|June 13th, 2008, 03:02 PM||#1|
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Ethiopia: Will it Ever be Able to Stave off Starvation?
Will it ever be able to stave off starvation?
Jun 12th 2008 | HARAR
From The Economist print edition
Famine is once again threatening the continent's second-most-populous country and once again its government is partly to blame
GORU GUTU is perched in the misty heights of the steep hills above Harar, in eastern Ethiopia. For the poorest, life here is still akin to serfdom—minus a tsarist order. The government owns the land; a banner over its local office proclaims “the people” to be “the base of all development”. Yet labourers get by in Goru Gutu district much as they have always done, tilling soil by hand, digging ditches, doing whatever it takes to buy a few cups of grain to keep their families alive.
This year, however, their efforts have been in vain. The land is green but hailstorms, rains that came too late, then rains that fell too heavily, as well as infestations of insects, have left Goru Gutu starving. As you head deeper into the hills, the animals get thinner, the children more listless. The food in the market is too expensive, and there are no informal sales on the roadside. No one is eating. Where wheat and maize should have been growing in the terraces that slice back and forth along the slopes, there is nothing. The average daily labouring wage, equivalent to 80 American cents, is not enough to survive on.
So it is across much of south and east Ethiopia. In the highlands the rain was erratic; in the lowlands it fell not at all. The result is that an extra 4.5m of Ethiopia's 80m people need emergency food, on top of the 5m or so who already get it, according to the UN's World Food Programme.
The government says a recovery is possible if the rains expected later in the year are good. Foreign aid specialists say that the food shortages are “going in the direction of high mortality”. The government is supposed to have 450,000 tonnes in a grain stockpile, with 100,000 tonnes in reserve to keep prices from rising too much. But it has only 65,000 tonnes left.
If Goru Gutu district is an indicator, things will get far worse; many people will starve to death. Ibsaa Sadiq, a local government official, reckons that nearly half of the 116,000 people who live here, especially women and children, need food aid to survive. A feeding centre run by the government, assisted by Catholic nuns, cares for some 800 of the hungriest children. They spend days or weeks in a metal shed smelling of diesel and disinfectant.
Hindiya, 18 months old, is puffed up by edema, a protein deficiency. Even if she survives, she may suffer mental and physical stunting, heart disorders and a weakened immune system. Her mother, Fatima, gently peels back a dirty cloth to show how the skin along Hindiya's calves and heel has split wide open. She is in excruciating pain. Her three siblings survive on a bowl of maize-meal porridge a day, with no milk or sugar; no one in the family has ever eaten meat. If she makes a full recovery Hindiya will be sent home with rations, but there is no money for a return visit. “This is a revolving door,” explains an aid worker. “Next time we'll have nothing for these children.”
Because of the failed harvest, more food has to come from outside. Prices have been pushed up by rising fuel costs as well as by scarcity. Potatoes, maize and sorghum cost three times more in the market than they did last year, yet wages have hardly budged. The communal spirit that encourages people to share food, especially when it is scarce, may start to break down. People in Goru Gutu who have buried grain in pits by their huts get at it only by night for fear of begging neighbours.
A famine on the scale of 1984, when Band Aid and Live Aid raised about $150m in relief for Ethiopia, is still unlikely. Logistics and medical understanding have improved. Yet, sadly, some of the conditions that created that famine have not really changed. Ethiopia still has too many people eking out a living on too little land, depending on rains that can never be relied on. Meteorologists say that the problem is not just the amount of rain but the climate's increasing volatility.
The government has also failed. After several good harvests since the last big famine, in 2003, Ethiopia had a chance to progress. Instead, it dithered over reforms to promote private business and overhaul the country's sclerotic banking system and mobile-phone sector. Aside from coffee, qat (a narcotic leaf chewed by Somalis), horticulture and a little tourism, Ethiopia is one of Africa's very few countries that still has virtually no serious private business—and thus few jobs—outside the state sector. Almost three-quarters of the population may be under- or unemployed.
