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Addis Ababa: A city of Poverty and Beggars

Nearly 100,000 Ethiopians eat and sell trash to survive in Addis Ababa. Photo: Addis Ababa's Korah Dump. 

By Meredith Maulsby,

Poverty can easily be seen throughout the capital of Ethiopia, but nowhere is it more evident than when you pass a beggar on the street.  Beggars are everywhere in Addis Ababa, and they represent a vast range of demographics. There are men, women, children of all ages and conditions– some with their mothers, some without, and the severely disabled.

Older children, rather than begging, try to sell you gum or clean your shoes, while the younger children walk in front of you asking for money or food, not leaving you until they spot another person to ask. The women are often with young children, sometimes babies, and usually with more than one.  I was once walking down the street and a young child no older than 2 or 3 who was being held by his mother made the signal they all make to ask for food or money while calling me sister.  I thought this child probably learned this signal before he even learned how to speak.  Women are often seen grilling corn on the sidewalk on a small grill to sell to people passing by.

I have been told the severely disabled have most likely suffered from stunting, polio or the war.  I have seen men with disfigured legs so mangled that they can not walk but instead drag themselves down the sidewalk. Others are in wheelchairs and unable to walk.  And this city is not easy for the disabled.  The sidewalks, where they exist, are not always flat and not always paved. There are also often giant holes in the middle of the sidewalk or loose concrete slabs covering gutters. On the main roads, near where I’m staying there are tarps and blankets off to the side of the road where where the beggars must sleep or live.

It is a very difficult scene to walk through.  You want to help them all and give everyone a little bit of money or food. But there are so many it would be nearly impossible to give to them all. We have been told to not give to beggars because once you give to one you will be surrounded by others. When people do give money to beggars it is often very small bills or coins that will not go very far.

I have often wondered how much money they actually receive. Perhaps it would be beneficial to do more in depth look at why these people became beggars and where they come from. After a cursory search for research and reports on beggars in Addis Ababa, I found very little.  There is a study on the disabled beggars and a report focusing on children. There is a documentary that follows two women who come to the capital from a rural town and become beggars in order to raise money for their family when climate change creates a food shortage.

Both the government of Ethiopia and large NGO’s, like USAID and the UN, are working to stop the “cycle of poverty.”  There are major health and nutrition projects being implemented all over the country, but these are long-term projects that do not address the immediate needs of people on the streets. Short term solutions such as creating shelters or centers for the disabled and homeless could allow beggars more opportunities for housing but could also generate income potential through workshops and other skill development programs.

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Addis Ababa: A city of Poverty and Beggars Reviewed by Admin on 4:00 PM Rating: 5


  1. Addis Abeba's number of beggars has always been inversely proportional to the competency of its leaders. Addis had many beggars during Haile Slassie, even more during Mengistu. The magnitude of beggars and prostitutes in woyane’s Addis Abeba is however, as big as big and disastrous as their GIBE III Dam project.

  2. Another topic about Ethiopia. I would think you guys have posted enough topics about Ethiopia. In the end when people talk about another country continually, it is a sign of adoration.

  3. Why don't we talk about beggars in our homeland instead of the ones in our neighbors, especially since the flow of our citizens to the neighbor in question is their destination? Our people all over Eritrea are too weak to beg and besides there is no one around to beg to in this giant prison.

  4. it's in their gene... born to steal, lie & beg... filthy rats.

  5. Read the whole sentence!
    "... as big and disastrous in woyanes Addis Abeba..."
    That's how kids usually get a wrong answer in an exam when not reading the complete sentence.
    Now I hope you know the difference between
    Big versus Big & Disastrous.

  6. Fedayeen,
    You fooled me brother/sister ...
    I almost started looking for a change in my pocket ...
    he reminded me of someone who used to beg back in the day.

