By: David Caldes, Rachel
Caldes, and Daniella Chusyd
Ethiopia suffered through a famine in 1984 and the effects were fatal. This previous famine killed nearly one
million people and affected about 7.9 million people. Now Ethiopia is facing another famine that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi says could affect three times the number affected in
the last famine. Ethiopia suffers
from frequent and prolonged droughts, and because they do not have an adequate
system to collect and save water during the dry fall season, they end up not
having any water. This year, the short
rains which start in February, and the long rains that start in June, did not
supply sufficient amounts of water to aid Ethiopia. Usually though, Ethiopia needs to rely on some amount of food aid because it does not
produce enough. Ethiopia is on the brink of malnutrition and starvation as continued
drought has eliminated crops and killed livestock. If relief assistance is not delivered in
time, Ethiopia faces conditions similar to the famine of 1984-85. There are many efforts being taken to aid
Ethiopia in this time of need, they will be discussed along with causes for the
famine, the effects it is having on the country and its people, and a look
towards the future to see if there is a solution in sight.
Why is there a famine in Ethiopia?
There is a drought in Ethiopia
because of lack of rainfall in the short rainy season and a long season that
began late and saw little precipitation.
suffers from cyclical droughts which have been increasing. The time between
these droughts is small, leaving Ethiopia
with little time to recover from the previous one. While the drought is hitting many parts of Ethiopia,
it is taking a massive toll of the country’s main harvest – the Meher. About 40
percent of the country’s maize and sorghum comes from the Meher
harvest. Due to drought and erratic
rainfall, maize and sorghum crops have failed for many farmers. These crops are the staple foods for most
rural people. The drought has also
caused numerous livestock deaths, with remaining animals only just surviving. Ethiopia’s
crop production for the period of 2002 and 2003 is estimated to be between 9.56
and 10.33 million which means a 15 and 8 percent decrease from the previous
four years respectively.
Rainfall in large parts of Ethiopia
shows a high level of variability from year to year.
this high uncertainty of rainfall it makes it hard for farmers to know the amount
and when the rainfalls
This hinders their abilities to produce food. Ethiopia
is a country of almost 67 million people of which 85 percent is directly
engaged in agricultural production. Yet,
farmers of Ethiopia
have been unable to feed themselves and the urban population adequately. This situation is not helped with the
population of Ethiopia
increasing fast and probably doubling in a little over two decades.
The starvation of the people of Ethiopia
is mainly because of the droughts, but other factors may be contributing to it.
Other factors behind the famine are the fighting
and the “free markets.” The political
leadership has been so alienated from the common people. Governments are using the generosity of the
international community to boost their armies and strengthen their grip on
their impoverished populations. They are
neglecting the basic needs of their populations when they alienate themselves
and international aid agencies are taking notices and intervening to avert mass
deaths and social upheavals. A real
tragedy is that the governments, past and present, of Ethiopia
have banked on the starvation and humiliation of the population for whom they
should care for. It is particularly upsetting
to see the present government using the long-term strategic policy options and
vouch for international alms as a solution to a structural problem. These problems with the government only impede
the efforts of the international community to aid the people of Ethiopia
in their time of crisis and tragedy and thus adding to the factors for the
cause of the famine.
Crisis in Ethiopia
More than 8 million people in Ethiopia
are land locked into “famine zones.” Ethiopia
is a landlocked country that is heavily dependent on agriculture. These droughts have the potential to cripple
the country’s already shaky economy; nearly a third of the more than 65 million
people living in Ethiopia
live on less than $1 per day. “Urban
wages have collapsed and unemployed seasonal farm workers and landless peasants
have been driven into abysmal poverty.” (The Ecologist, 2002)
An estimated 10 to 14 million Ethiopians
will be severely affected by inadequate rainfall. Catholic Relief Services requested more than
300,000 metric tons of food for distribution starting in November 2002 through
July 2003 in conjunction with other Ethiopian relief organizations. “The facts speak for themselves,” Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi said. “The disaster we had in 1984-1984, the number
involved roughly a third to one half of the number of people involved now. So if that was a nightmare, this will be too
ghastly to contemplate.” (BBC Radio,
The droughts and the famine are not just
affecting the people it is affecting the ecosystem, as well. With so many drought-stricken people in
landlocked areas they are now migrating to other parts of the country. Thousands have migrated into one of Ethiopia’s
most important national parks, threatening its ecosystem. The large numbers of people entering the Bale
could severely accelerate the deforestation of the area. The park, in southern Ethiopia,
is one of the most precious in the country, being home to the Ethiopian wolf –
one of the rarest animals in the world, with only 500 still in existence. The UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia
fears that people’s presence in Bale
will intensify destruction of the forest in the park, and increase risks to
The UN food agency said malnutrition
rates have reached alarming levels in some parts of the country. In the northeastern regional sate of Afar
malnutrition rates are around 30 percent.
