An introduction to Ethiopia

Read more about SPANA's work in Ethiopia

SPANA Ethiopia director Dr Nigatu Aklilu with a brown horseDr Nigatu Aklilu is our Country Director in Ethiopia. He studied to be a vet at the Addis Ababa University School of Veterinary Medicine. He has worked at SPANA for 9 years.

What is it like working for SPANA in Ethiopia?
Working for SPANA in Ethiopia is an excellent experience and animal welfare is always at the heart of everything we do. That does not mean however that it is always easy; we have to deal with owners who have been neglectful and others who simply cannot do more for their animals because they do not have enough money. We treat horses free of charge, educate their owners and also teach school children about animal welfare and humane education.

What is the best thing about your job?
The most satisfying part of my job is relieving the pain and suffering of animals. SPANA provides us with medicines which help to avoid or reduce painful conditions and suffering. We are grateful to SPANA for this and for all the other help they provide.

What has been a memorable experience whilst working for SPANA?
One morning about 6 months ago, an owner came to our centre, he was obviously very upset and exhausted from running to find us. His horse had fallen into an pit being dug that was two metres deep. A SPANA team drove to his house and helped to pull the horse out carefully to prevent any further damage to him. The horse's neck was bent as the pit was not wide enough for him to keep it straight. The horse was shivering when he came out. Our team gave him some painkillers and massaged his neck to relax him. They monitored his progress for three days and he made a full recovery after five days. The horses’ owner, Ato Tesfaye, was very happy; he has two horse and cart businesses which provide the only income he has to support his family. He said that life was very difficult for him without the help of his horses. He thanked SPANA for the help the team provided as he was not able to afford to pay for the services.

What is your favourite thing about Ethiopia?
I like the biodiversity in Ethiopia, we have so many different plants and animals. We actually have some animals such as the Gelada Baboon, Walia Ibex, Simien Wolf and many different kinds of birds that are only found in Ethiopia. We also have 13 months of Sunshine! We have 12 months of 30 equal days and then 5/6 days as the 13th month which is called 'Phagume'. I also like that we have our own alphabet.

All about Ethiopia

Animals in Ethiopia feeding on grass with mountain in backgroundEthiopia is a landlocked country in Eastern Africa. It is one of the oldest countries in the world and is sometimes called ‘the cradle of life’ because it is here that some of the oldest ever human skeletons have been found.

Ethiopia is a large country and has the second highest population in Africa. In 2012, Ethiopia had 28’148’413 more people living there than in the UK! Many different languages are spoken; there are 84 different languages in Ethiopia!

When most people are asked to describe Ethiopia they would probably use the following words; dry, hot, desert and remote. Although there are areas of Ethiopia that do look like this, called the lowlands, Ethiopia is not just dry desert! The highlands can get quite cold, are very mountainous and can be very lush and green during the wet rainy season.

Having such different places in Ethiopia means that it also experiences two of the most extreme disasters; floods and famines. This can lead to many problems for farmers, which is what most people do for a living. People rely on older farming techniques to produce their crops and to look after their animals.

The roads in Ethiopia can be very difficult to drive on! There are lots of big holes and some roads are just mud tracks. This means there are not many cars used outside of the cities. Instead, they use horses and carts.


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