|State of Eritrea
|Anthem: Ertra, Ertra, Ertra
Eritrea, Eritrea, Eritrea
and largest city
|Ethnic groups (2012)|
|Government||Single-party presidential republic|
|Independence from Ethiopia|
|-||End of Italian Eritrea||November 1941|
|-||End of United Kingdom mandate||1951|
|-||De facto Ethiopian independence||24 May 1991|
|-||De jure Ethiopian independence||24 May 1993|
|-||Total||117,600 km2 (101st)
45,405 sq mi
|-||2014 estimate||6,536,000 (107th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2014 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2014 estimate|
|HDI (2013)|| 0.381
low · 182nd
|Time zone||EAT (UTC+3)|
|-||Summer (DST)||not observed (UTC+3)|
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||ER|
Eritrea (// or //; Tigrinya: ኤርትራ? ʾErtrā ; Arabic: إرتريا Iritriyā), officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. With its capital at Asmara, it is bordered by Sudan to the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The northeastern and eastern parts of Eritrea have an extensive coastline along the Red Sea, across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The nation has a total area of approximately 117,600 km2 (45,406 sq mi), and includes the Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands. Its name Eritrea is based on the Ancient Greek name for the Red Sea (Ἐρυθρὰ Θάλασσα Erythra Thalassa), which was first adopted for Italian Eritrea in 1890.
Eritrea is a multi-ethnic country, with nine recognized ethnic groups. It has a population of around six million inhabitants. Most residents speak Afro-Asiatic languages, either of the Semitic or Cushitic branches. Among these communities, the Tigray-Tigrinya people make up about 55% of the population, with the Tigre people constituting around 30% of inhabitants. In addition, there are a number of Nilo-Saharan-speaking Nilotic ethnic minorities. Most people in the territory adhere to Christianity or Islam.
The Kingdom of Aksum, covering much of modern-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, rose somewhere around the first or second centuries and adopted Christianity around the time Islam had spread through Egypt and the Levant. In medieval times much of Eritrea fell under the Medri Bahri Kingdom, with a smaller region being part of the Hamasien Republic. The creation of modern day Eritrea is a result of the incorporation of independent Kingdoms and various vassal states of the Ethiopian empire and the Ottoman Empire, eventually resulting in the formation of Italian Eritrea. In 1947 Eritrea became part of a federation with Ethiopia, the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Subsequent annexation into Ethiopia led to the Eritrean War of Independence, ending with Eritrean independence following a referendum in April 1993. Hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia persisted, leading to the Eritrean–Ethiopian War of 1998–2000 and further skirmishes with both Djibouti and Ethiopia.
During the Middle Ages, the Eritrea region was known as Medri Bahri ("sea-land"). The name Eritrea is derived from the ancient Greek name for Red Sea (Ἐρυθρὰ Θάλασσα Erythra Thalassa, based on the adjective ἐρυθρός erythros "red"). It was first formally adopted in 1890, with the formation of Italian Eritrea (Colonia Eritrea). The territory became the Eritrea Governorate within Italian East Africa in 1936. Eritrea was annexed by Ethiopia in 1953 (nominally within a federation until 1962) and an Eritrean Liberation Front formed in 1960. Eritrea gained independence following the 1993 referendum, and the name of the new state was nominally determined as State of Eritrea in the 1997 constitution.
The Red Sea coast of Eritrea was occupied by early anatomically modern humans during the last interglacial period. According to linguists, the first Afro-Asiatic-speaking populations arrived in the region during the ensuing Neolithic era from the family's proposed urheimat ("original homeland") in the Nile Valley, or the Near East. Other scholars propose that the Afro-Asiatic family developed in situ in the Horn, with its speakers subsequently dispersing from there. Together with Djibouti, Ethiopia, northern Somalia, and the Red Sea coast of Sudan, Eritrea is considered the most likely location of the land known to the Ancient Egyptians as Punt, whose first mention dates to the 25th century BC.
By 2000 BC, Agaw peoples speaking a proto-Ethiopic language ancestral to Ge'ez are believed to have migrated from southeastern Eritrea. Along with other local groups, they had already established linguistic and cultural identities by the time Sabaean influences were introduced from Southern Arabia.
