Monday, October 26, 2009
Friday's Philadelphia Inquirer reported that 25 years after a devastating famine killed one million of its citizens, Ethiopia on Thursday appealed for emergency food aid for 6.2 million people. The current need arises from a prolonged drought that has hit much of the Horn of Africa, including Kenya and Somalia. In making the appeal, Mitiku Kassa, Ethiopia's state minister for agriculture and rural development, asked donors for more than $121 million in emergency food aid.
Ethiopia has historically struggled with cyclic droughts. The 1984-1985 Ethiopian famine -- caused partly by drought -- drew international attention as news reports showed emaciated children and adults with limbs as thin as sticks. The crisis launched one of the biggest global charity campaigns in history, including the concert Live Aid (which raised $70 million in aid).
In a report marking 25 years since that famine, the aid group Oxfam said countries must focus on preparing communities to prevent and deal with drought and other disasters before they strike, rather than relying on importing aid. The Inquirer reported Waleed Rauf, Oxfam's Ethiopia country director, as saying: "The current humanitarian situation underlines our belief that while food aid -- much of it donated by foreign donors -- is important and can save lives, we need greater funding for longer-term solutions, which can begin to tackle the underlying causes that make people so vulnerable to disasters."