Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Longing to be changed by what I see in Ethiopia

It's amazing the joy, the love, the heart-break, and the longing that we've already experienced vicariously hearing others' stories, seeing their videos and their pictures, reading our own son-to-be's medical records and social reports, and seeing his sweet face. The changes that have already occurred in our hearts and minds are amazing. I can't even imagine how I will forever be changed after we have the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia, but oh how I long for the day!

About Ethiopia

Ethiopia is:
  • a land-locked country in the Horn of Africa
  • roughly twice the size of the state of Texas
  • the second-most populous nation in Africa with over 79.2 million people
  • bordered by Eritrea to the north, Sudan to the west, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, and Kenya to the south
  • one of the oldest countries in the world, having been an independent nation since ancient times (except a brief period of Italian occupation)
  • one of the oldest sites of human existence known to scientists today, having yielded some of humanity's oldest traces, such as “Lucy” - the oldest known hominid
  • one of a few African countries to have its own alphabet (called Ge'ez or Ethiopic), and it's own time system and unique calendar, which is seven to eight years behind the Gregorian Calendar (hence the translation problems with pinpointing exact birth dates of the children for referrals!)
  • a land of natural contrasts, with spectacular waterfalls and volcanic hot springs, some of Africa's highest mountains as well as some of the world's lowest points below sea level
  • home to the largest cave in Africa at Sof Omar as well as one of the hottest places year-round anywhere on Earth in the country's northern-most area at Dallol
  • the source of over 85% of the total Nile water flow
  • divided into nine ethnically based administrative countries and subdivided into sixty-eight zones and two chartered cities: Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. It is further subdivided into 550 woredas and several special woredas
  • mentioned in the Bible numerous times. After Egypt, it is the second most frequently mentioned country in both the Old and the New Testaments with approx. 41 Biblical references to Ethiopia (Hebrew - Kush)
  • the most mountainous corner of Africa with almost 80 percent of Africa’s land above 9800 feet despite the fact that the country comprises barely 4 percent of the continent’s total land surface
  • known for it's production of coffee beans, as well as the grain, Teff. Even today, Ethiopia is the top coffee and honey-producing country in Africa, and teff is sown on more land than any other crop in ET. Injera is one of the staples of the ET diet. It is made from Teff. Teff contains more essential minerals than other grains.
  • a deeply spiritual country, and the oldest continuous seat of Christianity after the Egyptian church. The authority of the church is widely respected by the country’s 24 million Orthodox Christians. Ethiopia embraced Christianity less than 400 yrs after the birth of Christ - while Europe was still in the Dark Ages.
  • believed to have connection with biblical events dating back to the ninth century BC when the Queen of Sheba is said to have traveled from her ET palace to meet King Solomon in Jerusalem (their meeting is described in the tenth chapter of the Book of I Kings). ET tradition interprets the scripture to mean that Solomon spent the night with the queen, and that she gave birth to Solomon’s son upon her return to ET. The child was named David, and in due course he ascended to the throne as Menelik I, founder of the Solomonic dynasty. In later times, the link between ET and Christian religion was strengthened by a legend telling that, while still a young man, Menelik brought the fabled Ark of the Covenant to Aksum (where it is believed to still remain). A replica of the ark is enshrined in each of ET’s more than 20,000 Christian churches. Known as Tabots, these replicas play a central role in major religious events.
  • home to nearly 6 million orphans. More than half a million of these were orphaned as a result of AIDS
Ethiopia has:
  • one of the most powerful militaries in Africa
  • around 80 different ethnic groups, with the largest 2 being Oromo and Amhara
  • a tiered government system consisting of a federal government overseeing ethnically based regional countries, zones, districts (woredas), and neighborhoods (kebele)
  • 23,812 kilometers of all-weather roads but only15% are asphalt. Mountainous terrain and the lack of good roads and sufficient vehicles make land transportation difficult and expensive
  • eighty-four indigenous languages. English is the most widely spoken foreign language and is the medium of instruction in secondary schools. Amharic was the language of primary school instruction, but has been replaced in many areas by local languages such as Oromifa and Tigrinya
In Ethiopia:
  • less than one quarter of the population is literate
  • less than 40% of people receive a sustainable income
  • only 42% of the population is using improved drinking water sources
  • only 11% of the population is using improved sanitation facilities
  • Approximately 1.5 million people are living with HIV, some 120,000 of them children
  • 51% of children under the age of 5 are suffering from moderate to severe stunting due to lack of nutrition
  • 16% of the population in Ethiopia are living on less than 1 dollar per day
  • Only 65% of rural households in Ethiopia consume the World Health Organization's minimum standard of food per day (2,200 kilocalories)
  • Most poor families (75%) share their sleeping quarters with livestock
  • 40% of children sleep on the floor, where nighttime temperatures average 5 degrees Celsius in the cold season
  • The average family size is six or seven, living in a 30-square-meter mud and thatch huts, with less than two hectares of land to cultivate.
  • The average life expectancy is 48 years old.
  • The median age of the population is 16 years old, meaning that 50% of the population is less than 16 years old.
  • There is 1 medical doctor per 100,000 people.
  • over 8% of infants die during or shortly after childbirth
  • 1 out of every 10 children die before their 5th birthday

Learn to do right!
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.

Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 1:17

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Orphan Stats

I've been reading a lot of books and articles about Ethiopia, and also about orphans around the world the past few weeks. There is much that I didn't (and much that I still don't) know about the country, the culture, the politics. The list goes on and on. I've never been much of a history buff, so a lot of the information that I read doesn't stick around in my brain for long. But sadly, some of it seems to burn it's way into my brain, leaving small hurts & possibly permanent scars.

It's easy to want to hide your head in the sand and just NOT know what is going on around the world. I'm frequently guilty of refusing to watch the news for a number of reasons, the least of which is not the fact that a lot of it is heart-breaking and I just don't want to know. However, if we don't know, then we don't act, and if we don't act, then things don't change.

So, in an effort to spread some information & force others to get their heads out of the sand, I thought I'd share some facts that I've come across the past few weeks.

  • Over 140 million orphans and waiting children under the age of 18 have lost one or both parents.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa, with 48.3 million orphans, has the highest proportion of children who are orphans at 12%
  • Orphaned children are much more likely than non-orphans to be working in commercial agriculture, as street vendors, in domestic service and in the sex trade
  • Orphans are more vulnerable and at risk of becoming victims of violence, exploitation, trafficking, discrimination, or other abuses
  • More than 500,000 children are in United States foster care
  • Only around 50,000 children, or 18% of those waiting in foster care, are adopted every year
  • On average, children in foster care wait over 2 years to be adopted
  • Every 14 seconds a child loses a parent due to AIDS
  • By 2010, the number of children orphaned by AIDS globally is expected to exceed 25 million
  • More than 14 million children under the age of 15 have lost one or both parents to AIDS, the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, one in six households with children is caring for at least one orphan. Yet this still leaves millions of children who are left in the care of strangers — or with no one
  • In countries increasingly ravaged by AIDS, orphaned children not only lose their parents but also teachers, health workers and civil servants who die of the disease
  • Ethiopia is only twice the size of Texas, but it is home to nearly 6 million orphans. More than half a million of these were orphaned as a result of AIDS
  • Over one-third of Americans have ever considered adopting, but no more than 2 percent of Americans have actually adopted