Health as a Policy Priority
Ethiopia’s disease burden is one of the highest in Africa. Life expectancy at birth is close to 40 years and improved little over the years. Close to 50% of children are stunted and killer diseases such as tuberculosis are on the rise. The country spends about 5% of its GDP on health related services but with negligible impact due to very low GDP.
In absolute terms, per capita health consumption expenditure is about 5 USD in current prices, with more than 50% spent by the government. Household expenditure on health related services is quite low relative to other countries. It is estimated that households in Ethiopia spend approximately 2.3% of their total budget on health related services, which compared to 4% for Africa is significantly small.
Such low demand for health obviously undermined health services in the country.
Hospital beds per 100,000 people are less than 1 and have not improved much over time. Infant mortality rate though improved recently still is one of the highest (79 per 1000 live births) in the world.
Poverty explains much of the health hazard in Ethiopia. According to recent figures, the percentage of households who could not meet the daily calorie intake necessary for normal bodily activities are about 65% suggesting the widespread malnourishment and deterioration of human condition that may have an adverse impact on labor productivity. Thus, improving health conditions evidently becomes an important policy concern.
According to a study by AfDB Abebe Shimeles, variables such as schooling, age, household size, marital status, employment and place of residence vary considerably with the health indicator, particularly in rural areas.
Apart from socio-economic factors, access to basic health services seem to play a very important role in affecting measures of health outcomes. There is no denying the fact that health is important for continuing education and other achievements in life, such as higher income.