Eritrea has been a war zone for more than 30 years from 1962 to independence in 1993 and is, until today, one of the poorest countries in the world (BIP/capita 1,250 US$).
Out of 5 million inhabitants, 53% live below poverty line, 73% are malnourished and only 58% of the population have access to water. The figures are speaking for themselves: Life expectancy at birth (53 years), Infant death until the age of 5 (78/1,000 live birth), maternal death (1,000/100,000 births). These key figures reflect not only the high fertility rate (5.4 children per woman and a birth rate of 38.7/1,000) but also a very low level of medical support. The expenses for healthcare amount to only 36 US$ per person/year, only 1 medical doctor per 100,000 people and 3 midwives per 100,000 females. Only 28% of births take place under the supervision of medical personnel. There are only >0.05 hospital beds per 1,000 persons.
The first medical university in Eritrea was inaugurated in 2006. Before that, medical students had to study in Addis Abeba in Ethiopia and most of them did not return to their home country. Last year the first medical doctors graduated in Eritrea. Additional new educational programs in paediatrics, surgery and gynaecology should help to retain these doctors in Eritrea.
Eritrea many children are born with congenital heart diseases and most of them die without medical treatment.