I arrived early Sunday morning into Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, after a long haul flight from home. My day began Saturday at 3 am and after two fights totaling 16 hours I found myself in Africa’s highest capital Addis Ababa which translates into “new flower”.
The earliest people living in the Shewa region surrounding Addis Ababa date back to the 9th century and are believed to be the Gurage people. Over the centuries the Somalis and Abyssinian kingdoms laid claim to the land, followed by the arrival of the Oromo in the 1500s. The actual city of Addis Ababa was not founded until 1886 when Emperor Menelik II decided to move his military base from Mount Entoto to the vast fertile plains below of Addis Ababa.
Today, Addis Ababa is Ethiopia’s largest city with an estimated population of over 3 million people and is a magical place where tradition and modernity are intertwined in unexpected ways. Walking down the busy streets of Addis Ababa you can see high rises and western hotels reaching towards the sky juxtaposed with dirt sidewalks, donkeys leaving the market and undeveloped slums. It is a place filled with contradiction. Looking outside the window of my newly built luxurious western hotel lies one of many slums slightly hidden behind corrugated tin fences and walls. Men in well-tailored suits sit outside in a chairs along dirt sidewalks getting a shoe shine. High rise buildings are going up alongside a pell-mell of depressing slums. Everywhere you look is something that makes you scratch your head and wonder.
Ethiopia is often referred to the cradle of mankind where the remains of the oldest and most complete hominid every found, named Lucy (dating back 3.2 million years) were found. Ethiopia was part of “Gondwanaland” which is known as the earth’s first continent six hundred million years ago. Today, Ethiopia has a population estimated at 90 million people and is one of the most diverse nations in the world with over 83 distinct languages and 200 dialects.
A little under half of the population are Orthodox Christians and the next largest religious group are Muslims making up around 34% of the population. Although there are so many different languages in Ethiopia, the population can be broken down into eight broad groups of ethnicities. The Oromo and the Amhara make up the largest percentage of the population with the Oromo being the largest ethnic group in the country making up around 34.5% and the Amhara making up around 26.9%. The other important groups include the Somali (6.2%), the Sidama (4%), the Gurage (2%), the Afar (1.7%), and the smaller groups of the Harari and the Falashas (Ethiopian Jews).
In Ethiopia over 90% of the population live outside cities in rural areas making a living off the land, mainly as subsistence farmers. Agriculture is the backbone of the Ethiopian economy with the main exports being coffee, oil seeds, flowers, vegetables and animal feed. Given the fact that only 10% of the land is truly arable and Ethiopia is prone to errant rainfall pattens, severe drought and famine have struck the nation especially in the Northern highlands. The 1984 famine gained worldwide attention as 1 million people died, and was one of the worst famines in history. Droughts continue to be a huge problem in Ethiopia and unfortunately the nation has very little food reserves meaning a severe drought can be a matter of life and death.
Per the World Bank,”as one of the world’s oldest civilizations, Ethiopia is also one of the world’s poorest countries. The country’s per capita income of $410 is substantially lower than the regional average.” Ethiopia has a struggling economy in transition desperately trying to modernize in order to lift its population out of poverty. Although the country has experienced strong growth over the past decade and the percentage of Ethiopians living in extreme poverty (less than $0.6 per day in Ethiopia) has reduced from 38.7% of Ethiopians (2005) to 29.6% (2010), there is still a long way to go. (Source: World Bank, 2013).
Over my next two weeks in Ethiopia I look forward to learning more about Ethiopia’s maternal, child and newborn health. We are meeting with a wide variety of NGOs, doctors, health extension workers and government officials in order to get a comprehensive understanding of Ethiopia’s strategy. It has already been a fascinating trip and I can’t wait to learn more. Stay tuned…
I am reporting from Ethiopia as a fellow with the International Reporting Project (IRP). My first post on #EthiopiaNewborns for the International Reporting Project is up on World Moms Blog: “Field Report #EthiopiaNewborns: An Overview of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Ethiopia“.
Good on you Nicole 🙂
Glad you have arrived safely. I look forward to more from Ethiopia. As always your posts and photos transport me to the land. Thank you.
Thanks Sue! 🙂
You so inspire me to always do my good deed in the world, to spread positivity, to find the beauty in everything, and to help others! Good on you for doing this!
Thank you! 🙂 I try my best.
Great post with interesting information. Lookng forward to more.
Thanks Angeline! 🙂
Great, informative post…. And your images bring the place to life. Like Angeline, I’m looking forward to seeing, and reading, more.
Thank you so much! Much more to come!
Great, look forward to your posts!
I love the way you show us so many sides of the places you visit Nicole
Oh thanks Jo! Much more to come! Been an exhilarating and exhausting trip. Can’t wait to share more!
Fascinating to read your descriptions of the contradiction inherent in the country. Can’t wait for more, Nicole!
Hugs from Ecuador,
Thanks Kathy! 🙂
I love how you capture place.
Really interesting to read about the contradictions in society . Looking forward to reading more.
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post!
I surely did as I do most of your work!
Great post, Nicole!! I’m excited to follow your adventure and learn more about how we can help newborns in Ethiopia!!
Thanks Jennifer! We are having a great time and learning so much. Wonderful trip!
So interesting to see a part of the world most of us know very little about. Thank you for posting!
So glad you enjoyed! Thanks and more posts are coming!
I look forward to hearing more about your experience in Ethiopa.
Thinking of your stupendous experience in another world that is very different from ours in so many ways.
Thanks Sally. It has been a very eye opening trip so far. Wow.
Looking forward to more of your posts….very fascinating
It’s extremely interesting to see your pics, Nicole. I’ve always imagined Ethiopia, just as you describe it. To live with such poverty, must be wretched, and yet the people you show here, look quite content with their lot, and just go about their daily business, as though this is the norm. We have so much to be grateful for, and I do so admire the work that you and your colleagues are doing.
Yes you said it exactly right. It is hard though to see so much incredible poverty. Most children and adults don’t wear shoes and their clothes are ripped, dirty and full of holes. It takes you really aback.
Interesting, Nicole. Keep ’em coming. TA & Rose
Thanks TA And Rose. Rose, you would be amazed being here and seeing how it is all done.
Thanks for this informative post Nicole. I know so little about this country and I am anxiously looking forward to more of your posts.