Ethiopian Famine

ethiopmain_237753cI know I run the danger of harping on one string but I cannot ignore it. This weekend The Independent carries a report on the food crisis and famine conditions in Ethiopia which we saw first-hand a couple of weeks ago. The rains that were due in the spring did not come and the longer rains expected in August have been late. The result is that there are no crops and no food. The last paragraph of this report makes the compelling point that the continent which has contributed least to climate change is suffering most.

It also comes at a time when Western governments are struggling to honour their commitments in terms of overseas aid. The food distribution programme which we visited was originally designed to feed 5,000 people for four months, but because of the overwhelming need, it was changed to help 10,000 people for 2 months. This weekend marks the end of the first month. In a month’s time the store will be empty and there will be no food left. It is all so heart-breaking.

The main practical difference between a food crisis and a famine is whether enough aid arrives to keep the starving alive. So while the scope of the problem can be measured in the number of hungry people, the severity depends on the generosity of those in the rich world. And this year they have been miserly. Despite the promise of G8 leaders at their summit in L’Aquila, Italy, last month to provide $20bn (£12bn) to improve food security in poor countries, contributions have slumped dramatically this year as donor states have shifted priorities to supporting banks and stimulating their own economies. “The international community is not living up to its promise to the World Food Programme,” Mr Kebede said.

The WFP had little trouble raising its $6bn budget last year, but in 2009 it has collected less than half of that. Its Ethiopian operation, which had $500m in 2008, is short $127m this year, equivalent to 167,000 tonnes of food. The Famine Early Warning Network forecast this month that the shortfall would reach 300,000 tonnes by December. Rations for the 6.2 million people receiving emergency food aid have, as a result, been slashed by a third from a meagre 15kg of cereals, beans and oil a month to just 10kg. Even if the shortfall were made up today, it would take three months for supplies to be loaded on to ships bound for Djibouti, then transferred to trucks for the arduous overland journey to land-locked Ethiopia.

Aid agencies are worried about the main harvest this autumn, arguing that the time for action is now, not when the food runs out in November – usually the driest month – let alone when starving children with distended bellies capture the attention of the West’s television viewing public.

6 Replies to “Ethiopian Famine”

  1. Stafford, I have been following these reports this last month reluctant to say anything, quite simply because the Apostle James reminds us what is really required.

    However, the facts are these. On your recent entry, “How to Eat an Elephant” we read, “food needs could be met at a cost of around four pounds a month (per person).” In other words, one pound per person per week. Ten thousand people are in need. PCI has approximately 300,000 members. One pound per member is 300,000 pounds. The figures speak for themselves. We in PCI are in a position to do something and should begin an emergency fund immediately. Perhaps you need to keep on telling us until the penny, or the pound, drops.

  2. It’s well worth harping on one string – if this is the string. How can we say we love God, and leave our neighbour – made in God’s image – to starve?
    Thanks for giving us the info. Can you raise a Moderator’s Special appeal, like we did for the Tsunami?
    And at the same time, since you write well, what would happen if you wrote for a few newspapers to highlight the amounts given to banks against the amounts we could give to feed the poor… ?

  3. Following from Cheryl’s comment (hi Cheryl!) it occurs to me that soon, probably sometime before November, we shall be decorating our church buildings for a festival we call harvest.

    There is no reason why each Sunday during the month of October cannot be designated PCI International Harvest Day, or ‘Eat the Elephant’ Sunday after the blog entry, or Moderator’s Special Appeal, or whatever, with all donations received being forwarded, without delay, to TEAR Fund or Christian Aid.

    Every congregation might even leave their building undecorated as a reminder.

  4. I agree with the above, people need to act and respond and not just think in our minds it is awful. Even to read your two posts together of the flower festival and then the famine – it is hard to think about how we spend money here in the West and if such is justifiable when many starve. As someone said, our churches will be decorated for harvest, for what purpose? Harvest should be a chance for us to show God’s love to others through practical expressions of love.

  5. Having seen your photos first hand and the terrible conditions people are living in in our world today, I agree wholeheartedly with all of the above – so what’s keeping us from acting on this? Surely Peter’s idea of £1 from every member ( even our children from their pocket money ) would not be difficult to organise in our churches.

  6. You have eyes to see only starvation or famine in Ethiopia..??!!! look there are many reasons behind; one could be your people coming to us to exploit and misguide us. If you are really interested in helping us just work with us to develop a system. Don’t let’s us live in shame because of your donations. Please please leave us alone.. . . in one or another way we can overcome it soon or latter!

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