Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Some Sobering Statistics

  • The average life expectancy in Ethiopia is 48 years.
  • 131 of 1000 infants born alive will die before their first birthdays
  • 174 of 1000 children born alive will die before their fifth birthdays
  • The maternal mortality rate is 871/100,000 live births.
  • 10% of births are attended by medical professionals
  • The average Ethiopian lives off the equivalent of $780 US dollars a year.
  • 34% of adult women and 49% of adult men are literate
  • 35% of eligible Ethiopian children are enrolled in elementary school
  • 12% of girls and 19% of boys will enroll in secondary school
  • 10% of Ethiopian schools have libraries
  • 11% of the country's children are orphans - That's 5 million children missing parents.

My favorite English teacher used to say statistics are meaningless unless the author interprets them. These particular statistics aren't new to me - I've been thinking about them a lot for the last year or so. Still, I'm struggling to find the right words to interpret them. As I sit here, it's making me think about the ways in which these statistics are probably already adding up and exerting their influence over the lives of our future children.

I wish I could deceive myself and imagine that our kids are going to be delivered lovingly by storks, fairies wearing tutus, or Santa Claus himself. I can't really wrap my mind around the idea that our children's path to us is likely to be the direct result of their birth families' misfortunes. Logically though, I know that's the truth. Somewhere on the opposite side of the world, our children's families must feel as though their lives are falling apart while I'm sitting here in my comfortable computer chair wondering when we'll get our referrals so that our own family will feel complete. It seems like a cruel way for the world to work.

I don't mean to make it sound like I'm ready to dress all in black, draw the shades, and listen to The Cure all day for the rest of my life. When I think of our children coming home I'm filled with optimism. They will have a stable family and a hope for a better life and I'd like to think this is exactly why their first-families will have decided to place them for adoption. Tonight those families are on my mind.

3 comments:

Pennythrower said...

you are so amazing, betsy. thoughts like these only show once again what an incredible mother you're going to be. i am so glad you're keeping this blog so that all of us far away can feel just a wee bit closer. love you. andrea

LilySea said...

I've heard there's sometimes a chance of on-going birth family contact with some African adoptions. Do you think this will be likely for you all? What does your agency say about it?

I heard a really good presentation about Ethiopian adoptees to Sweden when I was at the adoption conference and I thought of you!

Betsy said...

lilysea,
Our agency often facilitates ongoing birth family contact and we hope that it will be possible for us. A significant portion of children who are adopted from Ethiopia, however, were abandoned at the orphanages. My understanding is that there used to be a law prohibiting living parents from placing their children for adoption. Although this is no longer in place, many parents don't realize it and so "abandon" their children as a way of assuring they receive spots in an orphanage.