Information about Ethiopia


The first historical mentioning of Ethiopia can be traced back to Egyptian writings, dated to about 3,000 BC, which refer to trade connections with this region.
Starting from the 1st century AD there was the Axumite Empire. When the Greek, who had trade connections with the Axumites, saw them for the first time, they called them the "people with the burned faces". And therefore a Greek term became the origin of the name "Ethiopia". According to the legend, Salomon fathered a child when he paid a visit to the Queen of Saba: Menelik, who was to become the first emperor of Ethiopia.

In the 4th century, Christianity was introduced in Ethiopia by Bishop Frumentius and over the following centuries missionaries also reached adjoining kingdoms in Nubia. At this time, Ethiopia was one of the four kingdoms of earth. As did his contemporary, Emperor Constantine the Great, King Ezana converted to Christianity and his country became one of the oldest Christian countries of the earth. Substantial destruction was caused during Muslim attacks in the 16th century, but in the end the attackers could be warded off.

Ethiopia is the only African country that never was colonised, and its population is very proud of this fact. From 1935 to 1941 is was occupied by Mussolini's troops, but it could be liberated in the Battle of Adwa. Emperor Haile Selassie could return from exile and governed until 1974. Centuries of feudal structures had led to an enormous gap between rich and poor and the fact that the emperor ignored the famine in his own country caused an uprising.

The emperor was brought down by the DERG and many of those belonging to the former elite were killed, among them also Haile Selassie and his family. Government was then taken over by General Mengistu and together with the GDR and the Soviet Union he established a communist state. Further famines claimed numerous human lives. In 1991 Mengistu fled to Zimbabwe and the EPRD (Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front) brought down the regime. Since then, Ethiopia has been referred to as Democtratic Federal Republic and the country is on its way to democracy.

Size and Population

73 million inhabitants, a life expectancy of 44 years, the majority of the population live in extreme poverty, average per capita income is below 100.- US$. 18 % of the children die below the age of 5 and 80 % of the people do not dispose of sufficient clean water for living. Only 36 % of adults are literate and 0.20 $ per year and inhabitant are spent on healthcare, compared to 2548.- $ in Germany.

Languages / Religion

More than 80 languages are spoken in Ethiopia. The official language on federal level is Amhara, which is spoken as native tongue by about 18 million people, as second language by another 4 million Ethiopians. Besides Amhara, the most widespread spoken language is the Cushite Omoro language. The language spoken in the education sector is English. It is used during lectures at tertiary education facilities.
At primary schools and local authorities, the regional languages prevailing in the individual federal states are used as working language. 45 % of the population are Muslims and about the same percentage are orthodox Christians. Apart from that there are 10 % Protestants of various communities with an increasing number of members, 5 % traditional religions and 1 % catholics.

Climate and geography

In the tropical hot zone temperatures amount to an average of 27° Celsius with an annual volume of rainfall of less than 500 mm precipitation per square metre - the lowest point of Ethiopia is located in the Danakil basin at 150 m below sea level and with temperatures of up to 50° Celsius. Agreeable temperatures of 22° Celsius prevail in the moderate warm zone with precipitation per square metre and year amounting to 500 to 1,500 mm. Temperatures in the mountain regions amount to only 16° Celsius and precipitation is higher. The main wet season is between June and September and there is another short wet season between February and March. Addis Abeba is located at more than 2,000 metres above sea level in the moderate warm zone.

Food culture

Ethiopia can look back onto a long tradition. Not only is the country considered to be the cradle of humankind, but also the country of origin of coffee. Thanks to its Christian traditions and the historic isolation, Ethiopian culture is clearly different from the cultures of the states of sub-Saharan Africa. The Ethiopian cuisine is markedly different from the traditional food of both sub-Saharan Africa and the Oriental regions. Basic food is a sour flat bread dough called Injera, which is made from teff, a grain that only grows at the Horn of Africa. This bread is served with various sauces, called Wot, of which there are numerous vegetarian and non-vegetarian varieties. The rule is: those who can afford it, have meat.


The famines at the beginning of the 1970s and of 1984/85, during which hundred thousands of persons starved to death, resulted in large-scale relief campaigns on part of the world public. But also in "normal" years, there always is the threat of famines in parts of Ethiopia, since a large part of the population live of an only insufficiently developed agriculture that generates about 84 % of the GDP. Subsistence agriculture prevails, i.e. people mostly produce for their own needs and not for selling products on the market. Hence, hardly any surpluses are generated even on a national level and stockpiling is only insufficiently developed. This has dramatic consequences in times of ongoing droughts. Another slow-down to the nation's economy is the low technical education level of the population. Those bearing the brunt are women, children and elderly persons. Above all children from poorer families move to the cities, where they often live on the street. Schooling and education are essential factors to change this situation. Unfortunately, in rural areas in particular, three quarters of those children who are required to attend school do not have any access to education. Illiteracy in Ethiopia amounts to about 64 % (70 % in women), in rural areas the rate is even higher.

Marked by the years of war and a chronic lack of food, Ethiopia is constantly faced with serious structural difficulties and depends on external aid. Since drought periods are frequent in Ethiopia, 4 to 5 million people do not have enough to eat every year. Unfortunately, Ethiopia also is among those countries with the highest rate of AIDS.


humedica is active at various slums of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Abeba (Mercato, Kazanchis), as well as in rural areas and in the surroundings of the town of Debre Zeit. In all these places we offer family sponsorships. Our target group are above all families with single, ill or elderly parents, as well as families who have taken in orphans. In February 2010 we were officially registered as international NGO (relief organisation). Soon, we will once more run a day-care centre for street children and we build wells in rural areas. Furthermore, we organise medical missions during which our honorary team members visit remote areas of the country several times per year. Our programmes also include job placement and the construction of schools.

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