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The UN awarded Eritrea to Ethiopia in 1952 as part of a federation. Ethiopia's annexation of Eritrea as a province 10 years later sparked a 30-year struggle for independence that ended in 1991 with Eritrean rebels defeating governmental forces; independence was overwhelmingly approved in a 1993 referendum. A two-and-a-half-year border war with Ethiopia that erupted in 1998 ended under UN auspices in December 2000. Eritrea hosted a UN peacekeeping operation that monitored a 25 km-wide Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) on the border with Ethiopia. Eritrea's denial of fuel to the mission caused the UN to withdraw the mission and terminate its mandate 31 July 2008. An international commission, organized to resolve the border dispute, posted its findings in 2002. However, both parties have been unable to reach agreement... See More



 Eastern Africa, bordering the Red Sea, between Djibouti and Sudan

Geographic Coordinates:

 15 00 N, 39 00 E


 Total: 117,600 sq km
Land: 101,000 sq km
Water: 16,600 sq km

Area - Comparative:

 Slightly larger than Pennsylvania

Land Boundaries:

 Total: 1,626 km
Border countries: Djibouti 109 km, Ethiopia 912 km, Sudan 605 km


 2,234 km (mainland on Red Sea 1,151 km, islands in Red Sea 1,083 km) (Rank: 57)

Maritime Claims:

 Territorial sea: 12 nm


 Hot, dry desert strip along Red Sea coast; cooler and wetter in the central highlands (up to 61 cm of rainfall annually, heaviest June to September); semiarid in western hills and lowlands


 Dominated by extension of Ethiopian north-south trending highlands, descending on the east to a coastal desert plain, on the northwest to hilly terrain and on the southwest to flat-to-rolling plains

Elevation Extremes:

 Lowest point: near Kulul within the Danakil Depression -75 m
Highest point: Soira 3,018 m

Natural Resources:

 Gold, potash, zinc, copper, salt, possibly oil and natural gas, fish

Land Use:

 Arable land: 4.78%
Permanent crops: 0.03%
Other: 95.19% (2005)

Irrigated Land:

 210 sq km (2008)

Total Renewable Water Resources:

 6.3 cu km (2001)

Freshwater Withdrawal:

 Total: 0.3 cu km/yr (3%/0%/97%)
Per capita: 68 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural Hazards:

 Frequent droughts, rare earthquakes and volcanos; locust swarms

Volcanism: Dubbi (elev. 1,625 m), which last erupted in 1861, was the country's only historically active volcano until Nabro (2,218 m) came to life on 12 June 2011

Environment - Current Issues:

 Deforestation; desertification; soil erosion; overgrazing; loss of infrastructure from civil warfare

Environment - International Agreements:

 Party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection

Signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - Note:

 Strategic geopolitical position along world's busiest shipping lanes; Eritrea retained the entire coastline of Ethiopia along the Red Sea upon de jure independence from Ethiopia on 24 May 1993

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 Noun: Eritrean(s)
Adjective: Eritrean

Ethnic Groups:

 Nine recognized ethnic groups: Tigrinya 55%, Tigre 30%, Saho 4%, Kunama 2%, Rashaida 2%, Bilen 2%, other (Afar, Beni Amir, Nera) 5% (2010 est.)


 Tigrinya (official), Arabic (official), English (official), Tigre, Kunama, Afar, other Cushitic languages


 Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant


 5,939,484 (July 2011 est.)

Age Structure:

 0-14 years: 42.1% (male 1,256,384/female 1,244,569)
15-64 years: 54.3% (male 1,580,535/female 1,641,911)
65 years and over: 3.6% (male 96,627/female 119,458) (2011 est.)

Median Age:

 Total: 18.7 years
Male: 18.3 years
Female: 19.1 years (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate:

 2.472% (2011 est.)

Birth Rate:

 32.8 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)

Death Rate:

 8.08 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)

Net Migration Rate:

 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)


 Urban population: 22% of total population (2010)
Rate of urbanization: 5.2% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major Cities - Population:

 ASMARA (capital) 649,000 (2009)

Sex Ratio:

 At birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
Under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
Total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2011 est.)

Maternal Mortality Rate:

 280 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)

Infant Mortality Rate:

 Total: 41.33 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 46.77 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 35.72 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)

Life Expectancy At Birth:

 Total population: 62.52 years
Male: 60.4 years
Female: 64.69 years (2011 est.)

Total Fertility Rate:

 4.48 children born/woman (2011 est.)

