Djibouti is one of the world's smallest countries being around the size of Massachusetts and with a population of 988,002 (2020). 60% of the country's population live in the capital city of Djibouti, the rest are mainly nomadic herdsmen, although this way of life is slowing dying out with regular droughts across the Horn of Africa (an average annual rainfall of 5.1 inches) forcing the Nomads to live in communities in order to access food aid. These droughts have seen a rise in the number of children in Djibouti suffering from malnutrition, with the country having one of the world's highest levels of malnutrition for children, particularly among those under the age of five with the country almost totally reliant on foreign imports to survive as it has few natural resources and little industry.
Food insecurity affects nearly one in ten people in the country, again worse in rural areas as Djibouti only produces 5% of its own food needs and is reliant on importing grain and other staples from Ethiopia and meat and dairy products from Somalia. Inside Djibouti poverty is widespread although has been falling after the period of economic mismanagement under the regime of former President Hassan Gouled Aptidon, however still stands at around 42% of the population while more than 23% live in extreme poverty. Life expectancy is currently 67.11 years (2019). Djibouti is in 166th place out of 189 countries and territories in 2019 when ranked in terms of life expectancy, literacy, access to knowledge and living standards, putting the country in the low human development category.
School enrollment in the country is generally good however the overall literacy rate works out to be 64.8 %, with a male literacy rate of 75.3% and just 53.7% for females and lower in the rural areas reflecting a cultural norm where often girls in particular are expected to work to contribute to the family income and are usually subjected to genital mutilation creating other sanitary dangers in addition to the trauma experienced. There are also very few pre-school or infancy learning programs for children inside Djibouti. In 2019, the infant mortality rate (under fives) was about 48.4 deaths per 1,000 live births with HIV/AIDS, lower respiratory infections, and diarrheal diseases being the main causes of premature death and this infant mortality is increased by the local custom of feeding. It is estimated that nearly 70% of children are deprived of at least one basic right - including the right to water and sanitation, information, nutrition, education and health. Although having a coastal location, Djibouti does not have a permanent source of surface water such as rivers or fresh water lakes so relies on deepwater wells replenished by rainwater (when it falls) and, according to UNICEF in rural Djibouti, nearly 65% of the population does not have access to safe drinking water in a country with an annual average temperature of 32.2C. Again, while 70.4% of urban inhabitants have access to sanitation facilities, only 16.4% of the rural population has access to latrines, the rest practising open defecation with all of its associated health risks.
Djibouti is a predominately Muslim country (94%), with a Christian population of 6% and today has a mainly Somali population of 60% with Afars representing a further 35% with the rest of the population being mainly French, Arabic, Ethiopian and Italian. Those living in rural areas are mostly engaged in food production; mainly vegetables, fruits and palms with all of its rice, wheat flour and sugar being imported, not least because only 0.08628% of its land is arable in 2018 according to the World Bank. Others are engaged in fishing, salt, construction and mining while industries include shipping and refuelling for transport entering the Red Sea.
Life in Djibouti: Volunteer in Djibouti
Life in Djibouti: Djibouti Nomads
Life in Djibouti: Child Sponsor Djibouti
Life in Djibouti: Djibouti Country Profile
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