Excavations at Sembel found evidence of an ancient pre-Aksumite civilization in greater Asmara. This Ona urban culture is believed to have been among the earliest pastoral and agricultural communities in the Horn region. Artefacts at the site have been dated to between 800 BC and 400 BC, contemporaneous with other pre-Aksumite settlements in the Eritrean and Ethiopian highlands during the mid-first millennium BC. Qohaito was another ancient pre-Aksumite city in southern Eritrea. It is often identified as the town Koloe described in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a Greco-Roman document dated to the end of the first century AD.
D'mt was a kingdom located in southern Eritrea and northern Ethiopia that existed during the 8th and 7th centuries BC. With its capital at Yeha, the realm developed irrigation schemes, used plows, grew millet, and made iron tools and weapons. After the fall of Dʿmt in the 5th century BC, the plateau came to be dominated by smaller successor kingdoms until the rise of one of these polities during the first century, the Kingdom of Aksum, which was able to reunite the area.
According to the medieval Liber Axumae (Book of Aksum), Aksum's first capital, Mazaber, was built by Itiyopis, son of Cush. The kingdom is mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea as an important market place for ivory, which was exported throughout the ancient world. Aksum was at the time ruled by Zoskales, who also governed the port of Adulis. The Aksumites erected a number of large stelae, which served a religious purpose in pre-Christian times. One of these granite columns is the largest such structure in the world, standing at 90 feet. Under Ezana (fl. 320–360), Aksum later adopted Christianity.
After the decline of Aksum, a feudal structure known as Medri Bahri developed. It was ruled by the Bahri Negus (also called the Bahri Negasi), whose capital was located at Debarwa. The Ottoman Empire made multiple advances further inland, partially conquering Medri Bahri in the 16th century as the province of Habesh. The Khedivate of Egypt later annexed the territory in the 19th century. In 1890, the Kingdom of Italy formally established the colony of Italian Eritrea.
In the period following the opening of the Suez canal in 1869, during the Scramble for Africa when European powers tried to establish coaling stations for their ships, Italy invaded Ethiopia and occupied Eritrea. In 1936, Eritrea became a province of Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana), along with Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland. By 1941, Eritrea had about 760,000 inhabitants, including 70,000 Italians.
Through the 1941 Battle of Keren, the British expelled the Italians, and took over the administration of the country. The British continued to administer the territory under a UN Mandate until 1951, when Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia per UN Resolution 390A(V), adopted in December 1950 under the prompting of the United States.
The strategic importance of Eritrea, due to its Red Sea coastline and mineral resources, along with their shared history, was the main cause for the federation with Ethiopia, which in turn led to Eritrea's annexation as Ethiopia's 14th province in 1962. This was the culmination of a gradual process of takeover by the Ethiopian authorities, a process which included a 1959 edict establishing the compulsory teaching of Amharic, the main language of Ethiopia, in all Eritrean schools. The lack of regard for the Eritrean population led to the formation of an independence movement in the early 1960s (1961), which erupted into a 30-year war against successive Ethiopian governments that ended in 1991. Following a UN-supervised referendum in Eritrea (dubbed UNOVER) in which the Eritrean people overwhelmingly voted for independence, Eritrea declared its independence and gained international recognition in 1993.
The de facto predominant languages are Tigrinya and Arabic, both of which belong to the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. English is used in the government's international communication and is the language of instruction in all formal education beyond the fifth grade.
Eritrea is a single-party state. Though its constitution, adopted in 1997, stipulates that the state is a presidential republic with a unicameral parliamentary democracy, it has yet to be implemented. In 1998 a border dispute with Ethiopia led to the two-year Eritrean–Ethiopian War. The war resulted in the death of as many as 100,000 Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers, although specific casualty estimates are varied.
Location and habitatEdit
Eritrea is located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered to the northeast and east by the Red Sea, Sudan to the west, Ethiopia to the south, and Djibouti to the east. Eritrea lies between latitudes 12° and 18°N, and longitudes 36° and 44°E.
The country is virtually bisected by a branch of the East African Rift. It has fertile lands to the west, descending to desert in the east. Eritrea, at the southern end of the Red Sea, is the home of the fork in the rift. The Dahlak Archipelago and its fishing grounds are situated off the sandy and arid coastline.
Eritrea can be split into three basic ecoregions. To the east of the highlands are the hot, arid coastal plains stretching down to the southeast of the country. The cooler, more fertile highlands, reaching up to 3000m has different habitat. Habitats here vary from the sub-tropical rainforest at Filfil Solomona to the precipitous cliffs and canyons of the southern highlands.
The strategically important Bab-el-Mandeb strait connects the coasts of Eritrea and Yemen. The Afar Triangle or Danakil Depression of Eritrea is the probable location of a triple junction where three tectonic plates are pulling away from one another: the Arabian Plate, and the two parts of the African Plate (the Nubian and the Somali plate) splitting along the East African Rift Zone (USGS). The highest point of the country, Emba Soira, is located in the center of Eritrea, at 3,018 meters (9,902 ft) above sea level.
The main cities of the country are the capital city of Asmara and the port town of Asseb in the southeast, as well as the towns of Massawa to the east, the northern town of Keren, and the central town Mendefera.
In 2006, Eritrea announced it would become the first country in the world to turn its entire coast into an environmentally protected zone. The 1,347 km (837 mi) coastline, along with another 1,946 km (1,209 mi) of coast around its more than 350 islands, will come under governmental protection.
See also: List of mammals in Eritrea and List of birds of Eritrea The wildlife of Eritrea is composed of its flora and fauna. Eritrea has several of mammals and a rich avifauna of 560 species of birds.
Eritrea is home to an abundant amount of big game species. Enforced regulations have helped in steadily increasing their numbers throughout Eritrea. Mammals commonly seen today include the Abyssinian hare, African wild cat, Black-backed jackal, golden jackal, Genet, Ground squirrel, pale fox, Soemmering’s gazelle, warthog. Dorcas gazelle are common on the coastal plains and in Gash Barka.
Lions and Torah arte-beests are said to inhabit the mountains of the Gash-Barka Region. There is also a small population of elephants that roam in some parts of the country. Dik-diks can also be found in many areas. The endangered African wild ass can be seen in Denakalia Region. Other local wildlife include bushbucks, duikers, greater kudus, klipspringers, leopards, oryxs and crocodiles., The spotted hyena is widespread and fairly common. Between 1955 and 2001 there were no reported sightings of elephant herds, and they are thought to have fallen victim to the war of independence. In December 2001 a herd of about 30, including 10 juveniles, was observed in the vicinity of the Gash River. The elephants seemed to have formed a symbiotic relationship with olive baboons, with the baboons using the water holes dug by the elephants, while the elephants use the tree-top baboons as an early warning system.
It is estimated that there are around 100 elephants left in Eritrea, the most northerly of East Africa's elephants. The endangered painted hunting dog (Lycaon pictus) was previously found in Eritrea, but is now deemed extirpated from the entire country. In Gash Barka, deadly snakes like saw-scaled viper are common. Puff adder and red spitting cobra are widespread and can be found even in the highlands.In the coastal areas marine species that are common include dolphin, dugong, whale shark, turtles, marlin/swordfish, and manta ray.
Government and politicsEdit
The People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) is the ruling party in Eritrea. Other political groups are not allowed to organize, although the unimplemented Constitution of 1997 provides for the existence of multi-party politics. The National Assembly has 150 seats, of which 75 are occupied by the PFDJ. National elections have been periodically scheduled and cancelled; none have ever been held in the country. The president, Isaias Afwerki, has been in office since independence in 1993.
Independent local sources of political information on Eritrean domestic politics are scarce; in September 2001 the government closed down all of the nation's privately owned print media, and outspoken critics of the government have been arrested and held without trial, according to various international observers, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. In 2004 the U.S. State Department declared Eritrea a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its record of religious persecution.
