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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.

17,793 Posts
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.

Mister One Million
6,354 Posts
UN 'exaggerated' Ethiopia drought
By Martin Plaut
BBC News

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."

'Completely exaggerated'

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


Maximus Expelliarmus
6,345 Posts

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."

1,002 Posts
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. :cheers:
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

910 Posts
Ethiopia: Number of Needy People Decreases to 2.3 Million

Addis Ababa, November 24, 2010 (Addis Ababa) - The number of needy people has decreased from 5.2 million in January to 2.3 million recently, the Ministry of Agriculture and international donor organizations announced.

In a joint news conference they gave here on Wednesday, officials of the Ministry and donor organizations said about 20 million USD is also required to meet the prioritized needs in the non-food sectors.

Agriculture State Minister, Mitiku Kassa said the overall good performance of rains in 2010 and successful disaster management endeavors coupled with continued effective development efforts in the country towards ending poverty (by achieving food security at the country and household level in general and reducing disaster risks and vulnerabilities in particular has resulted in the decrease of the number of food beneficiaries.

Pending verification through current assessment, it is expected the beneficiary number to further decline and reach as low as less than a million in the coming few months given the anticipated overall improvement in food security in most areas of the country, he said.

"I am quite sure that this is what we all hoped for and something that should make all of us very happy,"

Of the estimated 2.3 million relief food beneficiaries, 29.2 per cent is from Somali, 29 per cent from Tigray, 26.6 per cent from Oromia state.

Using available resources currently, 38,200 MT of food is being dispatched fro the seventh round to around 1.6 million beneficiaries.

It is expected around 32,600 MT of food to be dispatched to about 900,000 beneficiaries in the next round (if the need going to be confirmed through verification assessment by the regional state).

This indicates that the country is in a position to meet estimated needs with available resources.

UN Acting Humanitarian Resident Coordinator to Ethiopia, Ted Chaibam on his part said ' we welcome today's release of the results of the 2010 Belg assessment but also need to express to express our concern that it has taken some four months for the results of an assessment that we supported and participated in to be released.

The result confirm that which we all have assumed for many months: the good rains witnessed this year have contributed to a general improvement in food security throughout the country.

Even in this – best year in a decade- the most vulnerable have continued to require assistance.

As noted today, 2.3 million people have continued to require relief food assistance.

Some 600,000 children and pregnant and lactating women still require therapeutic and supplementary nutritional supports.

This kind news is like music to my ears. I think we are going to the right direction.End of receiving food aid in 5 years looks for real .:cheers:

17,793 Posts
Pending verification through current assessment, it is expected the beneficiary number to further decline and reach as low as less than a million in the coming few months given the anticipated overall improvement in food security in most areas of the country, he said.

"I am quite sure that this is what we all hoped for and something that should make all of us very happy,"

Of the estimated 2.3 million relief food beneficiaries, 29.2 per cent is from Somali, 29 per cent from Tigray, 26.6 per cent from Oromia state.
I'm bewildered. That's a serious serious drop in a very short time.
If it indeed is accurate, then I'm completely and totally impressed.

I'm really surprised numbers from Oromia are so high. It's such a fertile area!!
Somali and Tigray are not surprising. I expected it to be Amhara, Tigray, Somali and Afar.

17,793 Posts
Gov’t, UN Agree 2.3m People Need Emergency Aid

Just two months after Human Rights Watch accused Ethiopia of misusing aid money for political means, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (MoARD) Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Sector (DRMFSS) announced that 2.3 million people are in need of emergency food assistance.

The figure in the Humanitarian Requirement Document (HDR) released by the DRMFSS coincided with that of the United Nations (UN) Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This was announced at a joint press conference held on Wednesday, November 23, 2010, inside the compound of the DRMFSS office. This is, perhaps, the first time in a long time that reports about people in need of emergency food assistance carried the same message from the government and international agencies.

Out of the 2.3 million people, 29.2pc, 29pc, and 29.3pc live in the Somali, Tigray, and Oromia regional states, respectively, according to both documents.

This is the result of the below normal rainfall in Somalia and Oromia regions seen in the small rainy season between November and December last year, known locally as Deyer and Hageya, respectively, according to MoARD’s report.

However, the total number of people who require emergency assistance decreased from 5.2 million last year due to good rain yield and production, it claimed.

“A total of 32,600 metric tonnes of food which is required for 900,000 people has already been dispatched,” Mitiku Kassa, state minister of MoARD, said. “We expect the number of beneficiaries to decline further to as low as less than a million in the coming months. Weather conditions in the past months have been very promising.”

Yet, weather conditions alone are not the cause or solution for food shortages and price increases, contends a report released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a centre supported by Consultative Group on International and Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an alliance of 64 countries, foundations, and organisations, on November 18, 2010.

The report found out that the worldwide food crisis was not only a result of unfavourable weather conditions, but also by increased energy costs, growing demand for bio fuels, depreciation of the dollar, and panic purchases. Most of these are prevailing conditions worldwide, as well as in Ethiopia.

Making trade in agriculture commodities more free and secure, addressing climate change, and scaling up social safety nets were put forth as possible solutions.

“Without these key reforms, it is only a matter of time before another food price crisis hits,” authors of the report contended.

During the food crisis in 2007, some countries were protected mostly by strengthening their currency, diversifying food bases, and limiting dependency on food products.

Yet, poor countries like Ethiopia face perpetual food crises, according to Derek Headey, research fellow at IFPRI and co-author of the report.

“This situation pushed millions more into hunger,” he claimed.

Estimates of the number of people who were malnourished in 2007 varied between 75 million to 133 million worldwide, most of whom were women and girls, according to the IFPRI.

Of those in need of food assistance in Ethiopia, 600,000 children and pregnant women are in need of therapeutic, supplementary, and nutritional support, according to the bulk assessment report of OCHA, which has been active in Ethiopia since 2001.

The flooding which occurred in August and September this year led to emergency requirements in the areas of health, water, sanitation, and agriculture, according to Ted Chaiban, resident humanitarian coordinator for OCHA.

Close to 20 million dollars is required for non-food assistance which the government expects to provide in collaboration with humanitarian agencies, according to Mitiku.

Attention needs to be paid to develop a sophisticated response to enable the deployment of aid, John Graham, senior policy and strategic analysis advisor for USAID cautioned. UN Agree 2-3m People Need Emergency Aid.htm

2,416 Posts
Ethiopia on the Path from Famine to Food Security

Ethiopia on the Path from Famine to Food Security

Rapid political, economic, and agricultural changes have taken place in Ethiopia in the past two decades. Ethiopia has made major advances toward increasing growth and improving human well-being. Looking ahead, it faces both challenges and opportunities.

Author: Hallowell, C.

Published date: 2013

Publisher: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

PDF file:

you have to download the file above infographic ethiopiafood.pdf or just click on the map above and you will be redirected to it.
it's really instructive about the progress done by the country, the remaining challenges and our history of famine.
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