  7. It doesn't surprise me to see thousands of beggars out of 87 million people. At least they have a constitutional government that follows the rule of law unlike us ruled by a heinous, hideous and lawless leadership called PFDJ.
    The other truth is, thanks to the lawless and childish leadership of the mafia group called PFDJ that has changed the whole families to be the beggars of their family members.

  8. Why do you brothers writing about ethiopia? We need to write about our own issue. In asmara people are not allowed to beg. But there are more than enigheid beggars and prostitution. But in Eritrea we have no GiBI III dam. What we have in Eritrea is RIGA bani kkkkkkkkkkk and wegah Tibet leyti kkkkkkkkkkkk

  9. The problem of ethiopia's poverty and backwardness is to be attributed to the leaders the country has and the present included. If you go back ward and check out history, the monarchy of the "hatsye's and ras's" has always benefited only a few families, Derg being in vain exploiting the country's wealth in useless and trivial wars, the weyane except stolen and bring the country to war, instead joining in harmony the numerous tribes into one ethiopia, they did the contrary, they divided them in to small states, emphasizing the difference, instead consulting the tradition, history and culture of the country they just import a disastrous modern politic of administering called federalism which doesn't fit to ethiopia. I'm convinced that if some one could rationally and objectively run the country all ethiopians might benefit and get out from poverty, but must be fair, detached from ethnic conflict of interest.

  10. You won the medal of dumbest 1st place. We don't have beggars like Ethiopia who sell there body to any person and Ethiopian men sell there body to cause Ethiopia has democracy haha so it's gays are allowed and don't try to be Eritrean while your actually Ethiopian like the millions of Ethiopian claiming to be Eritrean

  11. Another Ethiopian claiming to be Eritrean soon you will all be known bitchs

  12. I remember Tegadelti singing:
    Russia mn'Abatu hadaru zegebere Hadar enda'matu. ( For the internet and good time patriots - Tegadelti were Eritrean patriots, who fought for the liberation of the country against all odds including Russian weapons and advisers).

    Why worry about Ethiopian poverty, when our own poverty is by no means smaller.

  13. Gibe 3 is a disaster for those who want Africa is a land of beggar and a research center for primitive society. But Gibe 3 a reassurance for Africa for those who wants to see Africa a self realiance and developed continent. with out energy there is no development, that why we are working on it.

  14. Soon you will have Riga Trash Food in your Woyane land.

  15. You are very jealous about Ethiopian economy growth so cry baby cry as usual day and night sleeplessly and we are enjoying about your inside burning.

  16. hi, you are full of baseless information about ethiopia.....Ethiopia ranks third in the world in terms of rapid economic growth achievement .....see what happened to your people . thousands of eritreans inter ethiopia through borders daily . they are given a special refugee place in shmelba, around shire.
    i can contact you with 10 eritreans in mekelle university getting the same educational opportunity with us. all eritreans will join ethiopia with in few years if the trend continues .

  17. "Why don't we talk about beggars in our home land instead of the ones in our neighbors " ... Bla bla bla...

    They is long gone brah, they is in aids ababa now! No longer OUR problem but getachhu & asefa problems :)
    1 mil agames & counting...
    Projected # ? All agames to be in aids ababa sreets, BEGGIN !!

  18. Lol You won the 2nd place in dumbest. First of all the ones who go to Ethiopia is actually half Ethiopian by father or mother so there not Eritrean they have the blood of a trader like Ethiopia and have 7 hearts like Ethiopia. And WTF special refugee place haha Ethiopia people's sleeping on streets and don't have houses. And your saying Ethiopia can help other people from other countries total rubbish. And about the university may any human beings be safe from your university your schools and university can't teach a baby to walk it's shit to say the truth again your education is shit. And about ranked 3rd in economy growth is bullshit all aid money ain't even helping look at your people they are starving your Ethiopia ranks the 1st in the poorest country in the world. and about all Eritrean will join Ethiopia in your shit dreams when these (hatela) =born in Eritrea leaves Eritrea will be more stronger. Stronger then ever