According to Ethiopian government’s emergency group, 15 percent is seen
The most vulnerable people being affected
by the droughts and famine are children and the elderly who have already
started dying from the food shortages. An
eight year old boy, Fayo, said "I know I am
going to die and so are my brothers and sisters because we are all so
hungry." When asked if he really believed it he added, "yes." and then added, "I would prefer to die
rather than keeping waiting for food. I prefer to die."
A cry for help
Many organizations are helping in support
and problem with famine. Catholic Relief
Services is supporting efforts in Washington
to encourage Congress and the Bush Administration to continue to fund emergency
relief efforts in the Horn of Africa. The agency has also requested increased
funding for humanitarian and development aid in 2003 so that it can complement
direct food assistance in Ethiopia
with longer-term agricultural support programs.
The UN World Food Programme
launched an urgent appeal to provide emergency relief food to countries in the
Horn of Africa, where there are more than 12 million people threatened with starvation
over the next months.
are facing a serious humanitarian catastrophe.
At least 10 million people will need food aid just in Ethiopia. But if this month’s rains stop early, up to
14 million people there will require urgent assistance,” said WFP’s Executive Director, James T. Morris. “These figures are large and dramatic and the
international community should take notice.
If donors respond quickly, we can help avoid an immense human tragedy
there. Unless we come to grips with this
problem very soon, we face the real possibility of witnessing a devastating
wave of human suffering and death as early as next year.”
are trying to find creative solutions to the insufficient funding of
humanitarian operations. WFP says it
will require the “determined focus and imagination of governments as well as
the wholehearted support of ordinary citizens who must decide what kind of societies
they want to live in.”
to the World Food Programme website: www.wfp.org
With appeals being made to the
international community by organizations like WFP and CRS they are being
overshadowed by famine in southern Africa. The world needs to help all of Africa
and distribute their aid throughout and not focus on one region or another. Many millions will die because of these
problems throughout Ethiopia
and the rest of Africa
and neglect because of priority to one country over another should not be the
reason for these fatalities.
the Children’s Hunger Relief Fund you can browse the site and also make
contributions towards their efforts. You
can buy a child lunch with a donation of only 15 cents. You can also send “Luv”
boxes to children throughout Africa.
is a site for the group Children International.
They are a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of
children in dire poverty.
A start on the long journey to a solution
Relief funds and food supplies have been
sent to Ethiopia. An arrival at Djibouti
of a ship carrying 42,000 tons of relief food donated to WFP by the United
States Government. The food will help feed millions of people facing
increasing hunger throughout drought-stricken Ethiopia. This latest shipment was worth $15
million. This brings the total U.S.
contribution to WFP’s emergency operation in Ethiopia
this year to $100 million. This includes
a 100,000 ton contribution that should arrive in December.
have been monitoring the situation in Ethiopia
with increasing concern,” said Tom Park, United States Agency for International
Development (USAID) Acting Director. “Recent
emergency donations by the United
States and other donors will allow
to release food stocks from its emergency reserves with the knowledge that they
will be replenished. However, more food
aid is needed if a catastrophe is to be averted.”
Ethiopia and Eritrea are long time foes,
but Eritrea saw their chance to help a country in dire need and offered the use
of their two Red Sea ports, Masawa and Assab, to Ethiopia for shipments of food. Ethiopia
denied the offer saying that they have sufficient access to ports from Djibouti
and Somalia. They said their main issue isn’t finding
ports but lack of food being brought into these ports.
Government realized that they had obligations to humanitarian efforts and that
the people of Ethiopia
should not be punished because of their government.
funded a new early warning system which the Ethiopian government used this past
year. It helps the country be more alert to impending shortfalls.
They have been trying to improve the rural transportation and roads that
connect the rural communities to the main roadway systems which will help with
the delivery of food. In northern Ethiopia
projects to conserve soil and not overgrazing their livestock has helped in
increased food production and they also make better us of available water.
feel that the government is corrupt and is using the money to help build up
their army because of the disorder war with Eritrea.
However, the government claims these accusations are false, that all the aid
goes to the famine, and that western organizations take close watch over them
anyhow. The fact of the matter is, the government realized early and took
advantage of the new system, but because of the problems in southern Africa
it was a bit overlooked, and then since the rains didn't come the situation
With the efforts of organizations and the
relief supplies being provided by the U.S.
a crisis is hopefully being averted. But
these efforts will not be enough. There
is desperate need for more food to be supplied to the people of Ethiopia
so that their food supply will not run out and be able to last them through
this famine that is affecting millions.
The international community needs to realize their obligations to their
fellow countries and help out with humanitarian efforts. Not only do governments and organizations
need to help with this famine crisis in Ethiopia,
but we as citizens of these nations need to show our
support in any way that we can. Sending
donations through organizations like the ones mentioned earlier and also
keeping up with the escalating situation and seeing what other efforts we can
participate in. Ethiopia has a disastrous
drought which is leading to serious famine throughout the country, but with the
continuing support of WFP, CRS, other organizations and help from countries
such as the U.S., hopefully Ethiopia
can get through this trying time in their nation.
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