Full name: The State of Eritrea
Population: 5.4 million (UN, 2011)
Area: 117,400 sq km (45,300 sq miles)
Major languages: Tigrinya, Tigre, Arabic, English
Major religions: Islam, Christianity
Life expectancy: 60 years (men), 64 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Nakfa = 100 cents
Main exports: Livestock, hides, sorghum, textiles, salt, light manufactures
GNI per capita: US $340 (World Bank, 2010)
A former Italian colony, Eritrea was occupied by the British in 1941. In 1952 the United Nations resolved to establish it as an autonomous entity federated with Ethiopia as a compromise between Ethiopian claims for sovereignty and Eritrean aspirations for independence.
In 1993, in a referendum supported by Ethiopia, Eritreans voted almost unanimously for independence, leaving Ethiopia landlocked.