Ethiopian Immigrants More Susceptible to Diseases, Committee Told

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli-Ethiopians and activists in a protest march against police brutality in Tel Aviv in 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90 )

Israelis of Ethiopian background are 2.4 times more likely to suffer from diabetes, a Knesset members heard from experts testifying at the Knesset Health Committee. In addition, the rate at which they suffer from increased rates of high blood pressure, gum disease, obesity, and other lifestyle-related maladies has increased significantly since the community began immigrating to Israel en masse in the 1980s.

The committee was discussing the health situation of Ethiopian immigrants and first-generation Israelis of immigrant families born here in advance of the lifting of a ban on blood donations by members of the community. The ban is set to expire at the end of May.

The deterioration in the health of the community is due, Health Ministry officials told MKs, to the sudden adoption of the Western lifestyle prevalent in Israel, which has caused higher levels of obesity and other issues that have led to an increase in high blood pressure and Type II diabetes. However, the sudden changes have also been affecting community members mentally, as well; according to Ministry statistics, Ethiopian community members ages 15-24 were 6.4 times more likely to commit suicide than the average Israeli.

According to Ministry officials, one of the biggest problems in treating members of the community has been communicating with the many people who do not speak Hebrew well, or at all. The officials said that the Ministry was hiring several dozen ombudsmen who are experts in helping provide services to patients and connecting them with the right service, and who speak Amharic.