About Ethiopia & ONE

ethiopia.pngA month from today I head to Ethiopia as part of ONE Moms. I went to get my first round of vaccinations this week and while I was waiting, I inhaled the Ethiopia culture report shared by the travel clinic. And today I wanted to take a cue from Asha (the candor of her post hit a nerve for me) and share some facts about Ethiopia and ONE. I shared many of these facts with Laurel (who accompanied me to the clinic) and she was fascinated by it all. This trip will clearly be a game changer for me, not only for personal reasons but because it has already made me realize that I need to share more of the world with Laurel.

  • Ethiopia is about twice the size of France, or the size of California and Texas combined.
  • Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa.
  • The population in Ethiopia is 90.9 million, growing 3.2% annually, one of the highest growth rates in the world.
  • The official languages of Ethiopia include Amharic, English, and Arabic. More than 80 other languages (of which there are more than 200 dialects) are also spoken in Ethiopia.
  • About 44% of the population belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and about 34% are Muslims.


  • Ethiopians value tradition and are known as a friendly people.
  • If you are meeting for the first time, it's customary to shake hands gently with one or both hands, keep some distance, and avoid prolonged eye contact. Pointing with a finger or foot is not appropriate (use of the entire hand is recommended), nor is keeping your hands in your pockets.
  • Families are close knit and multiple generations in the male line often live under one roof.
  • Gender roles are clearly defined: patriarchal. Women lead restricted lives with lesser rights. Domestic violence against women is common and generally accepted. However, pregnant women are treated with great care.


  • Nearly all Ethiopians are subsistence farmers who are struggling just to feed their families. (I read a lot about this -- and the movement to turn this trend around -- in Roger Thurow's The Last Hunger Season.)
  • The rainy season is from mid-June to mid-September in the highlands, and October to February is extremely dry. Rainfall varies each year, which is extremely problematic for the two main sources of sustenance for much of the population: agriculture and animal husbandry. Only about 10% of the land is arable.
  • Classrooms are overcrowded; in primary school, the student/teacher ratio is on average 70:1.
  • Education for women is not valued. About 35% of women are literate (50% for men).
  • Most Ethiopians do not have access to adequate medical care. Life expectancy is low (ages 54 for men, 59 for women).
  • Infant mortality is extremely high (77 in 1,000 births).
  • Malnutrition and diseases such as malaria, meningitis, cholera, and yellow fever are common and outbreaks can be devastating since few citizens are vaccinated.
  • Only about 40% of the population has access to safe water.

There was a lot more information in the culture report re: food, traditions, recreation, and the arts, but the above was what struck me most immediately. To learn more about Ethiopia and other countries, visit CultureGrams.


ONE is a non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. They work with government leaders to support proven, cost-effective solutions to save lives and help build sustainable futures. They are not a charity or grant-making organization (i.e., they don't ask for donations, only your voice). They are advocates for American (and other developed nations) investment in smart programs that work on the ground: helping to eliminate extreme poverty and preventable disease in a sustainable way.


Next month I will travel with ONE to Addis, Tigray, and other communities, where we'll meet with women, farmers, school kids, and visit health clinics. We will visit organizations and projects that have benefited from foreign assistance. As I read the culture report, the hardest parts for me to swallow were those around agriculture challenges (particularly having read Thurow's book) and the role of girls and women in Ethiopia. This journey will intersect with International Day of the Girl and I know I will have so much more to share at that time.

Meanwhile, will you join the ONE Moms movement? It's simple and easy. No need for the shots and anti-malaria medication (I'll happily take those for you!); we just need your voice.

Image credit: Wikipedia