2.5 Persons with disabilities in Ethiopia

How many people with disabilities are there in Ethiopia? Collecting this sort of data is challenging in any country. One reason is the difficulty of defining what is meant by a disability. You can see from the previous sections that there are many different categories of impairment and disability. Different countries, systems and surveys do not all use the same methods and definitions. Another reason is that, when responding to surveys and questionnaires, people have different understandings of disability and are often reluctant to report that they or a family member is disabled because of negative attitudes and stigma.

In Ethiopia, there have been several estimates of the number of persons with disabilities all giving different results (COWASH, 2017; Metiku, 2008; JICA, 2002; DCDD, n.d.). Using statistics from the 2007 national census, the National Plan of Action (MoLSA, 2012) estimated that in 2010 there were approximately one million people with disabilities in Ethiopia. Other estimates are much higher. According to the World Report on Disability (WHO/WB, 2011), 17.6% of the adult population in Ethiopia had a disability (data based on a house-to-house survey).

  • Ethiopia’s population in 2018 is approximately 106 million of which roughly half are adults over the age of 18. Using the proportion of 17.6%, estimate the number of adults with disabilities in Ethiopia.

Nine million is a very large number! But even this is not the complete picture. WHO/WB data did not include children and was gathered by house-to-house survey and so did not include homeless people. The actual number could be significantly higher.

Whichever estimate we use, there are certainly millions of people in Ethiopia who live with a disability of some sort. 95% of these people are estimated to live in poverty and many depend on family support and begging for their livelihoods. It is probable that the majority of these people live in rural areas where access to basic services including WASH is limited (MoLSA, 2012; ILO, 2013).

2.4 Using positive language to communicate with persons with disabilities

2.6 Collecting data about persons with disabilities