Ethiopia Hunger Alert

Posted by: | Posted on: July 31, 2008

Exceptionally dry weather resulting from the partial failure of the "Belg" rains (February to May) and the late start of the main "Meher" rains (June to September) has caused serious food shortages in Ethiopia.

In 2003, some 11.3 million people will require food aid. Another three million are likely to face food shortages during the year, meaning the numbers at risk could rise to 14.3 million – one fifth of Ethiopia’s total population.

Ethiopia stands on the brink of a crisis similar in magnitude to 1984. In fact, the numbers in need of food aid could exceed that crisis, largely because crop failure in many lowland areas has been so extensive.

In 1983/84, most farmers’ harvests covered their food needs for two to three months. Since then, population growth and recurrent droughts have dramatically diminished farmers’ food stocks and the land they can farm. In 2003, scorching pasture and ever-diminishing water supplies have already taken a heavy toll on livestock.

Water shortages are expected to reach critical levels in early 2003, with people having to walk up to 10 km to find fresh sources.

Where food aid is not available, drought-hit farmers and herders are forced to resort to ever more desperate measures, such as selling off their belongings to buy food. Some farmers and pastoralists have started to migrate from the drought-hit areas into the main towns. This phenomenon is expected to increase further if distribution of food aid remains inadequate.

The nutritional status is already at unacceptable levels in some parts of Ethiopia, with high levels of moderate and severe malnutrition among children aged less than five.

Ethiopia will require substantial increases in food aid from March to May 2003 and will need to ensure that needs are covered until the next harvest later this year. Total food aid requirements for 2003 are estimated at 1.44 million metric tons (including cereals, blended food and vegetable oil) – valued at around US$500 million.


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