The linkage between geological setting and human health in Ethiopia: a preliminary geo-environmental-health model

  • Seifu Kebede Addis Ababa University
Keywords: Geochemical diseases, geo-environmental setting, Ethiopia, health belts


Tropical environments are known for their prevalence of a number of geo-chemical diseases. This is related to the very nature of their geo-environments. Little research is conducted in geo-sciences in Ethiopia to investigate the linkage between geo-environments and associated health risks. Fluoride and related diseases are the most widely studied from geological perspectives. Ethiopia is characterized by complex but regionally homogeneous geo-environment. Climate is under the influence of monsoon from two oceans and continental sources. Locally orography modifies the redistribution of rainfall in the lee and wind ward directions. This leads to any combination of warm to cold and wet to dry climate. Prominent geologic features are rifting, volcanism and uplifting. Combination of geology, climate, and topography results in a complex pattern of geo-environment which in turn results in belts of availability or scarcity of certain geo-chemical elements. This work shows the presence of linkage between geo-environmental setting and prevalence of geo-chemical diseases such as goiter, elephantiasis, flourisis, and trace element related health problems. South-western Ethiopia, which is under the influence of Indian Ocean monsoon and underlain by volcanic rocks shows the highest incidence of Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD). Regions of Ethiopia under the influence of Atlantic Ocean monsoon or areas underlain by sediments and sedimentary rocks show the lowest IDD.  Elephantiasis prevalence is linked to laterite soils derived from chemical weathering of basalts, a typical process commonly taking place in humid plateau of south-western Ethiopia between altitudes of 1000 and 2000 masl.  Flouride related diseases are common features in area where water supply for domestic water use depend on aquifers in acid volcanic rocks, commonly in the rift setting. Regardless of the prevalence of geo-chemical diseases, Ethiopia is also endowed with natural geo-chemical materials of significant health benefits (e.g., Mineral waters and mud volcanoes). The work proposes a preliminary geo-environmental health model for Ethiopia.
Research articles

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eISSN: 2520–7997
print ISSN: 0379-2897