So few families have a chance to save anything for hard times. The lack of wealth creation makes the government more vulnerable to external shocks. The soaring price of oil may cost Ethiopia $1 billion this year—equivalent to its entire foreign-exchange earnings. Meles Zenawi, the prime minister, cannot be blamed for record oil prices or for the rising cost of food worldwide, both of which have sparked riots in several African countries. But he bears some responsibility for failing to increase his country's hard-currency earnings.
His government people point out that new power-generating projects are set to turn Ethiopia into an exporter of electricity. They also point to reductions in infant mortality and say that Ethiopia is achieving several of the UN's Millennium Development Goals. Still, with 80% of its people living off the land, Ethiopia is producing far too little to cope with a possible doubling of its population by 2050.
The government's lack of enthusiasm for private enterprise is matched by its lack of enthusiasm for competition in politics. Mr Zenawi has already splintered the ineffectual opposition parties with the liberal use of torture and imprisonment. A proposed new law on charities would stamp on many groups working to improve human rights and encourage press freedom.
This week the government brushed off allegations of war crimes in the Ogaden region, where it is conducting a ferocious counter-insurgency against an armed separatist group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front. A report by Human Rights Watch, a New York-based monitoring group, says that violence against civilians in Ogaden has risen dramatically since the front's guerrillas slaughtered 70 Chinese and Ethiopian oil workers last year. At least 159 civilians, it says, have been publicly executed, including young girls. The government has banned journalists from visiting the worst-affected areas, but some of the allegations of burning villages have been backed by satellite imagery.
Don't mention the famine
Mr Zenawi is particularly sensitive about famine talk. He has denied that pastoralists in the south are losing livestock to the drought or that the rates of malnutrition elsewhere are at all close to what foreign aid workers claim. The government has banned photographs of the starving and has told field workers not to give information to foreign journalists.
Ethiopia understandably yearns to shed its reputation as the world's poster child for famine. Some foreign agencies do seize crudely on images of emaciated infants to secure extra funding. But the government's attitude comes close to denial; it will not help the people of Goro Gutu.
“The only future is resettlement,” blurts out a local official. Even so, if the population of the district were to stand still, some 4,000 people a year would have to be resettled from Goro Gutu to more fertile land; the government has a budget to shift a few hundred. With its population increasing so fast and farming methods still too basic to sustain it even when the rains are good, Ethiopia's chances of making real progress any time soon look slim.
|June 13th, 2008, 04:45 PM||#2|
Join Date: May 2006
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It will not be solved until we actually get a government that cares about the people. That has to start with a government that is held accountable. Meles has been in power for 17 years, yet more people need food aid now than when he started his job.
Sadly, I don't think he will leave willingly. He will either have to be assassinated or a coup d'etat a la Mengistu will have to happen.
I'm just sick of hearing about famine. We are just tired of it.
|June 13th, 2008, 05:22 PM||#3|
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|June 13th, 2008, 06:01 PM||#4|
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IMHO...Ethiopia has major inefficiency issues, and this is one of the indicators of the inefficiency. Why else (other than a very selfish government) is this country, with so much rivers, forests, and fertile land that nearby nations that would dream for, in a problem like this?
|June 15th, 2008, 03:22 AM||#5|
Mister One Million
Join Date: Jan 2007
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UN 'exaggerated' Ethiopia drought
By Martin Plaut
A fresh row has erupted over the number of children affected by the current drought in Ethiopia.
In a BBC interview, Ethiopia's health minister labelled claims by the UN children's fund that 6m children need urgent help as a "fabrication".
There is no doubt about the severity of the current Ethiopian drought. A joint appeal this week by the UN and Ethiopia put the total number affected at 4.5m.
Unicef's Ethiopia head Bjorn Ljundqvist denies causing confusion.
A press release issued late last month by the UN's children's fund said: "An estimated 120,000 children are in need of urgent therapeutic care for severe malnutrition.
"Unicef Ethiopia today cautioned that up to 6m children under five years of age are living in impoverished, drought-prone districts and require urgent preventative health and nutrition intervention."
