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Ethiopia
Facts
Area: 1.13 million sq km
Population: 85.8 million
Languages: Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya, Somali
Religions: Christian, Muslim
GNI per capita: US$280
Currency: 1 Birr = 100 cents
 
Ethiopia is Africa's oldest independent country. Apart from a five-year occupation by Mussolini's Italy, it has never been colonized. In 1974, a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile SELASSIE (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. A constitution was adopted in 1994, and Ethiopia's first multiparty elections were held in 1995.
 
The East African country of Ethiopia is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan to the west. Poor border demarcation developed into military conflict and full-scale war in the late 1990s in which tens of thousands of people were killed. Border tensions persist.  
 
Ethiopia’s topography varies greatly—from rugged highlands to dense forests to lowland plains. Temperatures and rainfall differ according to elevation. The hottest areas are along the borders. The coolest are in the central highlands. Hail, morning frost, and even snow are common at the higher levels. Three-quarters of the precipitation falls between mid-June and early September, with a smaller amount from late February to early May.
 
Ethiopia is one of Africa's poorest states. Approximately 90 percent of the country’s residents earn their living as subsistence farmers. They grow just enough food to feed their families and cannot purchase many essential items. Ethiopia depends heavily on agriculture, which is often affected by drought. Coffee is a key export and vulnerable to price fluctuations. 
 
Almost two-thirds of its people are illiterate. Educational opportunities are limited. Only 31 percent of children between the ages of 7 and 15 attend school. Many people lack access to health care. Important services like schools and medical facilities are often found only in urban areas. 

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