The Health System
Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa and has a total area of about 1.1 million square kilometers. With a population of more than 75 million, it is one of the most populous countries in sub-Saharan Africa; more than 85% of the people live in rural areas. Population density averages 52.2 per square km. with great variation among regions.
The annual total population growth rate is 2.9% and 4.1% in urban areas. The country is one of the least developed countries in the world with an estimated per capita income of USD 130. Poverty is persistent with 47% of the population estimated to live below the poverty line.
The health care system
Ethiopia's health care system is among the least developed in Sub-Saharan Africa and is not, at present, able to effectively cope with the significant health problems facing the country.
The present government has recognized that ill health of a fast growing population, now estimated at over 75 million, is an impediment to social and economic development and has committed to salvaging the country's failing health system. The government has chosen to strengthen primary health care as a strategic approach to address a major gap in the country's health care system: lack of physical access to even basic health care facilities in rural areas.
Widespread poverty, poor nutritional status, low education levels and poor access to health services have contributed to the high burden of ill health in the country. Life expectancy at birth is currently about 54 years and is expected to decline to 46 years if the present HIV infection rates are maintained. According to government statistics, 3.5 percent of the population in the age group of 15-49 in 2005 are reported to have HIV/AIDS. Malaria is the primary health problem in the country; it is the leading cause of outpatient visits and is responsible for 8 to 10 million annual clinical cases and a significant number of deaths. In total, as much 80 percent of the health problems in the country are due to preventable communicable and nutritional diseases; these health problems are associated with low socio-economic development.