Eritrean National elections were set for 2001 but was then decided that because 20% of Eritrea's land was under occupation, elections would be postponed until the resolution of the conflict with Ethiopia. However, local elections have continued in Eritrea. The most recent round of local government elections were held in 2010 and 2011. On further elections, the President's Chief of Staff, Yemane Gebremeskel said,
|“||The electoral commission is handling these elections this time round so that may be the new element in this process. The national assembly has also mandated the electoral commission to set the date for national elections, so whenever the electoral commission sets the date there will be national elections. It's not dependent on regional elections.||”|
As yet, no national elections have been held since independence.
Regions and districtsEdit
Eritrea is divided into six administrative regions (zobas). These are further subdivided into subregions (sub-zobas). The geographical extent of the regions is based on their respective hydrological properties. This is a dual intent on the part of the Eritrean government: to provide each administrative region with sufficient control over its agricultural capacity, and to eliminate historical intra-regional conflicts.
The regions, followed by the sub-region, are:
Eritrea is a one-party state in which national legislative elections have been repeatedly postponed. According to Human Rights Watch, the government's human rights record is considered among the worst in the world. Some Western countries, particularly the United States, have in particular accused the Eritrean authorities of arbitrary arrest and detentions, and of detaining an unknown number of people without charge for their political activism. However, the Eritrean government has continuously dismissed the accusations as politically motivated.
Since Eritrea's conflict with Ethiopia in 1998–2001, the nation's human rights record has come under criticism at the United Nations. Human rights violations are allegedly frequently committed by the government or on behalf of the government. Freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association are limited. Those that practice "unregistered" religions, try to flee the nation, or escape military duty are arrested and put into prison.
All Eritreans between the ages of 18-40 must complete a mandatory national service, which includes military service. This national service was implemented after Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia, as a precautionary means to be protected against any threats on Eritrea’s sovereignty, to instill national pride, and to improve the countries mall economy. Eritrea’s national service requires lengthy conscription periods and or lifetimes in national service.
As an attempt at reform, Eritrean government officials and NGO representatives have participated in numerous public meetings and dialogues. In these sessions they have answered questions as fundamental as, "What are human rights?", "Who determines what are human rights?", and "What should take precedence, human or communal rights?" In 2007, the Eritrean government also banned female genital mutilation. In Regional Assemblies and religious circles, Eritreans themselves speak out continuously against the use of female circumcision. They cite health concerns and individual freedom as being of primary concern when they say this. Furthermore they implore rural peoples to cast away this ancient cultural practice. Additionally, new movement called Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea aimed at bringing about dialogue between the government and opposition was formed in early 2009. The group consists of ordinary citizens and some people close to the government.
In its 2014 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked the media environment in Eritrea at the very bottom of a list of 178 countries, just below totalitarian North Korea. According to the BBC, "Eritrea is the only African country to have no privately owned news media", and Reporters Without Borders said of the public media, "[they] do nothing but relay the regime's belligerent and ultra-nationalist discourse. ... Not a single [foreign correspondent] now lives in Asmara." The state-owned news agency censors news about external events. Independent media have been banned since 2001.
Eritrea is a full member of the African Union (AU), the successor of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). However, it had withdrawn its representative to the AU in protest at the AU's alleged lack of leadership in facilitating the implementation of a binding border decision demarcating the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Eritrean government has since January 2011 appointed an envoy, Tesfa-Alem Tekle, to the AU.
Relations with the United StatesEdit
Eritrea's relationship with the United States has a short yet complex history. The United States Army operated Kagnew Station in Eritrea (which at the time was under British, then Ethiopian rule) from 1943 to 1977 as part of an agreement with Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie I. When the United Nations was debating the future of the territory of Eritrea in the beginning of the 1950s (while it was under British trusteeship as a result of the end of World War II and Italian colonialism), the United States was instrumental in promoting Eritrea's linkage with Imperial Ethiopia, opposing the idea of an independent Eritrea. This was succinctly put by then US ambassador to the UN (later to become US Secretary of State) John Foster Dulles: "From the point of view of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless the strategic interest of the United States in the Red Sea basin and the considerations of security and world peace make it necessary that the country has to be linked with our ally Ethiopia."
