The country of 70 million has more than 5 million orphans, their parents lost to famine, disease, war and AIDS—a catastrophe the government has said is “tearing apart the social fabric” of the east African nation.
Caring for the orphans costs $115 million a month in a country whose annual health budget is only $140 million.
So Ethiopia has gone out of its way to make adoption easier, and the numbers reached a record in 2003 with 1,400 children taken abroad, more than double the number in the previous year. The number of adoption agencies in Addis Ababa, the capital, has doubled in the past year to 30.
Jana Tuininga represents Adoption Advocates International, one of the largest U.S. agencies working in Ethiopia. She says her agency prepares the children thoroughly in every field, including “Western table manners.”
“We work very hard at preparing them for what life is going to be like,” she said.
Most children go to France, Australia, the United States and Ireland. In 2002, 114 orphans were taken to the United States, but that number is expected to top 500 in 2004.