Health Expenditures:

 7% of GDP (2009)

Physicians Density:

 0.05 physicians/1,000 population (2004)

Hospital Bed Density:

 1.15 beds/1,000 population (2006)

Drinking Water Source:

 Urban: 74% of population
Rural: 57% of population
Total: 61% of population
Urban: 26% of population
Rural: 43% of population
Total: 39% of population (2008)

Sanitation Facility Access:

 Urban: 52% of population
Rural: 4% of population
Total: 14% of population
Urban: 48% of population
Rural: 96% of population
Total: 86% of population (2008)

HIV/AIDS - Adult Prevalence Rate:

 0.8% (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - People Living With HIV/AIDS:

 25,000 (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - Deaths:

 1,700 (2009 est.)

Major Infectious Diseases:

 Degree of risk: high
Food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
Vectorborne disease: malaria (2009)

Children Under 5 - Underweight:

 34.5% (2002)

Obesity - Adult Prevalence Rate:

 3.3% (2004)

Education Expenditures:

 2% of GDP (2006)


 Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 58.6%
Male: 69.9%
Female: 47.6% (2003 est.)

Average Years of Schooling:

 Total: 5 years
Male: 6 years
Female: 4 years (2009)

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Country Name:

 Conventional long form: State of Eritrea
Conventional short form: Eritrea
Local long form: Hagere Ertra
Local short form: Ertra
Former: Eritrea Autonomous Region in Ethiopia

Government Type:

 Transitional government

Note: following a successful referendum on independence for the Autonomous Region of Eritrea on 23-25 April 1993, a National Assembly, composed entirely of the People's Front for Democracy and Justice or PFDJ, was established as a transitional legislature; a Constitutional Commission was also established to draft a constitution; ISAIAS Afworki was elected president by the transitional legislature; the constitution, ratified in May 1997, did not enter into effect, pending parliamentary and presidential elections; parliamentary elections were scheduled in December 2001 but were postponed indefinitely; currently the sole legal party is the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ)


 Name: Asmara (Asmera)
Geographic coordinates: 15 20 N, 38 56 E
Time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Administrative Divisions:

 6 regions (zobatat, singular - zoba); Anseba, Debub (South), Debubawi K'eyih Bahri (Southern Red Sea), Gash Barka, Ma'akel (Central), Semenawi Keyih Bahri (Northern Red Sea)


 24 May 1993 (from Ethiopia)

National Holiday:

 Independence Day, 24 May (1993)


 Adopted 23 May 1997, but has not yet been fully implemented

Legal System:

 Mixed legal system of civil, customary, and Islamic religious law

International Law Organization Participation:

 Has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt


 18 years of age; universal

Executive Branch:

 Chief of state: President ISAIAS Afworki (since 8 June 1993); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government and is head of the State Council and National Assembly

Head of government: President ISAIAS Afworki (since 8 June 1993)

Cabinet: State Council the collective is executive authority; members appointed by the president

Elections: president elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); the most recent and only election was held on 8 June 1993 (next election date uncertain as the National Assembly did not hold a presidential election in December 2001 as anticipated)

Election results: ISAIAS Afworki elected president; percent of National Assembly vote - ISAIAS Afworki 95%, other 5%

Legislative Branch:

 Unicameral National Assembly (150 seats; members elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)

Elections: in May 1997, following the adoption of the new constitution, 75 members of the PFDJ Central Committee (the old Central Committee of the EPLF), 60 members of the 527-member Constituent Assembly, which had been established in 1997 to discuss and ratify the new constitution, and 15 representatives of Eritreans living abroad were formed into a Transitional National Assembly to serve as the country's legislative body until countrywide elections to a National Assembly were held; although only 75 of 150 members of the Transitional National Assembly were elected, the constitution stipulates that once past the transition stage, all members of the National Assembly will be elected by secret ballot of all eligible voters; National Assembly elections scheduled for December 2001 were postponed indefinitely

Judicial Branch:

 Supreme Court; Regional, subregional, and village courts

Political Parties and Leaders:

 People's Front for Democracy and Justice or PFDJ [ISAIAS Afworki] (the only party recognized by the government); note - a National Assembly committee drafted a law on political parties in January 2001, but the full National Assembly has yet to debate or vote on it

Political Pressure Groups and Leaders:

 Eritrean Democratic Party (EDP) [HAGOS, Mesfin]; Eritrean Islamic Jihad or EIJ (includes Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement or EIJM also known as the Abu Sihel Movement); Eritrean Islamic Salvation or EIS (also known as the Arafa Movement); Eritrean Liberation Front or ELF [ABDULLAH Muhammed]; Eritrean National Alliance or ENA (a coalition including EIJ, EIS, ELF, and a number of ELF factions) [HERUY Tedla Biru]; Eritrean Public Forum or EPF [ARADOM Iyob]

International Organization Participation:


Diplomatic Representation in the US:

 Chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires BERHANE Gebrehiwet Solomon
Chancery: 1708 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
Telephone: [1] (202) 319-1991
FAX: [1] (202) 319-1304
Consulate(s) general: Oakland (California)