During the beginning of the George W. Bush administration and the US War on Terrorism of the early 2000s, the US still considered Eritrea a friendly state and US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld paid Eritrea's president a visit in Eritrea. Relations ultimately worsened in October 2008 when U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer called the nation a 'state sponsor of terrorism' and stated that the U.S. government might add Eritrea to its list of rogue states, along with Iran and Sudan. The stated reason for this was the presence of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, an exiled Somali Islamist leader, whom the U.S. suspects of having links to Al Qaeda, at a Somali opposition conference in Asmara.
During the week of 2 August 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that Eritrea was supplying weapons to the Somali militant group al-Shabab. Although Eritrea rejected this accusation in a public statement the following day, the United Nations, with the backing of the African Union, imposed sanctions and an arms embargo on Eritrea under Resolution 1907 for its alleged role in Somalia and refusal to withdraw troops from the border with Djibouti.
Relations with the European UnionEdit
Eritrea's relationship with the Italian Republic and the European Union are still both reasonably strong and do not seem to be as strained as is the country's relationship with the United States. On 27 January 2009, the Dutch Ambassador, Yoka Brandt, Director General of International Development Cooperation, paid an official visit to the country for bilateral talks with President Isaias' government, which were held in Massawa.
Relations with IsraelEdit
Eritrea and Israel have ambassadors in each other's countries. Israel maintains an embassy in Asmara and Eritrea has a presence in Ramat Gan. Avi Granot, head of the Africa division in the Israeli foreign ministry, has described Eritrea as a strategic ally, the one friendly port on the Red Sea. There are approximately 60,000 African refugees in Israel, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea.
Relations with neighbouring countriesEdit
Eritrea's relations with its neighbours have been strained due to a series of wars and disputes. These include a break of diplomatic relations with Sudan when Eritrea accused Sudan of hosting a network of terrorists in 1994, a war with Yemen over the Hanish Islands in 1996, and a border conflict with Ethiopia from 1998–2001. An international border commission, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission had delimited and demarcated the border, but Ethiopia has refused to implement it.
Eritrea's relations with the Sudan have normalised. Meanwhile, Eritrea has been recognised as a broker for peace between the separate factions of the Sudanese civil war: "It is known that Eritrea played a role in bringing about the peace agreement [between the Southern Sudanese and Government]." In addition, the Sudanese government and Eastern Front rebels requested Eritrea to mediate peace talks in 2006.
The dispute with Yemen over the Hanish Islands in 1996 resulted in a brief war. As part of an agreement to cease hostilities the two nations agreed to refer the issue to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague in 1998. Yemen was granted full ownership of the larger islands while Eritrea was awarded the peripheral islands to the southwest of the larger islands. At the conclusion of the proceedings, both nations acquiesced to the decision. Since 1996, both governments have remained wary of one another but relations are relatively normal.
Relations with EthiopiaEdit
The undemarcated border with Ethiopia is the primary external issue currently facing Eritrea. Eritrea's relations with Ethiopia turned from that of cautious mutual tolerance, following the 30-year war for Eritrean independence, to a deadly rivalry that led to the outbreak of hostilities from May 1998 to June 2000 which claimed approximately 70,000 casualties from both sides. The border conflict cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Disagreements following the war have resulted in stalemate punctuated by periods of elevated tension and renewed threats of war. The stalemate led the President of Eritrea to urge the UN to take action on Ethiopia with the Eleven Letters penned by the President to the United Nations Security Council. The situation has been further escalated by the continued efforts of the Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders in supporting opposition in one another's countries. In 2011, Ethiopia accused Eritrea of planting bombs at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, which was later supported by a UN report. Eritrea has denied the claims.
Amid fears of an emerging Islamic and nationalist Somalia, Ethiopia invaded Somalia with U.S. assistance, putting in place the initially weak and locally unpopular UN/AU-backed Transitional Federal Government which, without Ethiopian support, had been unable to exercise any control beyond its base in Baidoa and along the Ethio-Somali border. The Transitional Federal Government as of 2011 took full control of the capital and made significant gains on the territory of the now-defunct Islamic Courts Union. The United States Central Intelligence Agency also conducted a covert program of funding and assisting a coalition of Somali warlords to replace the Islamic Courts Union government in southern Somalia.
