Eritrea: back to the dark ages

AsmaraThis information comes from sources with direct contact with people living in Eritrea. It gives a unique picture of life under a regime that tolerates no independent media coverage – national or international. Note: the unofficial exchange rate is 70 – 75 Nakfa to the £.

Life in Asmara today

It has been almost two weeks since there has been any electricity supply in Asmara and those who have no access to generators are in the dark.

Their mobile phones are dead too…

Scarcity of petrol and diesel means public  transport is  difficult. Horse drawn carts and wheel-burrows have returned to the streets.

People use their carts to  transport water. In many areas of the city taps have run dry.

People queue for hours to get water, filling jerrycans and barrels and carting them off.

There is also a scarcity of domestic fuel for cooking. Kerosine is supplied once or twice a year in the government shops.

Every family  gets 5-10 liters. When that runs out people use coal.

Real hardship

Bread is so scares and is only supplied intermittently.

Each person gets one loaf. When it is available the bread is good quality and cheap so people are happy when there is a bread delivery.

Every month 5 liters of cooking oil is provided per family.

The only cereal supplied is sorghum which people use as a staple in place of wheat and taff.

Sorghum is supplied every other month and a family of three gets about 15kg.

Additionally a packet of teabags and 3 kg of sugar is also sold every month. but sometimes the tea bags are not available.

Fresh produce is sold in open markets but the prices are so high a single meal can cost an national service recruits his or her entire salary, of 450 nakfa.

1kg of Potatoes cost 50 nakfa, tomatoes cost 40 and onions 25.  Meat is a luxury that many only dream about –  it costs 250 nakfa per kg.

A medium sized chicken costs 400 nakfa, a goat will set you back 600 nakfa.

The people who are suffering the most are the educated middle classes who may earn 1,500-2,000 nakfas.

Most are expected to  support not only their immediate families but their extended families as well. Many single young men are fleeing the country to avoid this fate.

An email from a relative: “Please send me any cloths that your children don’t need anymore. We use all our money on food and rent (my mum now lives with us as my two brothers are in Juba, South Sudan now).  My three children are literally running around in rags.”

Please note: If you believe that any of this information is inaccurate, please let me know. If you have any further anecdotes about life in Eritrea, please sent it to me.

Updates: I have received these responses since the item was posted.

1. Hospitals are suffering because of shortage of electricity. A blood laboratory result could take more than 10 days. Means if ur sickness is critical ur family will accept the result paper days after ur funeral.

2. I am writing this from Asmara. The statements you wrote about electricity, mobile phones etc are fake. How come I was able to charge my phone of there was no electricity in Asmara for 3 days?

3. Do not believe in those who say those are lies. They are all regime supporters. The government gave just 2hours electricity in the last two days. All u wrote is the dramatic truth!

4. “….a goat will set you back 600 nakfa” I am sure this is wrong. When I left Eritrea 3-4 yrs ago, lamb cost 3000-6000 nakfa.

5. All is true. Also, the authorities do not inform (even unofficially) citizens why power is out. They never do. The fact that this is normal practice tells you how oppressed the people are and how much they don’t know about how their country is run.

6. By the way, power has been going out most of the day for the past months, It only got worst the last two weeks with 0 to 2 hours of electric power per day.

33 thoughts on “Eritrea: back to the dark ages

  1. Hospitals are suffering because of shortage of electricity. A blood laboratory result could take more than 10 days. Means if ur sickness is critical ur family will accept the result paper days after ur funneral

  2. Do not believe in those who say those are lies. They are all regime supporters. The goverment gave just 2hours electricity in the last two days. All u wrote is the drammatic truth!! U must keep high the attention on our country. Thsnks for you article!

  3. In the article it says: “A medium sized chicken costs 400 nakfa, a goat will set you back 600 nakfa”
    If a medium sized chicken costs 400 Nakfa… a goat should cost 6000 Nakfa (and not 600 Nakfa)… that’s what logic suggests… may be it was a typo error. Thanks for your valuable information which many of us know but unfortunately some Eritreans still support the failed, dictatorial despotic regime of DIA (dictatot isaias afwerki) they do not care about the suffering and plight of the Eritrean people and stand with and support the criminal DIA which make them partners and partly responsible to the sufferings of the Eritrean people.

  4. All is true. Also, the authorities do not inform (even unofficially) citizens why power is out. They never do. The fact that this is normal practice tells you how oppressed the people are and how much they don’t know about how their country is run.

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  6. By the way, power has been going out most of the day for the past months, It only got worst the last two weeks with 0 to 2 hours of electric power per day.

  7. 20 years after voting FREEDOM “Yes”, SLAVERY “No” what do Eritreans have? Educated Eritreans are criminals and the people followed them and are paying for those choices. The first generation [Isaias Afewerki] spent life making war against Ethiopian “colonizers”, the second generation silently enduring meaningless pain under the hands of their “liberators.” What is ironic is that Eritreans enjoyed a much higher status than most Ethiopians during the reign of Emperor Haileselassie, Derg, and Eprdf! So do Eritreans prefer their own dictator and enslaver?

