Eritrea on the world map. Map of Eritrea with cities
Map of Eritrea with cities. Where Eritrea is on the world map. The main geographical facts about Eritrea - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
Eritrea Fact File
Official name State of Eritrea
Form of government Transitional government with single legislative body (Legislative Assembly)
Area 121,320 sq km (46,842 sq miles)
Time zone GMT + 3 hours
Projected population 2015 5,720,000
Population density 36.8 per sq km (95.3 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 56.6
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 73.6
Official languages Tigrinya, Arabic
Other languages Tigre, other indigenous languages, English
Literacy rate 25 %
Religions Muslim 50%, Christian (Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant) 50%
Ethnic groups Tigrinya 50%, Tigre and Kunama 40%, Afar 4%, Saho (Red Sea coast dwellers) 3%, other 3%
Economy Services 54%, industry 29%, agriculture 1 7%
GNP per capita US$ 740
Climate Hot and arid along coast, cooler and wetter in highlands; wet season June to September
Region Eastern Africa
Highest point Soira 3,018 m (9,899 ft) Map reference Page 367
Eritrea was part of the Aksum Kingdom 2,000 years ago. In the fourth century ad Coptic Christianity was brought to the country, and a member of the Coptic Christian community, Issaias Ifawerki, is now its president. Italian influence in the region began in 1882, and despite the depredations of Mussolini between 1935 and 1941, Eritrea's modernization dates from those years. Italy introduced Western education and industry.
Forced to join Ethiopia in 1962, Eritrea began a thirty-year war of independence, first against the emperor and then against Ethiopia's Soviet-armed and financed Mengistu regime. Fighting from trenches dug from rock in the mountains, and in spite of inferior weapons, the Eritrean troops hung on. Victory and separate nationhood were won in 1993. In 1998 war broke out again for two and a half years and since 2000 a UN peacekeeping operation has monitored a 25 km-(15.5 mile-)wide temporary security zone on the border with Ethiopia. An international commission, organized to resolve the border dispute, posted its findings in 2002 but final demarcation is on hold due to Ethiopian objections.
Consisting of a hot dry desert strip along the Red Sea shore, Eritrea is dominated by rugged mountains in the north, and in the southeast by the arid coastal plain of the Danakil Desert. In and around this desert live the Afar, camel-keeping nomads. The country is bordered on the north by the Sudan, with whom it has uneasy relations, and on the south by Djibouti. Before independence, Eritrea provided Ethiopia's only access to the sea other than through Djibouti. The prospect of being landlocked as a result of Eritrean secession—which is what happened— strengthened Ethiopian resolve during the war.
Poor and war-torn, with its roads and railways destroyed, since 1993 Eritrea has faced the task of reconstruction. Obligatory military service provides labor for public works. During the war trees were cut down by the enemy to deprive Eritrean soldiers of hiding places: these are being replanted by the thousand. In the long term offshore oil deposits may prove important, but the population currently survives by subsistence farming, growing sorghum, lentils, vegetables, and maize. This is supplemented by food aid on which 75 percent of the people rely.
Causes of famine in Africa
Famine has been a serious problem on the African continent since very early times— there are records of famines in Egypt 6,000 years ago. A good corn harvest in Egypt was essential to the well-being of the region as a whole. A bad harvest affected not only Egypt but also the neighbors with whom it traded. Famine usually occurred because of annual variations in the extent of the flooding of the River Nile, and therefore in the yield of grain for food. Such famines were related to inherent difficulties in the kind of intensive floodplain agriculture that has been practiced over the centuries in the Nile Valley.
Prolonged drought and the spread of deserts in marginal areas are other common causes of famine. Hungry people allow their goats to graze on the sparse vegetation that grows on desert fringes, which frequently results in the plants dying and the desert spreading. This can be seen in the vast sub-Saharan region of the Sahel. A third type of famine is largely the result of human actions. Chronic warfare of the kind that has recently plagued the southern Sudan seriously disrupts agricultural production, displacing such large numbers of people that crops are neither planted nor harvested.
Finally, there is the kind of famine that affected Ethiopia under the Marxist Dergue during 1984-85, which was a direct result of government policies. Huge collectivization programs were initiated in the midst of war and cultivators were forcibly taken from their own land to work on state farms—many of those removed were "resettled" as punishment for their suspected hostility to the regime. This seriously affected the morale of the population and food production throughout the country decreased dramatically. A report prepared by the organization Cultural Survival concluded that the principal reasons for food shortages in Ethiopia at that time were the forcible redistribution of land to people unable or unwilling to work it; the confiscation of grain and livestock; and forced labor programs and military recruitment, which resulted in a sharp decline in the labor force available for agricultural work.
In Africa as elsewhere, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is the main agency that is active in famine relief. Helping as many as 53 million people worldwide, it operates in virtually all the sub-Saharan African countries. The WFP's Food for Life Program helps people affected by humanitarian crises, such as that in Rwanda and Burundi in 1994. In April 1994 WFP workers provided food for what amounted to a huge city of refugees on the border of Rwanda and Tanzania, where 250,000 people were gathered without food, water, or shelter.
The WFP Food for Growth Program targets needy schoolchildren, mothers who are breastfeeding, and the elderly. In Ethiopia the WFP Food for Work Program, which pays workers with food for their service on development projects, has contributed to the planting of large numbers of trees; in Somalia the same program has been involved in repairing irrigation canals.