Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

Young population helps limit Covid-19 impact in Ethiopia

Climate, clean air and other nationwide factors help suppress number of deaths from coronavirus.

Ethiopia’s youthful population in combination with environmental factors including its warm climate and low rates of smoking may have contributed to the country’s low rate of Covid-19 deaths, a study suggests.

Ethiopia has suffered a lower incidence of deaths from Covid compared with many other countries – just over 1.5 per cent of cases resulted in death, compared with a global average of 5.7 per cent.

This is despite a lack of infrastructure suited to managing severe cases of coronavirus, and expectations that Ethiopia might suffer high mortality rates during the outbreak, in common with other developing countries.

Addis Abeba
Ethiopia's relatively youthful population has helped avoid a high death toll.

Beneficial factors

A relatively youthful population may help to limit the number of severe infections. The majority of the Ethiopian population is aged below 30, with less than 4 per cent of people over the age of 65.

Younger people are less likely to suffer severe Covid-19 or to have pre-existing conditions that would worsen the impact of the disease.

In addition, frequent influenza outbreaks may have led to production of beneficial immune cells in many of the population. These memory B cells, induced by colds and flus, may offer protection against the coronavirus.

Environmental factors such as low air pollution may have played a part in keeping cases down in Ethiopia, compared with countries such as the US, China and Italy, while its warm climate and relatively high levels of vitamin D among the population may have helped limit the impact of the virus.

In addition, low uptake of smoking among Ethiopians may have helped limit the number of severe cases.

The low numbers of severe Covid-19 cases across Ethiopia is probably linked to a combination of factors linked to individual and public health. These have supressed the number of fatalities, and prevented pressure on Ethiopia’s healthcare facilities.

Dr Taddese ZerfuGlobal Academy of Agriculture and Food Security

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