Health in Eritrea

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Over two-thirds of the population lives below the national poverty line and the vast majority in rural areas, about one-third of the population lives in extreme poverty and more than half survives on less than US$1 per day. Nevertheless, Eritrea is one of the few countries to be on target to meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets for health.[1] Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute have identified the high prioritisation of health and education both within the government and amongst Eritreans at home and abroad. Innovative multi-sectoral approaches to health were also identified with the success.[1]

Health care and welfare resources generally are believed to be poor, although reliable information about conditions is often difficult to obtain.[1] In 2001, the most recent year for which figures are available, the Eritrean government spent 5.7 percent of gross domestic product on national health accounts. The World Bank's World DataBank estimated that in 2004 there were only 50 physicians per 100,000 people in Eritrea,[1] while the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated only 3. The two-year war with Ethiopia, coming on the heels of a 30-year struggle for independence, negatively affected the health sector and the general welfare. The rate of prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), although low by sub-Saharan African standards, was high enough at 2.7 percent in 2003 to be considered a generalized epidemic.

In the decade since 1995, however, impressive results have been achieved. Life expectancy at birth has increased from 39.1 in 1960 to 59.5 years in 2008, maternal and child mortality rates have dropped dramatically and the health infrastructure has been expanded (please see table).[1] In 2008 average life expectancy was slightly less than 63 years, according to the WHO. Immunisation and child nutrition has been tackled by working closely with schools in a multi-sectoral approach; the number of children vaccinated against measles almost doubled in seven years, from 40.7% to 78.5% and the underweight prevalence among children decreased by 12% in 1995–2002 (severe underweight prevalence by 28%).[1] This has helped to some small extent even out rural-urban and rich-poor inequity in health.[1]

Malaria control is an important component of the Eritrean preventive health policy. The National Malaria Protection Unit of the Ministry of Health has registered tremendous improvements in reducing malarial mortality by as much as 85% and the number of cases by 92% between 1998 and 2006.[1][2] These impressive gains are the result of the Ministry of Health "...running [a] strong and effective national programme..."[3]

In 2003 Eritrea opened its first medical college in an effort to narrow the healthcare worker gap. By 2012 the medical college's graduates will triple the number of pediatricians and double the number of surgeons in Eritrea.[4]

Then Now Source
Life expectancy 39.1 (1960) 77.19 (2013) CIA Fact book
Under five mortality rate per 1,000 live births 205 (1975) 39.38 (2013) CIA Fact book
Immunisation coverage (measles) 34% (1993) 95% (2008) MDG Indicators
Children underweight 43.7% (1995) 38.4% (2002) DHS 1995/DHS 2002
Maternal mortality ratio per 100,000 live births 998 (1995) 240 (2013) CIA Fact Book
Antenatal care coverage 48.9% (1995) 70.3%(2002) DHS 1995/DHS 2002
Births attended by skilled health personnel 20.6% (1995) 28.3% (2002) DHS 1995/DHS 2002
Health infrastructure 16 hospitals; 4 health centres; 106 health stations (1991) 25 hospitals; 52 health centres; 180 health stations; 113 clinics (2008) MoH (2008) and WHO (2009)
Physicians (per 1,000 people) 0.2 (1993) 0.5 (2004) World DataBank


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Romina Rodríguez Pose and Fiona Samuels 2010. Progress in health in Eritrea: Cost-effective inter-sectoral interventions and a long-term perspective. London: Overseas Development Institute
  2. ^ "Malaria Mortality Rate Decreases by 85%". 2005-03-07. Retrieved 2006-10-02.[dead link]
  3. ^ Greenwood, Brian (2004-08-19). "Between hope and a hard place". Nature. 430 (7002): 926–927. doi:10.1038/430926a. PMID 15318230. Retrieved 2006-10-02.
  4. ^ "The Partnership for Eritrea Graduate Medical Education in Pediatrics, Surgery and OB/GYN" (PDF) (Press release). Physicians for Peace. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2009-08-24.

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website