For its part, Eritrea once hosted members of the ousted Union of Islamic Courts and the Somali Free Parliament, including the current President of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, who was also the leader of the Union of Islamic Courts ousted by Ethiopia in 2007. The Eritrean government has been accused of sponsoring, arming and hosting numerous militant leaderships and separatist rebels in the Horn of Africa.
The economy of Eritrea has experienced considerable growth in recent years, indicated by an improvement in gross domestic product (GDP) in October 2012 of 7.5 percent over 2011. A big reason for the recent growth of the Eritrean economy is the commencement of full operations in the gold and silver Bisha mine and the production of cement from the cement factory in Massawa.
However, worker remittances from abroad are estimated to account for 32 percent of gross domestic product. Eritrea has an extensive amount of resources such as copper, gold, granite, marble, and potash. The Eritrean economy has undergone extreme changes due to the War of Independence. In 2011, Eritrea's GDP grew by 8.7 percent making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) expects it to maintain a high growth rate of 8.5 percent in 2013.
The Eritrean–Ethiopian War severely hurt Eritrea's economy. GDP growth in 1999 fell to less than 1%, and GDP decreased by 8.2% in 2000. In May 2000, the war resulted in some $600 million in property damage and loss, including losses of $225 million in livestock and 55,000 homes.
Even during the war, Eritrea developed its transportation infrastructure by asphalting new roads, improving its ports, and repairing war-damaged roads and bridges as a part of the Warsay Yika'alo Program. The most significant of these projects was the construction of a coastal highway of more than 500 km connecting Massawa with Asseb, as well as the rehabilitation of the Eritrean Railway. The rail line has been restored between the port of Massawa and the capital Asmara, although services are sporadic. Steam locomotives are sometimes used for groups of enthusiasts.
In theory, the country has a national carrier, Eritrean Airlines, but services are intermittent.
There are nine recognized ethnic groups according to the government of Eritrea. Eritrean society is ethnically heterogeneous. An independent census has yet to be conducted, but the Tigrinya people make up about 55% and Tigre people make up about 30% of the population. These form the bulk of the country's predominantly Semitic-speaking population. Most of the rest of the population belong to other Afro-Asiatic-speaking communities of the Cushitic branch, such as the Saho, Hedareb, Afar and Bilen.
Other Afro-Asiatic groups include the Rashaida, who represent about 2% of Eritrea's population. They reside in the northern coastal lowlands of Eritrea as well as the eastern coasts of Sudan. The Rashaida first came to Eritrea in the 19th century from the Hejaz region. More recently, Hadhrami migrants have also settled in the country.
There are also a number of Nilotic ethnic minorities, who are represented in Eritrea by the Kunama and Nara. Each ethnicity speaks a different native tongue but, typically, many of the minorities speak more than one language.
In addition, there exist Italian Eritrean (concentrated in Asmara) and Ethiopian Tigrayan communities. Neither is generally given citizenship unless through marriage or, more rarely, by having it conferred upon them by the State.
Eritrea is a multilingual country. The nation has no official language, as the Constitution establishes the "equality of all Eritrean languages". However, Tigrinya serve as de facto language of national identity. With 2,540,000 total speakers of a population of 5,254,000 in 2006, Tigrinya is the most widely spoken language; particularly in the southern and central parts of Eritrea. Modern Standard Arabic serves as de facto national language. English also serves as a de facto national working language, and there are a few monolinguals of Italian.
Most of the languages spoken in Eritrea stem from the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. Among these are Tigre, Tigrinya, the newly recognized Dahlik, and Arabic (the Hejazi and Hadhrami dialects spoken by the Rashaida and Hadhrami, respectively). Other Afro-Asiatic languages belonging to the Cushitic branch are also widely spoken in the country. The latter include Afar, Beja, Blin and Saho.
In addition, Nilo-Saharan languages (Kunama and Nara) are also spoken as a native language by the Nilotic Kunama and Nara ethnic minority groups that live in the northern and northwestern part of the country.