Diplomatic Representation From the US:

 Chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Joel REIFMAN
Embassy: 179 Ala Street, Asmara
Mailing address: P. O. Box 211, Asmara
Telephone: [291] (1) 120004
FAX: [291] (1) 127584

Flag Description:

 Red isosceles triangle (based on the hoist side) dividing the flag into two right triangles; the upper triangle is green, the lower one is blue; a gold wreath encircling a gold olive branch is centered on the hoist side of the red triangle; green stands for the country's agriculture economy, red signifies the blood shed in the fight for freedom, and blue symbolizes the bounty of the sea; the wreath-olive branch symbol is similar to that on the first flag of Eritrea from 1952; the shape of the red triangle broadly mimics the shape of the country

National Symbols:


National Anthem:

 Name: "Ertra, Ertra, Ertra" (Eritrea, Eritrea, Eritrea)
Lyrics/music: SOLOMON Tsehaye Beraki/Isaac Abraham MEHAREZGI and ARON Tekle Tesfatsion

Note: adopted 1993; upon independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea adopted its own national anthem

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Economy - Overview:

 Since independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea has faced the economic problems of a small, desperately poor country, accentuated by the recent implementation of restrictive economic policies. Eritrea has a command economy under the control of the sole political party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). Like the economies of many African nations, a large share of the population - nearly 80% - is engaged in subsistence agriculture, but they produce only a small share of total output. Since the conclusion of the Ethiopian-Eritrea war in 2000, the government has maintained a firm grip on the economy, expanding the use of the military and party-owned businesses to complete Eritrea's development agenda. The government strictly controls the use of foreign currency by limiting access and availability. Few private enterprises remain in Eritrea. Eritrea's economy depends heavily on taxes paid by members of the diaspora. Erratic rainfall and the delayed demobilization of agriculturalists from the military continue to interfere with agricultural production, and Eritrea's recent harvests have been unable to meet the food needs of the country. The Government continues to place its hope for additional revenue on the development of several international mining projects. Despite difficulties for international companies in working with the Eritrean Government, a Canadian mining company signed a contract with the government in 2007 and began mineral extraction in 2010. Eritrea's economic future depends upon its ability to master social problems such as illiteracy, unemployment, and low skills, and more importantly, on the government's willingness to support a true market economy.

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):

 $3.625 billion (2010 est.)
$3.548 billion (2009 est.)
$3.415 billion (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (Official Exchange Rate):

 $2.117 billion (2010 est.)

GDP - Real Growth Rate:

 2.2% (2010 est.)
3.9% (2009 est.)
-9.8% (2008 est.)

GDP - Per Capita (PPP):

 $600 (2010 est.)
$600 (2009 est.)
$600 (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - Composition By Sector:

 Agriculture: 14.3%
Industry: 23.1%
Services: 62.6% (2010 est.)

Labor Force:

 1.935 million (2007)

Labor Force - By Occupation:

 Agriculture: 80%
Industry and services: 20% (2004 est.)

Unemployment Rate:


Population Below Poverty Line:

 50% (2004 est.)

Household Income / Consumption By Share:

 Lowest 10%: NA%
Highest 10%: NA%

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons:

 IDPs: 32,000 (border war with Ethiopia from 1998-2000; most IDPs are near the central border region) (2007)

Investment (Gross Fixed):

 16.8% of GDP (2010 est.)


 Revenues: $513.8 million
Expenditures: $839 million (2010 est.)

Taxes and Other Revenues:

 24.3% of GDP (2010 est.)

Budget Surplus / Deficit:

 -15.4% of GDP (2010 est.)

Inflation Rate (Consumer Prices):

 18% (2010 est.)
20% (2009 est.)

Commercial Bank Prime Lending Rate:


Stock of Money:

 $896.2 million (31 December 2008)
$749.1 million (31 December 2007)

Stock of Quasi Money:

 $1.053 billion (31 December 2008)
$932.9 million (31 December 2007)

Stock of Narrow Money:

 $1.341 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$1.105 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Broad Money:

 $2.593 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$2.245 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Domestic Credit:

 $2.628 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$2.276 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Agriculture - Products:

 Sorghum, lentils, vegetables, corn, cotton, tobacco, sisal; livestock, goats; fish


 Food processing, beverages, clothing and textiles, light manufacturing, salt, cement

Industrial Production Growth Rate:

 8% (2010 est.)

Electricity - Production:

 269.9 million kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - Production By Source:

 Fossil fuel: 100%
Hydro: 0%
Nuclear: 0%
Other: 0% (2001)

Electricity - Consumption:

 224.9 million kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - Exports:

 0 kWh (2009 est.)

Electricity - Imports:

 0 kWh (2009 est.)

