Africa Ethiopia’s Progress In Combating HIV and AIDs
Just How Are Those Millennium Development Goals Progressing? Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDs, Malaria and other diseases.
The huge and ancient nation of Ethiopia, has a long and proud history. Claiming to have had one of the oldest Christian imperial dynasties in the world, Ethiopia is one of two African nations which has enjoyed lengthy independence from the outside world.
Although this article is mostly concerned with Ethiopia’s progress in attaining Millennium Development Goal 6, that of combating HIV/AIDs and other diseases, it’s probably useful to get a brief outline of its history, so that you can see how it came to be in the situation it is in today.
The Ethiopian, or Abyssinian as it was then known, Empire was founded in 1889. Initial success at modernizing the nation coincided with a horrific famine which killed one third of Ethiopia’s population and a brief war with Italy, which Ethiopia managed to win, despite the odds. However, the Italians returned in a more successful attempt to wrest sovereignty from Ethiopia in 1936. Ethiopia was lucky enough to be restored to full independence immediately after it, with Britain’s help, threw off the Italian yoke, whereas many nations were taken under the temporary wing of the victorious nations in the second world wars aftermath.
Ethiopia still looked to be a successful nation in the second half of the 20th century, firstly by federating with Eretria whilst consolidating past social successes. However, this federation was only to last ten years before the first bitter blow to Ethiopia would be dealt that would start Ethiopia off into decline. War broke out with Eretria which would last for almost 30 years, a constant thorn in the side of Ethiopia’s government.
The second factor which knocked Ethiopia back was thirteen years of communist rule, which deposed the ancient dynasty, killed many supposed dissidents and did not improve infrastructure so many would suffer from famine. Indeed famine was used as a form of control in the Soviet era. Although the communist government fell after the USSR came to an end, these factors in conjunction left Ethiopia the land it is today, which although it has a democratically elected government, still bears witness to the legacy of the social upheaval it has suffered, as well as the terminally weak infrastructure Ethiopia has inherited.
One Who Recovers From Sickness, Soon Forgets About God
If the above Ethiopian proverb is true, then many there must be devout believers. 4.4% of it 82.2 million population are estimated by the UN to have HIV or AIDs. The rate of prevalence of the disease has been estimated from between 7% and 18%. In a country where latest statistics put the amount of physicians per 100,000 people at 2.6, AIDs and HIV are only one of many health problems that many of the impoverished population suffer. However, AIDs and HIV are exasperated further by the high levels of malnutrition and poor sanitation which likewise afflicts Ethiopia.
However, the government of Ethiopia is trying to rectify the problem which has so far cut 7 years from their peoples life expectancy. Much government spending has been diverted to the spreading of drugs to combat the diseases, as well as to attempt to employ more health workers and set up health care centers and hospitals. Some areas of Ethiopia are not suffering as badly as others, but much of this is related to the infrastructure of the nation, as more rural areas are still quite difficult to keep in contact with in comparison to the urbanized parts of the country.
There are three main problems which contribute to the AIDs/HIV problem in Ethiopia. The first is being combated by an additional prong in the governments offensive against the illnesses. This is preventative education, which hopes to stop people from getting AIDs/HIV. This weapon is up against that of the lack of use of contraception. The largely Christian population barely use contraception, it being estimated that only 6% of the population actually doing so. The churches of Ethiopia are either vague or against the use of contraception, something which would certainly stem the tide of AIDs/HIV somewhat. A huge educational campaign, especially focused on schools is therefore being enacted in order to redress this balance. However, with many religious beliefs prevailing in Ethiopia, it must be wondered just how effective the campaign shall be.
The second major problem is that Ethiopia is a victim of the success of other more economically prosperous lands. Many trained professionals quickly leave their homeland, taking their skills with them. This leaves Ethiopia in a drought, not only the normal kind, but also of health professionals who could better the lives of their fellow countrymen, as they seek out better lives for themselves in richer countries. The solution to this problem is not easy, as will be highlighted by the third reason.
Of course, Ethiopia, despite its natural resources, is not a rich country. Foreign investment is almost nil, and it is extremely difficult for even natives of Ethiopia to set up industry. This comes mostly from the fact that it is against the constitution to own land in Ethiopia, making property rights very weak. Likewise, with much industry being owned by the state and their being little protection for people who might want to take risks or develop new ideas, it is a very sparse environment to do business in. Agriculture however does bring a reasonable amount of wealth to Ethiopia, and by having much of the industry in the hands of the state is not necessarily a bad thing. However, in the case of Ethiopia, it cannot get the sums of money it needs to provide its citizens what they need. This means that Ethiopia cannot pay its doctors market rates, and so they leave. Likewise, the infrastructure of the country cannot be developed significantly, nor can the right drugs be distributed in significant quantities, further irritating the problem.
What one hopes for is always better than what one has
So, should Ethiopia just give up? Or should the country privatize its industry and secure property rights so as to attract international investors? Well, it might be better for a more Ethiopian attempt at a solution. Although I believe creating more stable property rights (in fact, allowing people to own property at all) will go a long way to make Ethiopia more an attractive country for investment, it won’t solve their health crisis. Now, Ethiopia has committed itself to preserving and improving the health of its citizens in an admirable way, increase spending by 37% over ten years, however, the just don’t have enough money to put into healthcare that is needed.
A project which might go some way in generating the cash to help Ethiopia with many social projects could be the proposed Nile dam. It has been agreed by many of the nations which the Nile passes through (with the notable exception of Egypt) to build a damn on the border of Ethiopia and Sudan. Such a damn will be expensive, costing $4.78 billion, however it is projected that it could generate 15,000 MW of power in ten years, power which it could sell to neighboring countries. Of course the idea of a joint venture between nations might be a little tense, considering the weak property rights in Ethiopia, but, could such an agreement be reached where the other Nile countries would contribute to the dam, then perhaps Ethiopia could create enough wealth to put a big dent in their AIDs/HIV problem, whilst almost certainly helping rectify partly their 50% unemployment problem.
The dam will of course not solve everything, and although close, is not yet realized, so may not even be built. It would be a step in the right direction however, also increasing cooperation with neighboring countries, perhaps helping create ties with the world’s newest state, South Sudan. But a source of potential wealth is necessary to lift Ethiopia out of this economic quagmire, and the solution of a dam will not erode their governments socialist ideas nor violate their constitution. A big gesture like this is necessary to truly have a chance at combating AIDs and HIV as well as the other poverty related problems Ethiopia suffers from. It is possible that with continued commitment, that although Ethiopia will unlikely reach its target of Millennium Development Goal 6 in time, it may well in the not too distant future.
Library of congress country file: Ethiopia
Assessment of the Training of the First Intake of Health Extension Workers by Yayehyirad Kitaw, Yemane Ye-Ebiyo, Amir Said, Hailay Desta, and Awash Teklehaimanot
Ethiopia Atlas of Key Demographic and Health Indicators
World Health Organisation
CIA world factbook