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Date: Thu Oct 22 2009 - 09:57:28 EDT
Page last updated at 11:26 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 12:26 UK
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Ethiopia asks for urgent food aid
Oxfam says communities need long-term help to withstand the crisis
The Ethiopian government has asked the international community for emergency
food aid for 6.2 million people.
The request came at a meeting of donors to discuss the impact of a prolonged
drought affecting parts of East Africa.
The UN's World Food Programme says $285m (£173m) will be needed in the next
six months. Some aid officials say the numbers of hungry could rise.
Aid agency Oxfam has called for a new approach to tackling the risk of
disaster in the country.
Drought costs $1.1bn a year
70% of humanitarian aid from US
10m people affected by drought
4.6m threatened by hunger and severe malnutrition
38% of under-fives under weight
1985: Live Aid makes millions
Famine stalks Ethiopia once again
In a report marking 25 years since the famine that killed around one million
Ethiopians, Oxfam said that imported food aid saves lives in the short term
but did little to help communities withstand the next shock.
The report, named Band Aids and Beyond, called on international donors to
adopt a new approach focused on preparing communities to prevent and deal
with disasters before they strike.
"Drought does not need to mean hunger and destitution," said Penny Lawrence,
Oxfam's international director, who has just returned from Ethiopia.
"If communities have irrigation for crops, grain stores, and wells to
harvest rains then they can survive despite what the elements throw at
Ethiopia has been hit by the food crisis affecting a large part of East
Africa and the Horn.
Martin Plaut, Africa analyst
There is no doubt poor and erratic rains have hit the Ethiopian harvest. But
large parts of the country have not been hit by drought. So why the current
It is in part the result of policies designed to keep farmers on the land,
which belongs to the state and cannot be sold. So farms are passed down the
generations, divided and sub-divided. Many are so small and the land so
overworked that it could not provide for the families that work it even with
At present only 17% of Ethiopia's 80 million people live in urban areas.
Keeping people in the countryside is a way of preventing large-scale
unemployment and the unrest that this might cause.
Last month Oxfam launched a $15m (£9.5m) emergency appeal for the whole East
African region, where it is suggested that 23 million people in seven
countries are under threat.
The WFP, which is also calling for aid to the region, says cuts in its
funding have made it more difficult to feed people.
It says it is particularly concerned about Eritrea, where it is unable to
collect data because of restrictions on movement.
The drought, brought on by four years of bad harvests, has been made worse
by conflict, climate change and population growth.
BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says government policy banning land sales to
keep people out of urban areas has also contributed.
All these other factors combined are at least as important as lack of
rainfall, he says.
Fields of maize, burnt and withered by the sun, are the evidence of an
emerging crisis, says the BBC's Mike Wooldridge in the Ethiopian town of
The BBC's Mike Wooldridge returns to Ethiopia to view the impact of
In both the hardest-hit south of Ethiopia and in places in the north,
farmers have told the BBC they face a total wipe-out of their harvests.
Some said they planned to sell their livestock, so damaging their
Many aid officials say the figure of 6.2 million affected could rise further
when the government makes its next assessment in mid-November.
On its website the WFP gives a figure of more than 10 million people in
total affected by drought in Ethiopia.
The problem is compounded by high food costs, the WFP adds, with cereal
prices doubling on many markets.
But the UN body's greatest concern is that there is currently no funding at
all for a feeding programme to prevent moderately malnourished children from
slipping into severe malnutrition and the risk of death.
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