Oil - Production:

 0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Consumption:

 6,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Exports:

 0 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Imports:

 3,864 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Proven Reserves:

 0 bbl (1 January 2011 est.)

Natural Gas - Production:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Consumption:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Exports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Imports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Proven Reserves:

 0 cu m (1 January 2011 est.)

Current Account Balance:

 -$200 million (2010 est.)
-$136.5 million (2009 est.)


 $29 million (2010 est.)
$26.2 million (2009 est.)

Exports - Commodities:

 Livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufactures

Exports - Partners:

 Italy 30.5%, Sudan 24%, Saudi Arabia 8.8%, China 8.5%, UK 5.7%, Egypt 4.8% (2010)


 $677.2 million (2010 est.)
$580.6 million (2009 est.)

Imports - Commodities:

 Machinery, petroleum products, food, manufactured goods

Imports - Partners:

 Saudi Arabia 15.7%, Egypt 11.9%, China 11.1%, India 8.9%, Germany 7.2%, Italy 7.2%, South Africa 6.5%, Brazil 5.9%, South Korea 4.3% (2010)

Reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold:

 $96.5 million (31 December 2010 est.)
$68.4 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Debt - External:

 $1.048 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$1.019 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange Rates:

 Convert Eritrea Nakfa to Any Currency

Nakfa (ERN) per US dollar -
15.375 (2010)
15.375 (2009)
15.38 (2008)
15.5 (2007)
15.4 (2006)

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Telephones - Main Lines In Use:

 54,200 (2010)

Telephones - Cellular:

 185,300 (2010)

Telephone System:

 General assessment: inadequate; most telephones are in Asmara; government is seeking international tenders to improve the system (2002)

Domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular subscribership is only about 3 per 100 persons (2009)

International: country code - 291; note - international connections exist

Broadcast Media:

 Government controls broadcast media with private ownership prohibited; 1 state-owned TV station; state-owned radio operates 2 networks; purchases of satellite dishes and subscriptions to international broadcast media are permitted (2007)

Radio Broadcast Stations:

 AM 2, FM NA, shortwave 2 (2000)

Television Broadcast Stations:

 2 (2006)

Internet Country Code:


Internet Hosts:

 1,241 (2010)

Internet Users:

 200,000 (2008)

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 13 (2010)

Airports - With Paved Runways:

 Total: 4
Over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 (2010)

Airports - With Unpaved Runways:

 Total: 9
Over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2010)


 1 (2010)


 Total: 306 km
Narrow gauge: 306 km 0.950-m gauge (2010)


 Total: 4,010 km
Paved: 874 km
Unpaved: 3,136 km (2000)

Merchant Marine:

 Total: 4
By type: cargo 2, petroleum tanker 1, roll on/roll off 1 (2010)

Ports and Terminals:

 Assab, Massawa

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Military Branches:

 Eritrean Armed Forces: Eritrean Ground Forces, Eritrean Navy, Eritrean Air Force (includes Air Defense Force) (2011)

Military Service Age and Obligation:

 18-40 years of age for male and female voluntary and compulsory military service; 16-month conscript service obligation (2006)

Manpower Available For Military Service:

 Males age 16-49: 1,350,446
Females age 16-49: 1,362,575 (2010 est.)

Manpower Fit For Military Service:

 Males age 16-49: 896,096
Females age 16-49: 953,757 (2010 est.)

Manpower Reaching Militarily Significant Age Annually:

 Male: 66,829
Female: 66,731 (2010 est.)

Military Expenditures:

 6.3% of GDP (2006 est.)

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Disputes - International:

 Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed to abide by 2002 Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission's (EEBC) delimitation decision but, neither party responded to the revised line detailed in the November 2006 EEBC Demarcation Statement; Sudan accuses Eritrea of supporting eastern Sudanese rebel groups; in 2008 Eritrean troops move across the border on Ras Doumera peninsula and occupy Doumera Island with undefined sovereignty in the Red Sea

Trafficking in Persons:

 Current situation: Eritrea is a source country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation; each year, large numbers of migrant workers depart Eritrea in search of work, particularly in the Gulf States, where some are likely to become victims of forced labor, including in domestic servitude, or commercial sexual exploitation; Eritrean children also work in various economic sectors, including domestic service, street vending, small-scale factories, and agriculture; child laborers frequently suffer abuse from their employers and some may be subjected to conditions of forced labor

Tier rating: Tier 3 - the Government of Eritrea does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; the Eritrean Government does not operate with transparency and published neither data nor statistics regarding its efforts to combat human trafficking; the government made no known progress in prosecuting and punishing trafficking crimes over the reporting period and did not appear to provide any significant assistance to victims of trafficking (2011)

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Last Updated: December 2011

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