Italian and English are also spoken as working languages, and are used in secondary and university education.
|U.S Department of State 2011||Pew Research 2012|
According to recent estimates, 50% of the population adheres to Christianity, Islam 48%, while 2% of the population follows other religions including traditional African religion and animism. According to a study made by Pew Research Center, 62.9% adheres to Christianity and 36.2% adheres to Islam. Since May 2002, the government of Eritrea has officially recognized the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Sunni Islam, Catholicism, and the Evangelical Lutheran church. All other faiths and denominations are required to undergo a registration process. Among other things, the government's registration system requires religious groups to submit personal information on their membership to be allowed to worship.
The Eritrean government is against reformed or radical versions of its established religions. Therefore, radical forms of Islam and Christianity (viz, Salafism), Jehovah's Witnesses, the Bahá'í Faith (though the Bahá'í Faith is neither Islamic nor Christian), the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and numerous other non-Protestant Evangelical denominations are not registered and cannot worship freely. Three named Jehovah's Witnesses are known to have been imprisoned since 1994. Additionally, on 28 June 2009, police raided a private home where Jehovah's Witnesses were meeting. 23 were arrested including children as young as two years old. Some of the women and children were later released. None have been charged officially or given access to the judicial process. By 25 July 2014, 73 Jehovah's Witnesses had been imprisoned in Eritrea for conducting secret religious gatherings, engaging in religious activity, and for refusing to undertake national service.
In its 2006 religious freedom report, the U.S. State Department named Eritrea a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) for the third year in a row.
Eritrea has achieved significant improvements in health care and is one of the few countries to be on target to meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets in health, in particular child health. Life expectancy at birth has increased from 39.1 in 1960 to 59.5 years in 2008, maternal and child mortality rates have dropped dramatically and the health infrastructure has been expanded. Due to Eritrea's relative isolation, information and resources are extremely limited and according the World Health Organisation (WHO) found in 2008 average life expectancy to be slightly less than 63 years. Immunisation and child nutrition has been tackled by working closely with schools in a multi-sectoral approach; the number of children vaccinated against measles almost doubled in seven years, from 40.7% to 78.5% and the underweight prevalence among children decreased by 12% in 1995–2002 (severe underweight prevalence by 28%). The National Malaria Protection Unit of the Ministry of Health has registered tremendous improvements in reducing malarial mortality by as much as 85% and the number of cases by 92% between 1998 and 2006. The Eritrean government has banned female genital mutilation (FGM), saying the practice was painful and put women at risk of life-threatening health problems.
However, Eritrea still faces many challenges. Despite number of physicians increasing from only 0.2 in 1993 to 0.5 in 2004 per 1000 population, this is still very low. Malaria and tuberculosis are common in Eritrea. HIV prevalence among the 15–49 group exceeds 2%. The fertility rate is at about 5 births per woman. Maternal mortality dropped by more than half from 1995 to 2002, although the figure is still high. Similarly, between 1995 and 2002, the number of births attended by skilled health personnel has doubled but still is only 28.3%. A major cause of death in neonates is by severe infection. Per capita expenditure on health is low in Eritrea.
Largest cities or towns of Eritrea
|3||Massawa||Northern Red Sea||23,100|
|4||Assab||Southern Red Sea||21,300|
|8||Edd||Southern Red Sea||11,259|
There are five levels of education in Eritrea: pre-primary, primary, middle, secondary, and post-secondary. There are nearly 238,000 students in the primary, middle, and secondary levels of education. There are approximately 824 schools in Eritrea and two universities (the University of Asmara and the Eritrea Institute of Technology) as well as several smaller colleges and technical schools.
Education in Eritrea is officially compulsory between seven and 13 years of age. However, the education infrastructure is inadequate to meet current needs. Statistics vary at the elementary level, suggesting that between 65 and 70% of school-aged children attend primary school; Approximately 61% attend secondary school. Student-teacher ratios are high: 45 to 1 at the elementary level and 54 to 1 at the secondary level. There are an average 63 students per classroom at the elementary level and 97 per classroom at the secondary level. Learning hours at school are often less than six hours per day. Skill shortages are present at all levels of the education system, and funding for and access to education vary significantly by gender and location. Illiteracy estimates for Eritrea range from around 40% to as high as 70%.
The culture of Eritrea has been largely shaped by the country's location on the Red Sea coast. One of the most recognizable parts of Eritrean culture is the coffee ceremony. Coffee (Ge'ez ቡን būn) is offered when visiting friends, during festivities, or as a daily staple of life. If it is politely declined, then most likely tea ("shai" ሻሂ shahee) will instead be served.
Traditional Eritrean attire is quite varied among the different ethnic groups of Eritrea. In the big cities most of the people in the larger cities, dress casually clothes, with jeans, shirts, typically western. In offices both men and women often dress in suits. Traditional clothing for the Christian Tigrinya-speaking highlanders consits of bright white gowns called zurias, and the men wear long white shirts accompanied by white pants. Of the Muslim communities in the Eritrean lowland the women traditionally dress in brightly colored clothes. only Rashaida women maintain a tradition of covering half of their faces, but they do not cover their hair.
Besides convergent culinary tastes, Eritreans share an appreciation for similar music and lyrics, jewelry and fragrances, and tapestry and fabrics as other populations in the Horn region.
A typical Eritrean dish consists of injera accompanied by a spicy stew, which frequently includes beef, kid, lamb or fish.  Overall, Eritrean cuisine strongly resembles those of neighboring Ethiopia and Somalia, except for the fact that Eritrean and Somali cooking tend to feature more seafood than Ethiopian cuisine on account of their coastal locations. Eritrean dishes are also frequently "lighter" in texture than Ethiopian meals. They likewise tend to employ less seasoned butter and spices and more tomatoes, as in the tsebhi dorho delicacy. Additionally, owing to its colonial history, cuisine in Eritrea features more Ottoman and Italian influences than are present in Ethiopian cooking, including more pasta and greater use of curry powders and cumin. Alongside sowa, people in Eritrea also tend to drink coffee, whereas sweetened tea is preferred in Somalia. Mies is another popular local alcoholic beverage, made out of honey.
Eritrea's various ethnic groups each have their own different styles of music and accompanying dances. Amongst the Tigrinya, the best known traditional musical genre is the guaila. Traditional instruments of Eritrean folk music include the stringed kraar, kebero, lyre, kobar and the wata (a distant/rudimentary cousin of the violin). The most popular Eritrean artist is the Tigrinya singer Helen Meles, who is noted for her powerful voice and wide singing range. Other prominent local musicians include the Kunama singer Dehab Faytinga, Ruth Abraha, Bereket Mengisteab, Yemane Baria, and the late Abraham Afewerki.
Football and cycling are the most popular sports in Eritrea. In recent years, Eritrean athletes have also seen increasing success in the international arena. Zersenay Tadese, an Eritrean athlete, currently holds the world record in half marathon distance running. Additionally, the Tour of Eritrea, a multi-stage international cycling event, is held annually throughout the country. The Eritrea national cycling team has experienced a lot of success, winning the continental cycling championship several years in a row. Six Eritrean riders have been signed to international cycling teams, including Natnael Berhane with Europcar and Daniel Teklehaimanot with Orica-GreenEdge. Berhane was the first Eritrean to compete in the Tour de France, and his performances earned him African Sportsman of the Year honours in 2013. Teklehaimanot also became the first Eritrean to ride the Vuelta a España in 2012.
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- Ministry of Information of Eritrea (official government website).
- EriTV News, Music, Movie and Comedy from Eritrea Television
- Eritrea entry at The World Factbook
- Eritrea web resources provided by GovPubs at the University of Colorado–Boulder Libraries
- Eritrea at DMOZ
- Eritrea profile from BBC News.
- Wikimedia Atlas of Eritrea
- HRCE – Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
- Documentary on Women's liberation in Eritrea
- Tigrinya online learning with numbers, alphabet and history (Eritrea and north Ethiopia (Tigray-Province)).
- (Italian) Ferrovia eritrea Eritrean Railway
- Atlas of Eritrea
- (Italian) About Eritrea
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