Ethiopia is a country beset by years of war, severe drought, and epidemics, and crippled economically and socially. One of the oldest countries in the world, Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous nation.
• One in ten children die before their first birthday.
• One in six children die before their fifth birthday.
• 60 percent of children in Ethiopia are stunted because of malnutrition.
• 1.5 million people in Ethiopia are infected with HIV (sixth highest country in the world).
• 720,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS alone, and there are 5 million orphans
• Half the children in Ethiopia will never attend school. 88 percent will never attend secondary school.
• Ethiopia’s doctor to children ratio is 1 to 24,000.
Religion is a secure and accepted element of everyday life in Ethiopia; even the language is full of references to God.
On the central plateau, the Ethiopian Orthodox church dominates. Priests and deacons abound in their often colorful robes, carrying their staffs and ornate crosses that people frequently kiss as they pass. Christianity came to Ethiopia in ancient times and became the official Ethiopian religion in the fourth century. The Orthodox Church has many connections with ancient Judaism.
Islam is also very strong in many parts of Ethiopia, frequently existing peaceably alongside Christianity. The city of Harar, in the east of the country, is officially the fourth most holy Muslim site in the world. In the lowland areas, animistic and pagan religions are still commonly found among tribal peoples who live in simple communities.
The constitution provides for freedom of religion and the government generally respects this right in practice; however, on occasion government authorities infringe on this right. The government officially recognizes both Christian and Muslim holy days and continues to mandate a two-hour lunch break on Fridays to allow Muslims to go to a mosque to pray.
Source: U.S. Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report 2004, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor