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Ethiopia’s three keys challenges in the fight against COVID 19

Apart from lack of adequate financing of the prevention measures, Ethiopia is facing three keys challenges in the fight against COVID 19

COVID 19 _ Ethiopia _ key challenges

March 26, 2020

COVID 19 has affected 197 countries around the world. Ethiopia is one of them. More than half a million people are infected. Over 20,000 deaths are registered according to the latest updates on the disease which the World Health Organization declared. 

According to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health, the number of confirmed COVID 19 cases in the country, at this writing, is only 12. However, most Ethiopians worry that the number could be inaccurate. Yet, even more, worrisome for many is that the worst is yet to come as far Ethiopia is concerned. 

Ethiopia’s health care system is weak. In 2016, the doctor to patient ratio in Ethiopia was 1 to 30,000. There is no evidence to show that the ration is fundamentally changed. And the total population is now said to be over 110 million. That reality has informed Ethiopian government’s approach to COVID 19. It focuses on prevention. 

Over the past week or so, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has introduced many preventive measures. All schools and institutions of higher learning are closed for two weeks until further notice. Land border closure with six neighboring countries introduced. Large public gatherings are banned. Night clubs and bars are temporarily closed. Commercial flights to and from Ethiopia are not prohibited, but the government has made it mandatory for all travelers arriving in the country to isolate for two weeks.

Awareness creation campaigns on the importance of handwashing practices are another important action undertaken over the past week. All of these are encouraging measures. 

However, some of the preventative measures are not without challenges. Without forgetting the impacts of lack of adequate finance (only 5 billion birr allocated) in the prevention campaign to which government is mobilizing finance domestically, three key setbacks are observed to the prevention campaign

Social distancing not practiced 

Most people do not seem to understand the importance of social distancing in the fight against COVID 19. 

Despite the ban on a social gathering, many Ethiopians seem to be unable to observe it strictly. 

There is a weakness on the part of the government, too, in that regard. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government is criticized that his cadres are conducting large party meetings in different towns and cities. When his government announced border closure last week, he had a meeting with defense, security, and intelligence officials. One of the key agenda items, based on reports from state media,  was enforcing a ban on social gatherings. 

A week later much does not seem to be changed. President Sahle-Work Zewde said on Wednesday that there is a lot to be done in that direction. “Today, I have been to many places in Addis Ababa. We have a lot to do in terms of implementing regulations and measures. We have seen where those who were overlooking the virus are now… we have not seen the real picture because extensive testing is administered,” she wrote in Amharic, which she shared on her twitter page. 

Price gouging 

Most businesses are reportedly closed in the country. Those that are open are ones that are considered to be essential services like pharmacies and food stores. But these businesses are taking advantage of the panic in connection with the COVID 19 to increase prices up to 200 percent. When shops are overcharging hand sanitizers and face masks to the point that people could not afford them, prevention becomes difficult, if not impossible. 

If what state media and affiliated ones report on the issue is true, the government is taking commendable actions. The government is making those items available for the public. It is also shutting down businesses that are gouging prices. Regional states are taking similar measures in that regard. 


Too many young people have turned to the internet as a means of generating revenue by way of sharing information on Youtube and other platforms. 

But not all do it ethically. In a bid for clickbait, some are publishing fake news. A certain Ethiopian YouTuber claims tobe news source, for example, uploaded information in which it said that the government had ordered 200,000 graves to be dug.  Many Ethiopians described him, rightly, as “disgusting.” For some people, it takes time to realize fake news content. They consume it, and it triggers fear. A considerable number of people tend to click bad news. 

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government is vowing that it will take measures against those fearmongers, and too many outraged Ethiopians are calling for it. 

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  1. Now get a load of this!!! I just read news hot off the press on one the local media outlets from the old country announcing the discovery of a drug concocted from one of the traditional medicines tested using the latest technology. O boy!! O boy!!! Here we go again!!! I remember reading news about a person who was more than 160 years old who lived in that country. Then there was another story where a man was trying to bring a dead and buried person back to life. What about that story of an old man who claimed to be one of the leaders of the Mau Mau Movement/Uprising that shook the British colonial empire in Kenya in the 1950 with Jomo Kenyata in the lead? He was even given a hero’s welcome in Kenya just to be discovered that he was not even a Kenyan not speaking a single word in Swahili. What an embarrassment for everyone involved in spinning that story including the then administration. There was even another story that I was told by one of my warra Chercher friends. It took place in the 1980’s when the dreaded AIDS epidemics arrived at the old country when the demonic Mengistu was in full control of at least the capital. He told me a story of a locally discovered medicine that would heal AIDS allegedly by none other than “Chairman’ Mengistu. He was now an ultra scientist by a quadrillion times more genius than Robert Gallo and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi. If you had the HIV virus then all you have to do was chug down a glass or two(depending on your mood that given day) and that was it. You were healed!!! Then you were expected to do a jumping jack many times as you could and scream ‘Long Live Our Chairman Mengistu!!!’. Remember he was called the ‘Center’ too. A ‘Center’ of everything. I think that also included the universe. I have to verify that with this TV anchor on one of the major TV stations in our Diaspora. That was not announced on the national radio or TV but it was let loose to circulate thru the speakeasies in the hoods. But you dared not to talk about the tens of thousands who succumbed to the disease in that decade alone in that country. But ‘Chairman’ Mengistu had a fierce competition though, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia. That lunatic even had the audacity to tell his people(and the rest of the world) that he had found a medicine he personally concocted himself in 2007 that cures AIDS and many types of cancer and was photographed administering the treatment himself. Just look at him in here:

    Now we have this!!! I am hoping and praying that this story will not reach the ears of the global media outlets like AFP, Reuters and BBC. This latest reckless story of a possible effective treatment medicine for COVID-19 is even being lauded by the Minister of Health. The snake oil/magic bullet was discovered in cooperation with the Ministry of Innovation and Technology. Please remember that this is a country at a loss to find an effective eradicating/preventive medicine for the scabby that has been ravaging its population since birth. Just look at the story in this link: OK, what the heck, I just discovered a brand spanking new technology myself with my septuagenarian brain. I just put together a sling that will hurl a human from here to Mars in just one hour!!! How do you like that? My eyes not are even blinking when I tell you this. And you will be the first human on the sling. Congratulations dear compatriot. You will be the first human to land on Mars!!!!

    This is when I prefer to go and hide somewhere until this news is gone and forgotten.


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