    • Thank you Alem. You stated what I know as an eye witness in my Early age. Many Eritreans strogly believed succession from Ethiopia would make them prosper like Singapore till they understood it is shattered like a glass thrown on cobblestone soon after the so called ‘freedom’. Because they were preveleged by Ethiopian regimes so as to encourage them to drop the idea of succession, they were so successful. This in contrary made them to think it is because they are higher in IQ, race and blood. They went as far as appreciating colonization by the Italian as something as a reward. Thanks God for seeing this alive. We were oppressed by Ethiopian regimes together. No one was immune. Why succession? Why? Why? Those who still behave the sameway please think twice.

  8. thing about electric is true I tried to call my familly and couldnt reach them,they told me its cuz power is out plus the network is bad most of the time.

  9. This is all true. A close friend of mine came yesterday from Asmara (sadly on funeral trip).. .. pretty much the same story. unfortunately.

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  11. How could this be the result of weapons sanction? That doesn’t make any sense if anything it lowers military expenses.

  12. I was in eritrea from the end of june to mid august and your post is slightly off. Yes power was off most of the time but there was electricity for few hours a day and of course people did not have a clue why it is happening and why they have power @ 6:00 AM while it was dark all evening and night. The situation got better since mid July where there was electricity most of the day. Goat or sheep were more like 6000 to 8000 but remember everything goes up during this season because historically during the rainy season there is a shortage of supply coupled with the diaspora flocking to country during their summer vacation, and of course the holy Romodan occurred during this time this. Anyway the country seems to go down the hill from year to year at least during summer time.

  13. There is a huge problem in Eritrea. It’s not just the fact that the cost of living is high or that the electricity is only on for a few hours a day. The problem is that people are ok with just having electricity for 2 hours, being enslaved and treated less then humans. Eritrea belongs to the people of Eritrea, stand up for your rights instead of following silently after a Regime that you are terrified of questioning. Take back your country, start a revolution do something instead of hoping and waiting for a change!

  14. Yes, most of the things are the way they are said by the contributors. People are helplessly patient and waiting for better days. A change in the attitude of the rulers can only make the situation better. Revolution may not be the solution. Eritreans are still suffering from the after-effects of the freedom war.

  15. Your article is nice. Well I am an Indian planning work in Eritrea as professor for some times. I would like to know what is cost of living for a single person…?

  16. The situation of our people is getting worst & worst not due to sunction. Are all the problems apears only after the sunctioning? Are the PFDJ really yet sunctioned? Do not try to hide the bad Agenda of PFDJ. Even you would have to learn the facts from what the DIA has responded during his last interview. His/ their agenda is to ruin our country economically in order to depend on Ethiopia, just to achieve their dream, because this system is the only choices they have to neeldown eritreans under Ethiopia. Here is DIAs’ words….” I can buy the power suply from Milinium Damp.” According that….Do you really think our country has a Government? Or do you teally think our people owned their country? Do you really think that our people would have be needy while they are ownning two Ports? What is the tragedy that disfuntioned our two ports? And then why our people were/ are still langushing , torturing & ransoming just to pay unbelievable of huge money? All are to leach eritrean whealthy untill the whole community surrendered by the poverity just to depend on Ethiopia. This is the truth. We are not doom peopke as pumkin hesded as Issaias & their fellow ships.

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  18. All I realized is, that our people are suffering like never before even they never experienced it with the colonial rule, the do not have faith among themselves as before, they do not have the basic services at all and people are suffering hunger. I got friends there that they tell everything there!

    • So what was so bad for Eritrea as part of Ethiopia. The result is there were needless wars and the suffering continues. Africans have to understand that Africa’s problem is the same every where the leaders that are elected through the barrel of the gun and not the ballot.

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  20. Not sure how much of this is fact and how much of it pure exaggeration. Sure there is an electric shortage and everything comes with it in Asamara and its surroundings. So what is the bid deal. It is Africa and that is what the Western world like for this continent. Is it not? Please stop bombarding this generation with garbage. It is like garbage in to Martin and garbage out to your followers. It is sad.

  21. Pingback: Eritrea: Back to the Dark Ages | ethiopanorama.com | ethiopanorama.com

  22. World people I am appealing in the name of our people to provide us support for the right of people as per UN convention of human right. I met Ethiopian outside the country and amazed some are actually contributing money for the struggle of the DIA through an established group to emancipate the people from DIA. Let us top talking about the Sanction which has little to do in paralyzingly the whole economy. By the way Eritrea as country has big potential natural resources which is not found any other country. DIA is an evil person in the 21st century, at least I know Mengistu of Derge has been killing people but was careful on the economy at his time. DIA actully must be better than Mengistu.

    Fellow Eritrean let us bring our effort to struggle and make this change to happen. We have to use media as much as possible to create the unity for the struggle. There is big possibility to remove DIA from power if we unit together. I am part of the underground group members working currently on strategy for better future of fellow Eritrean.

    Free Eritrea from DIA

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