The international media took that to mean that 6m children were threatened by drought.
The government accepts that tens of thousands of children are so malnourished they could die, without immediate attention.
But Health Minister Dr Tedros Adhanom told the BBC: "The 6m children issue is completely exaggerated and actually a fabrication. Six million children are not affected."
Clearly the wording used by Unicef clouded the issues and has left a bitter rift between the UN and the Ethiopian government.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/06/14 14:44:58 GMT
© BBC MMVIII
"Death will bring death..." -Moses
Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress
|November 28th, 2009, 04:36 AM||#6|
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Climate change already a reality in Africa
NAIROBI, November 26, 2009 (AFP) - From prolonged droughts to melting ice caps to heavy flooding and unpredictable weather patterns, climate change effects are already wrecking lives in Africa, the continent that pollutes the least.
Around 23 million people currently face starvation across east Africa as successive failed rainy seasons have decimated crops, livestock and devastated livelihoods.
Residents of Turkana, a region of northern Kenya withered by severe drought, recently found respite when an NGO bought off their emaciated livestock and slaughtered them to feed the starving.
"It's the worst drought since 1969, the year when the dromedaries died," recalled Esta Ekouam, a grandmother who has no idea how old she is.
Across the border in Ethiopia, poor harvests have left millions at the mercy of relief aid.
"The weather has changed, it's not as it used to be before," lamented Tuke Shika, a farmer in southern Ethiopia. "The rains are increasingly erratic and we are getting less and less yields."
Experts say the east African drought is the worst in decades.
The continent accounts for just four percent of global greenhouse gas emissions but suffers the most from its effects.
African countries want rich nations responsible for much of the emissions to make huge cuts and have demanded billions of dollars to cope with the effects of climate change.
To limit warming to around two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), rich nations must cut emissions by between 25 and 40 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says.
But Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who heads an African Union panel to represent the continent in next month's climate change talks, said there were little signs the Copenhagen meeting will yield firm decisions.
"Are we really in that sense unwilling and unable to form a financial climate change partnership with developed countries that will protect citizens here in Kenya,
or wherever they may live in the developing world from the consequence of something they don't have responsibility for?" UN Environment Programme chief Achim Steiner said.
"It's an extraordinary moral and ethical dilemma that we are now confronted with," he told AFP in an interview.
A recent US study revealed that snow caps on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak, are rapidly melting and could vanish completely in 20 years mainly due to climate change.
Perhaps in the first case of its kind, climate change has been blamed for altering the border between Uganda and the DR Congo marked by a river which has changed course over the years.
The River Semliki has changed course several times since 1960 as rising water volumes sparked by melting ice caps on the Rwenzori mountain cause meandering and alteration of the boundary, Ugandan scientists said.
Rising sea temperatures have also disrupted the annual sardine migration off South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal coast and four out of the past eight years have seen smaller numbers of sardines, researchers said.
"The temperature along the KwaZulu-Natal coast is rising to just above what sardines can tolerate," said Sean O'Donoghue, a researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
"We are really at the limit. If the temperature gets warmer with global warming... sardines are unlikely to come as far up the coast," he said.
Southern Africa has this year also witnessed some heavy flooding, with the worst floods since 1972 killing at least 102 people in Namibia. More than 60 also died in Angola.
Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga called for sober negotiations during the December 7-18 climate change meeting.
"We really should not go to Copenhagen and play the hard ball and the blame game," he told AFP.
"This issue is so crucial that it requires full cooperation because if the North does not cooperate with the South it means all of us are going to be victims. All of us are going to be losers."
|November 29th, 2009, 07:04 AM||#7|
Join Date: Sep 2009
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Answer to Post: YES Ethiopia can feed its people and help other nations. Its got everything a country needs not only to feed its people, but to sustain growth for a very long time.
We all know what the main problem is, its the leadership.
So, we appreciate your concern, but we know what's up; when the time is right things will change. peace