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Ethiopia: Family in Crisis
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Ethiopia: Family in Crisis
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Weathering Change: Fatima

As Ethiopia faces up to the possibility of a booming population, parents are keen to learn about the benefits of birth spacing and family planning.

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Segment 1

VOICEOVER
In Ethiopia's densely populated region of Oromiya, it's common for men to have at least four wives as long as they are able to provide for them and their children. But Ayatu Nure went beyond four wives. He married 12 women who bore him 78 children.
AYATU NURE
Life was easy for me before. Life did not cost much. I had land, property, and money. I could feed all of them.
VOICEOVER
But all that changed when Ayatu saw the land that he inherited from his father shrink to just 10 hectares. Faced with poverty and rising costs, he can't even afford to buy his son a pair of trousers. What's more, 10 of his teenage sons had to quit secondary school this year. Sending his girls to school proved difficult too, so he decided to marry off two of his 15-year-old daughters to ease the burden.
AYATU NURE
I cannot afford their food, clothing, school materials, and rent. I have a big problem. There is no more property and I'm getting tired.
VOICEOVER
His first wife, Ende, is also 65 years old. She bore him 10 children, seven of whom survived. Despite their economic hardships, and the physical toll of bearing so many children, Ende bears him no grudge for taking so many wives.
ENDE
I loved him, I married him, I had his children. Why should I hate him now?
VOICEOVER
Ayatu's last wife, Zenaba, has three children and is worried about their future. Not willing to leave the size of her family to fate, Zenaba has turned to family planning.
ZENABA
I'm taking injections every three months.
VOICEOVER
To assist families like Ayatu's, the government of Ethiopia, with support from the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, launched a network of 29,000 health extension workers. They visit rural villages to teach women and men about birth spacing and hygiene. Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus is Minister of Health.
DR. TEDROS GHEBREYESUS
We have seen mothers really opting to take long-term methods. Their choice is either the implant on long-term, or at least the pill, and they are really convinced they can benefit from it.
VOICEOVER
Two of Ayatu's wives are using long-term implants. Many women in remote villages choose this method to avoid traveling to distant health centers. And even men are interested in promoting healthier and smaller family sizes. After a family planning session, they jostled for condom packets. Ethiopia's population has just hit 73 million. Dr. Monique Rakotomalala, resident representative of UNFPA, is concerned.
DR. MONIQUE RAKOTOMALALA
They cannot sustain 2.7 percent population growth per year, which means two million new people every year.
VOICEOVER
At this rate, the population could double over the next 24 years, severely stretching existing resources.
DR. TEDROS GHEBREYESUS
We have to educate our communities and tell them the benefits of having less children, because it will bring quality of life to the household.
VOICEOVER
Households like that of 30-year-old Dagne, Ayatu's eldest son. To avoid being trapped like his father, he put himself through school and is now a teacher. He farms when he's not in the classroom.
DAGNE
This is a lesson for everyone. I know how difficult it was and how he's struggling to feed everyone. I would advise all Ethiopians not to follow this example.
VOICEOVER
But Ayatu's legacy is much more than the family he created. Now he has become an advocate in the community warning others not to make the same mistakes he did, and plan for the future.
VOICEOVER
This report was prepared by Mary Ferreira for the United Nations.