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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