Changes have come with side effects that few saw coming: A skyrocketing demand for psychiatric services that has left mental health providers feeling helpless to keep up.

By Matthew LaPlante (Deseret News) |

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia―There was a young boy in a Manchester United jersey and an old woman whose face was tattooed with an Orthodox cross. There was a businessman in a finely tailored suit and a police woman in uniform. There were two women in black niqab head coverings and two others in short, brightly colored skirts.

It was a Monday morning in October at the Sitota Center for Mental Health Care in the Ethiopian capital and, in the waiting area in front of a bustling reception desk, the weary faces of a rapidly changing nation were on full display.

Although still one of the poorest nations in the world, Ethiopia is the fastest growing economy on the planet, according to the World Bank. That’s in no small part the result of decades of international aid, foreign capital and charitable giving that came in the wake of the nation’s infamous famine in the 1980s.

That investment has come in big ways, like the $487 million in foreign assistance the U.S. government spent in 2017 on health, education and security projects. And it has come in small ways, like the Utah-based Children of Ethiopia Education Fund, which seeks to help girls from heavily impoverished communities get quality schooling, a mission that costs $30 per child, per month. It has come to address specific crises, as in the case of LDS Charities, which has worked with International Relief and Development to bring water to 22 villages along the drought-striken border with Somalia. And it has come to address broad issues, as is the case for what is arguably the most famous American charity in Ethiopia, Save the Children, which supports myriad projects aimed at health, nutrition, safety and sanitation.

Now those investments are finally paying off. The rapid development has pulled millions out of abject poverty, prompted a mass migration into the nation’s urban center, stoked a growing middle class, and put the tools of the information age in the hands of an increasingly tech-savvy population.

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