Children of Ethiopia

Children of Ethiopia

Realizing Children’s Rights in Ethiopia

Ethiopian children live in an alarming situation.National authorities must take huge strides forward to ensure children’s wellbeing. However, droughts and ongoing famine threaten their very survival.


Realization of Children’s Rights Index :
4,98 / 10
Black level : Very serious situation

Population: 91,7 million
Pop. ages 0-14: 44,6 %

Life expectancy: 63,6 years
Under-5 mortality rate: 41 ‰

Main problems faced by children in Ethiopia:



Ethiopia is a very poor country: more than 94.7% of its population earns less than two dollars per day. Droughts lead to food shortages throughout the country; most of the population survives through food distribution programs led by international organizations.

Poverty is a major hurdle for the country to overcome, impeding normal development and blocking rights and proper living conditions for Ethiopian children.


Health Care

Ethiopia has a high rate of infant mortality: there are an estimated 104 deaths per thousand births. These deaths are usually due to treatable illnesses such as pneumonia, malaria, roseola, and diarrhea. Malnutrition is still the main cause of death for children, at 54%. The birth rate is also very high, causing increased poverty.
In recent years, progress has been made in Ethiopian health care. For example, children are given free vaccines against six childhood illnesses in public health care facilities.



School attendance became mandatory in 1997 for children from 7 to 16 years of age. Education is not free, however, and school fees are expensive – not to mention the cost of school supplies and uniforms. Education is much too expensive for many families, so some children simply cannot attend. Only 13% of children are even enrolled in secondary school.

Also, classes are overcrowded (between 50 and 60 children per class), which makes learning difficult. Thus, the literacy rate for people above the age of 15 is only 57%.



Many children in different groups are victims of real and present discrimination. This is especially true for disabled children, refugees, AIDS orphans, and children of ethnic minorities. Ethiopian girls are the main victims of this discrimination. More than a third of them are not enrolled in school, but work instead as domestic servants.


Child Labour

As in much of sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopian parents often put their children to work for a variety of purposes. Boys are sent into the fields, while girls sell spices in the market or work as domestic servants.

The underground economy (prostitution, drug or contraband trafficking) uses the most child labour.


Child Trafficking

Ethiopia has one of the ten highest rates of slave trade, particularly for children of African origin. Each year, upwards of 20,000 children, some as young as 10, are sold by their parents. According to the International Organization for Migration, impoverished Ethiopian families sell their children for the measly sum of around 1.20 US dollars.

Each year many Ethiopian children are forced into domestic service or, more frequently, into sex commerce or forced labour in the fields, the mines, or fabric factories. Child marriage is one of the factors which contribute to this trade.

In addition, many Ethiopian children are illegally adopted. Adoption agencies team up with national authorities to round young Ethiopians up for international adoption.


Child Prostitution

A significant number of children in Ethiopia are victims of sexual exploitation, especially in urban areas. Ethiopian girls are shipped off to the Middle East, especially to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

These girls, sometimes younger than 11 years old, are gathered specifically for prostitution, and are usually not warned of the dangers of AIDS.


AIDS and Children

According to UNAIDS, Ethiopia has the highest percentage of AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, concerning about 886,820 children. A small number of them do have access to psychosocial, educational, and nutritional care, but the current efforts fall short. These orphans are forced to undertake the worst types of work in order to fulfill their own needs.The government must work with local NGOs to decrease the number of AIDS orphans.


Street children

An estimated 150,000 children live onthe streets in Ethiopian cities. These vulnerable children, left to their own devices, often take on dangerous and degrading work. They often fall victim to drug addictions or sexual exploitation, and are routinely harassed by the police.


Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation is a common practice in Ethiopia. According to a study done in the 2000s, over 80% of women had been subjected to this practice. In 2011, this figure reportedly lowered to 74%.

Today, more and more parents are becoming aware of the health risks associated with this practice. Some districts have begun campaigns to abolish female genital mutilation this practice, such as in Amibara and Awash Fentale.