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Africa's our neighbour. When it burns, we smell the smoke. It stings our eyes, it sears our conscience, but maybe not as much as it should... Bono

About Ethiopia

ethiopiaEthiopia, situated in the Horn of Africa, is the third-most populous nation in Africa. It’s heralded as the cradle of humanity since its human history dates back almost five million years. Ethiopia is also the only country in Africa that was never colonized and therefore is unique in its history of continuous sovereignty.

Traditionally, Ethiopia’s economy was based on subsistence agriculture, with an aristocracy that consumed the surplus. For a number of reasons, the peasants lacked the incentive to improve production or to store the excess harvest, and so they existed from harvest to harvest, vulnerable to crop failures. Despite the extensive modernization of Ethiopia over the last century, the overwhelming majority of its 90 million population are still peasants who continue to live in the same way.

In Northern Ethiopia, the failure of the short rains together with the insurgency of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front and the government’s counter insurgency resulted in the famine of 1984. In the south, a separate and simultaneous famine is associated with the Oromo Liberation Front insurgency. The estimated death toll of the famines was over one million.

Tigray is the northernmost of the nine ethnic regions of Ethiopia containing the homeland of the Tigray people. The region is bordered by Eritrea to the north (independent from Ethiopia since 1993), Sudan to the west, the Afar Region to the east and the Amhara Region to the south. Besides Mekele, other major towns and cities in Tigray include Abiy Addi, Adigrat, Adwa, Aksum, Humera, Inda Selassie, Korem, Alamata, Maychew, Wukro, Qwiha, and Zalambessa, as well as the historically significant village of Yeha.

Based on the 2007 Census conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA), Tigray has an estimated total population of 4,314,456, of whom 2,124,853 are men and 2,189,603 women. With an estimated area of 50,078.64 square kilometers, this region has an estimated density of 86.15 people per square kilometer.

boy-with-sheepAccording to the CSA, around 54% of the total population had access to safe drinking water. 32% of the inhabitants fall into the lowest wealth quintile; adult literacy for men is 67% and for women 34%; and the regional infant mortality rate is 67 infant deaths per 1,000 live births (less than the nationwide average of 77); at least half of these deaths occurred in the infants’ first month of life.

During the 1984-1985 famine in Ethiopia, Mekele (Tigray’s capital) was notorious for the seven “hunger camps” around the city, which housed 75,000 refugees with 20,000 more waiting to enter. During March 1985, 50-60 people died in those camps every day. In February 1986, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front released 1,800 political prisoners from the Mekele prison in a daring military action.