Ethiopia in brief.

Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest country and, apart from the brief Italian invasion from 1936 to 1940, it has never been colonised. It is a country of contrasts with the most extensive highland area in Africa and the lowest and hottest desert.

The devastating droughts and famines of Ethiopia in the 1970s and 80s and the long running civil war with Eritrea put the country and the plight of Africa’s poor on the map. Images of children with bloated bellies and men and women reduced to skin and bone stirred a global outcry.

Prior to 1974, Ethiopia had an estimated illiteracy rate well above 90% and compared poorly with the rest of Africa in the provision of schools and universities. Since then there has been a steady improvement but illiteracy rate is still aprox 60%

Ethiopia is heavily dependent on its agricultural base which is why droughts and famines have such a crippling effect on its economy and people. For the average Ethiopian life is a daily struggle. Infant mortality is high and the majority of people do not have access to basic healthcare. The country is also severely affected by HIV/AIDs with about 2.2 million people living with HIV/AIDs and an estimated 1.2 million children have been orphaned.

Area: 130,000 sq km (9 times area of England)

Population: 76 million

Life expectancy: 49 years.

Subsistence farmers/families: 80%

Number of orphans: 1.2 million

Children attending school: 1/3

Religions: Christian 60.8% Muslim 32.8% Traditional 4.6% Other 1.8%

Highest point: Ras Dashen 4620m (15,200ft)