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Ethiopia is characterized by a predominantly rural and impoverished population with limited access to safe water, housing, sanitation, food and health care. Estimated life expectancy at birth is 57 years for males and 60 years for females.[1] The burden of disease measured in terms of premature death is estimated at 350 disability adjusted life years lost per 1000 population, which is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.

The disease burden, responsible for 74% of deaths and 81% of disability adjusted life years lost per year, is dominated by malaria, prenatal and maternal death, acute respiratory infection, nutrition deficiency, diarrhoea and HIV/AIDS.[2]

In addition to the widespread poverty and low income level of the population, a low literacy rate (mainly among women) and lack of access to health care have contributed to ill health in the country.[3]

Ethiopia has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality ratios, with an average 675 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births.[4] The main strategy for maternal mortality rate reduction is community empowerment via the health development army to:

  • recognize pregnancy-related risks;
  • ensure access to a core package of maternal and neonatal health services that creates a supportive safe environment for safe motherhood and newborns.

The infant mortality rate is 59 deaths per 1000 live births, while the overall under-five mortality rate is 88 per 1000 live births. A total of 67% of all deaths of children aged under 5 years in Ethiopia take place before a child’s first birthday.[4]

However, these levels are considerably lower than those reported in the Ethiopian demographic and health survey, 2005.[5] The infant mortality rate has decreased by 23%, from 77 to 59 per 1000 live births, while the under-five mortality rate has decreased by 28%, from 123 to 88 per 1000 live births.[4]

Nevertheless, neonatal deaths and deaths in children aged under 5 years are responsible for 30% of all annual deaths and are caused mainly by diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia.[1]

There is also a high mortality and disease burden from nutrition-related factors among children under the age of 5 years. A total of 34.6% of children are born underweight, while 50.7% are stunted. Stunting (low height-for-age) reflects the cumulative effects of undernutrition and infection since birth and even prior to birth.[1]

The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS is 2.4%, which is low compared with other sub-Saharan African countries, and there are 1.1 million people living with HIV. The HIV prevalence rate exhibits a marked variation between urban and rural populations at 7.7% and 0.9%, respectively.

The epidemic pattern is heterogeneous, with disparity in different regions. The prevalence has been stabilized as a result of dedicated investment and campaigning against epidemics in terms of education, treatment, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission.[6]

Nearly three quarters of Ethiopia is considered to be malaria prone. A malaria epidemic occurs every 5–8 years with frequent outbreaks within short intervals. Annual average malaria cases reached 3 million during 2000–2005; however, the number of cases fell to 1.7 million in 2009. The lower levels of malaria mortality after 2004 are associated with an expansion of the malaria control programme.[7]

Ethiopia ranks third in Africa and eight out of the 22 highest tuberculosis (TB) burdened countries in the world. The prevalence of all forms of TB is estimated at 527 per 100 000 population, leading to a 64 per 100 000 population mortality rate annually. The incidence rate of all forms of TB is estimated at 359 per 100 000 population, while the incidence rate of smear-positive TB is estimated at 163 per 100 000.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 World health statistics 2010 (pdf 4.62Mb). Geneva, World Health Organization, 2010
  2. Government of Ethiopia, Ministry of Health
  3. 3.0 3.1 Situation analysis and needs assessment (SANA) on the Libreville Declaration on health and environment interlinkage country report (pdf 5.72Mb). Addis Ababa, Federal Government of Ethiopia, 2010
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Ethiopian demographic and health survey, 2011 (pdf 683.08kb). Addis Ababa, Central Statistics Agency; Calverton Maryland, ICF Macro, 2011
  5. Ethiopian demographic and health survey, 2005 (pdf 2.02Mb). Addis Ababa, Central Statistical Agency; Calverton MA, ORC Macro, 2006
  6. Trends and prospects for meeting Millennium Development Goals by 2012. Millennium Development Goals report. Addis Ababa, Government of Ethiopia, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, 2010
  7. World malaria report, 2010 (pdf 9.85Mb). Geneva, World Health Organization, 2010