in connection with a military operation in Ogaden.


Aggressive tone against Eritrea

The government strikes a more aggressive tone against Eritrea, threatening to oust Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki.

Opposition grabbed

Opposition Alliance Medrek claims that over 250 members, mainly oromos, have been arrested for over a week. At the end of the month, the government confirms that 121 are being held in custody.