Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why Ethiopia?

Since we began the adoption process, many have asked "why Ethiopia?" 

While it's true there are so many children--in the United States and elsewhere around the world--in need of a loving home, the plight of African children is dire.  And sadly, Ethiopia is one of only a few African nations that is currently open to international adoption.

Ethiopia is a country of children in desperate need.

A high birthrate and refugees from Somalia have strained Ethiopia's resources.
  • There are 43 births annually per 1,000 people (as compared to 13.8 births per 1,000 here in the US)
  • Conflict, famine and drought have led to widespread population migrations in Africa
  • An estimated 97,300 refugees have fled to Ethiopia
Many children don't survive the conditions in Ethiopia.
  • The infant mortality rate is 77 deaths per 1,000 live births (compared to 6 per 1,000 in the US)
  • Of those born alive
    • 1 in 20 will die in their 1st month
    • 1 in 10 will die before their 1st birthday
    • 1 in 6 will die before their 5th birthday
  • 70% of these deaths are from causes that are totally preventable and directly related to the lack of access to adequate food, clean water, and medicine
  • Only 12% have access to improved sanitation facilities (compared to 100% in the US)
  • Only 38% of Ethiopians have access to improved water facilities (compared to 99% in the US)
  • And water from the "improved" water facilities often contains coliform bacteria and even Hepatitis A.
Those children who do survive face constant challenges.
  • 34.6% of children under 5 are underweight (compared to 1.3% in the US)
  • 60% of children in Ethiopia are stunted in some way because of malnutrition
Poverty and famine are widespread.
  • 38.9% of people in Ethiopia live below the Ethiopian poverty line
  • One third of the population survives on less than $1 US per day
  • 20.5% of the workforce is unemployed
  • In the 1990s, the population grew faster (3%) than food production (2.2%)
  • Drought struck the country from 2000-2002 (first year no crops, second year no seeds, third year no animals)
  • 7 million people face starvation
  • Coffee prices (Ethiopia's only major export) fell 40-60% from 1998-2002
  • Per capita, Ethiopia receives less aid than any other country in Africa
HIV/AIDS has devastated Ethiopia.
  • 1.8 million Ethiopian adults are infected with HIV
  • In 2005, there were almost 5 million total orphans in Ethiopia, 744,000 of whom had been orphaned by AIDS
  • By 2011, the number of AIDS orphans had climbed to 1 million
Combine this with a lack of access to doctors and hospitals.
  • Ethiopia's doctor to patient ratio is 1 to 33,500 (the ratio is 1 to 390 in the US)
  • Ethiopia's doctor to child ratio is 1 to 24,000
  • Health expenditures are 3.6% of GDP in Ethiopia (compared to 16.2% in the US)
  • There are 0.18 hospital beds per 1,000 people in Ethiopia (compared to 3.1 beds per 1,000 in the US)
And the result is there are not enough adults in Ethiopia to care for the nation's children.
  • 46.3% of the population is under 15 years old
  • The median age in Ethiopia is 16.8 years (compared to 36.9 years here in the US)
  • Life expectancy at birth is 56 years (here in the US it's 78 years)
  • Only 2.7% of the people in Ethiopia today are 65 years of age or older (compared to 13.1% in the US)
Most Ethiopian children receive little to no education.
  • Half the children in Ethiopia will never attend school
  • 88% of children will never attend secondary school
  • Only 43% of those 15 years and older are literate (compared to 99% in the US) 
Conflict continues to affect Ethiopia.

  • In 1993, after 30 long years of war, Eritrea broke from Ethiopia and became an independent nation.
  • This left Ethiopia landlocked without any major seafaring ports.
  • And despite signing a peace treaty in 2000, the conflict with Eritrea continues to devastate the Ethiopian people and economy. 
  • According to the US State Department, the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea continues to be classified a "militarized zone"where the possibility of armed conflict continues to exist.
  • A nation that struggles to feed its people continues to spend millions annually on military defense in response to terrorist attacks.
So the question really is, knowing all of this, "how could we not adopt from Ethiopia?"

As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.  --Paul Shane Spear


  1. Wow. Kathleen, you and your husband are angels!! I had no idea about these statistics...God bless you guys!! :) Can't wait to see the little one!

  2. We take so much for granted here. I wouldn't call us "angels," though that's super sweet of you. :) We're just thankful we have so much to share with our little guy. And from a selfish standpoint, I think we'll get even more out of it than he does.

  3. Many good reasons, for sure. Can't wait to see how it unfolds-so excited for you!

  4. That is some of the saddest statistics I've ever read. Personally I think it's a little weird (and rude) that anyone would question where you're looking to adopt from.

    You and your hubby are amazing people and your kid is going to be so lucky to have such great parents!

  5. Thanks, Jenni. The questions have all been pure curiosity, not judgmental in any way. Sorry for not making that more clear in my blog post. Neither Brad nor I have ever traveled to Africa, nor did we have any "connection" to the country, so I think people have just wondered. Especially since people are generally more familiar with other countries (like China) when it comes to international adoption.