A biblical hunger crisis is unfolding in Ethiopia that is like no other in history of this drought-stricken country. Malnutrition, hunger, and lack of water have resulted in a state rife with individuals deemed “food insecure,” with numbers officially reaching the tens of millions.
According to the latest April 2016 Fast Fact Sheet released by UNICEF, the number of children that are at risk from hunger, disease and lack of water in Ethiopia have reached 6 million on top of the 400,000 children who are suffering from “severe acute malnutrition” and the 15 million people that are at the verge of starvation and need urgent food relief assistance.
The number is higher when you add the already 8 million people that are supported by a World Bank sponsored safety-net program.
The source of all these trouble is because the country missed two consecutive rainy seasons. As a result, families have been forced to leave their homes in search of water and a means of survival. There is already a growing concern among the donors communities that such displacement of families caused by droughts could trigger tensions among the various ethnic groups as clashes has already happened between the Oromo and Somali ethnic groups in some regions.
Ethiopia is highly vulnerable to climatic hazards – particularly drought and floods. Such hazards and associated disasters, however, are not unique phenomena to this African nation, but what makes them unique is the scale of their consequences in terms of loss of life and damage to properties, livelihoods and to the national economy. Some 400,000 people had died in the 1983 – 85 famine.
The UNICEF fact sheet also warns whatever progress the country made for its children could be completely reversed should the effects of the current crisis are not effectively mitigated.
Between 2000 and 2014, Ethiopia managed to cut child mortality rates by two-thirds and stunting rates were reduced from 58 per cent to 40 per cent.
450k severely malnourished children in #Ethiopia calls for 3rd largest humanitarian appeal @UNICEFEthiopia pic.twitter.com/5NebPRP6F8
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) April 3, 2016
Jennifer Poidatz, the vice president of the Humanitarian Response department, is urging the international community to take notice of the staggering humanitarian crisis that is taking place in the country.
“We’re currently witnessing levels of food shortage that could turn into a full-blown humanitarian crisis [read as “famine”] not seen in Ethiopia since 1985. Aid agencies are warning that the people in need of critical food assistance in Ethiopia could rise to 15 million if aid doesn’t come now.”
The international community has already sent thousands of metric tons of food aid supplies except that the food remained stuck in the tiny Djibouti port due to congestion.
According to Bloomberg’s ship-tracking data, there were at least 10 vessels carrying over 450,000 metric tons of wheat lined up for over two months waiting to unload.
Is Ethiopia’s Refusal To Use Eritrea’s Port Fuelling Starvation?
By Kevin Mwanza,
Ethiopia’s economic growth story over the last decade is slowly being eroded by one of the worst drought the East African nation has experience since Band Aid. According to aid agencies more than 10 million Ethiopians are facing starvation and more than $1.4 billion is needed to deal with the crisis. Only half of that has been secured so far. But as famine ravaged the horn of Africa nation, aid ship are waiting forever to unload food aid at the Djibouti port, the only that serves the landlocked nation of about 96 million people.
Ethiopia have, however, rejected an offer from Eritrea to use its Red Sea port to bring in this food to starving villagers in the northern part of the country.
The two east African countries have a long-standing enmity after the former borthers-in-arms fell out in 1998 over a border dispute that led to a two year war which claimed around 100,000 casualties, cost billions of dollars, and continues to serve as the main source of regional instability in the Horn of Africa.
But in the wake of the recent worst drought in Ethiopia that has been caused by adverse El Niño weather, Eritrea offered one of its two large ports bring in food aid into Ethiopia and clear a backlog of food aid at the small Djibouti port.
Ethiopia rejected this offer.
Thomas Mountain, an independent journalist living and reporting from Eritrea, said in an opinion piece published by Countercurrents.org that this decision have kept food aid from tens (if not hundreds) of starving Ethiopians.
”The question has to be asked, what kind of government sits back and allows tens if not hundreds of thousands of its own people to die of starvation because of some political dispute with its neighbour?” Mountain said.
”All backlog of food aid would be cleared up quickly if Ethiopia will only use the Eritrean ports, an offer repeatedly made in the past during droughts to no avail.”
This is the worst drought Ethiopians have had to face in three decades and it has killed hundreds of thousands of livestock and left 10 million people vulnerable to malnutrition, disease, and other harm.
In the 1983–1985 famine in Ethiopia, including that land that is now Eritrea, hundreds of thousands of people died.
Although the coffee producing nation has made huge strides in economic growth over the last decade, growing by over 8 percent year after year, the horn of Africa needs any humanitarian aid it can get to help its citizens, mostly in the northern part, survive the drought.