  19. Think obout your people first before solving the whole african people.
    I wonder always. Why are the ethiopians always think about africa as you know the most who suffer first hand of femine in africa is undoubly the Ethiopian people but the like to say adiss ababa ye Africa ketema nay
    H. Slasie african king
    So what is this all about?
    In our tradition it is very shamefull just to say some thing you can't do or offord
    So Amhara , tigrawau Oromo first ferd your self the think about Africa

  20. If that's the case, how does that effect Eritrea? This site has a pattern that I noticed. It starts with how great Isaias Afewerki is, then posts pics of festivals, talks about about how ethiopia is poor and about to be destroyed, and lastly how corrupt the USA is. Then repeat it over and over again.

  21. agree with you analysis but not sure about if been.. 'detached from ethnic conflict'... is the simple solution, as you've already stated they have a tradition / culture of CLASSISM (as some might argue strongly that Mengistu was detached from ethnic views)... even they inferiority complex is directly due to this culture, to simplify just look how the bow down to some one richer or more powerful or even for been from a certain ethnic group... they have a problem with their national culture ... to the point that a large portion of them prefer to be seen as Eritreans than who they really are .... to the point that they national image of unity is a simple illusion which is kept held by outsiders...

  22. Real Facts about Addis Ababa (New Flower)
    1- Addis Ababa is the capital City of Africa and Ethiopia
    2- Addis is growing very fast
    3- above 4 million people live in love and this no. is almost 80% of Eritrea people

  23. Don't blame us about the article, it was written by Meredith Maulsby, not by eritrean, because the whole world know that ethiopia is a beggar nation. Can't blame us, if your country is ranked second poorest in the world, that was not written by us either. Don't blame us if world bank and IMF said ethiopia can not exist a day with out foreign aid .
    Just keep on dreaming about your double digits growth. Your dreams will soon turn to nightmare boy.

  24. You guys have talked about Ethiopia more than any other country besides your own. My question to you is, why is that? Ethiopia is a poor country due to corrupt leaders leading the country, but Last time I checked eritrea isn't rich. You guys boast about feeding 6 million people if that number goes to 90 million you would be asking each nation for food directly.

  25. Any country from eritrea to China, small or large , whether it's population is 6 million or a billion Must stand on its own. Be able to feed its people. Unfortunately this beggar nation Ethiopia is poster child for begging and prostitution .

  26. higiwn hzbawighmbar abaiSeptember 8, 2014 at 9:51 PM

    Adeeeeeddddeeeedededeeee, foh

  27. higiwn hzbawighmbar abaiSeptember 8, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    KIKIKIKIKIKIKIKIKIKIKIKI, what a growth........

  28. Hello GhosT,
    I agree with you however I will give you additional info. Currently Eritrea couldn't provide a basic needs such as bread and water to its people. You can't find bread in the market. It is rationed by Kebele (they call it Mimihdar Kebabi) based on the number of your family once per day. For example if you have 5 members of family, you got 5 breads. that is it. in Eritrea everything is scared and rationed. They live in fear that any time the security agents could pick any one on the street and ended up in jail with out any reason or charge. They talk about Ethiopia too much because the are frustrated by the development of Ethiopia. The simple evidence is that in Ethiopia there are many Eritrean refugees who came to get better life at least better than Eritrea. In Eritrea there are no any Ethiopian refugees except the Ethiopian opposition groups. This is the reality. Cheers

  29. Golden Nation
    Eritrea is unable to feed itself until now. You can't even have enough food stuff in the market and everything from bread, water and gas has been rationed for many years. Do you think that you can cheat anyone in this information age? Eritrea is the worst place to live and that is why all young Eritreans fled their country to neighboring countries like Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia including kenya as Palestinians did in 1950s. In Europe and America Eritrea is seen as one of the biggest producers of refugees. you know the truth and please do not be on state of Denial.


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