Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told BBC News that about 6 million people were already in need of food, and that the number could reach 15 million early this year if other countries did not come to Ethiopia’s aid.
Those with the means to plant crops and raise livestock are now begging in the streets and waiting for foreign aid to bring them food.
The crops have failed to grow and the livestock’s dead bodies are littering the countryside, the New York Times reported.
Drought, poverty and foreign debt make for a bad combination for a country that constantly struggles to keep its citizens from starvation and malnutrition, according to BBC News.
Ethiopia faced a deadly famine in 1984, but authorities say more Ethiopians face starvation now than two decades ago, according to the Times.
“Nobody expects the sort of mass deaths that marked the earlier famine,” the Times reported. “Back then, Ethiopia’s military government tried to keep the emergency secret from the outside world. By the time aid organizations began responding, rail-thin bodies were dropping dead in the dusty soil.”
Now Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is at the head of the charge asking the United Nations and relief agencies to turn their eyes toward his starving people.
Meles told BBC News that about 6 million people were already in need of food, and that the number could reach 15 million early this year if other countries did not come to Ethiopia’s aid.
It is “like living through a recurring nightmare,” Meles told BBC News. “If [the 1984 famine] was a nightmare, then this will be too ghastly to contemplate.”
The new famine crisis suggests that famine relief programs of the past were “untenable,” Bob Geldof, the driving force behind the 1984 relief effort Live Aid, told BBC News.
Ethiopia has many cards stacked against it.
“It is true that droughts have come and gone here since the early 1970’s and that many of the problems that cause the suffering now visible throughout much of the country will not be solved simply by food shipments,” the Times reported. “The country’s population growth rate is among the world’s highest, and the plot sizes are among the smallest.”
The country depends almost entirely on rain-fed agriculture, and its major export, coffee, has been “undermined by the lowest prices in the global coffee market in 30 years,” according to the Times.
Then there is the issue of foreign debt, which Andrew Pendleton, who advises the charity Christian Aid on Ethiopia, told BBC News hampers Ethiopia’s ability to cope with the drought.
Foreign debt eats up at least 10 percent of the state’s revenues, ABCNews.com reported. Many foreign aid groups are lining up to lend a hand.
According to the Human Rights Monitor, Michael Curtis, a spokesman for the EU’s commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said the European Union had already contributed 60 million euros—the equivalent of about 100,000 tons of cereal—to Ethiopia, and it planned on giving more.
Curtis said the EU was also working alongside the Ethiopian government and the United States to create irrigation systems.
Baptist World Aid, Food for the Hungry, Share Our Strength and other groups continually work toward feeding the hungry.
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.
To learn more about how to help Ethiopia directly, check out the following relief agency Web sites: