The Drought in Ethiopia
Over the years the name Ethiopia has become synonymous
with famine and drought but Ethiopia as a country offers so much more.
The following article from the Ethiopian Embassy in London explains the
The severe drought and food shortage currently being
experienced in Ethiopia has been caused by the failure of the Belg and Kirmet
rains. Climatic change and crop failure are also to blame. However, it is
important to stress that the drought is presently affecting the southern part
of Ethiopia (which includes 8 million people 11% of the population) as
well as one or two areas in the north. It does not affect the whole country and
has no correlation to the war that was being waged on the northern tip of the
Over the years the name Ethiopia has become synonymous with
"famine and drought", but Ethiopia is an extremely large country
covering many miles of diverse terrain and has much more to offer than the
distressing images of starving children and skeletal frames often portrayed by
the western media. Small wonder visitors are often astonished at the lushness
of the Ethiopian countryside. Having been fed heavy doses of famine stories by
the western media they expect Ethiopia to be little more than a dustbowl, so
are fascinated by the thickness and density of the lush, green vegetation that
appear during their trips throughout the country.
The present food shortage bears no relation to the famine of
1984. The overthrow of the Derg regime in 1991 brought about a democracy for
Ethiopia, which, with improvements in agriculture and infrastructure coupled
with favourable climatic conditions, meant Ethiopia was able to export food to
neighbouring countries in both 1996 and 1997.
The current drought in southern Ethiopia did not happen
suddenly, the situation was monitored over a long period of time and appeals
for aid from the donor community were made months in advance. For example, the
Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) appealed for aid from
the international community regarding the ongoing rain failures several years
before the disaster occurred. The government of Ethiopia also appealed for a
total of 898,936 tonnes of food and pledged 100,000 metric tonnes (MT).
Consequently, had the international community responded a lot sooner, a
disaster of this proportion would never have occurred.
Overall the chief aim is food security for all and since
1991 the government of Ethiopia has been working steadily towards this goal.
Several measures have been taken in order to avert a repeat of the situation in
1984. For example: the building of roads to facilitate the movement of supplies
throughout the country, the funding of various institutions and programmes for
the improvement of crop yields and survivability and the establishment of the
DPPC. The DPPC, through its Emergency Food Security Reserve, provides relief
food in emergencies on a loan basis. However, when the drought occurred its
reserves were depleted by loans of grain provided to western donor countries
and aid agencies, to date only a percentage of the borrowed stock has been
returned in fact 216,000 of the original 305,000 tons.
Ethiopians all over the world are doing their best to turn
the situation around. For example, fundraising initiatives put on by the
Ethiopian communities themselves have been sprouting all over the globe and
most have been extremely successful. The Swedish embassy in Stockholm raised
25,000 Swedish kroners, members of the Ethiopian community in Rome and its
environs raised a sum of over ten million lira, Ethiopians in Washington DC
contributed USD 400,000. Other contributors were Djibouti with a pledge of
USD15, 338. Beijing also donated a sum of 46,000 birr. The AACC (Addis Ababa
Chamber of Commerce) recently organised a fundraising telethon, the results of
which are being awaited (it has raised 296,000 birr so far).
So far, there has been rainfall in the drought areas in the
months from May to July 2000 as predicted by the Drought Monitoring Centre for
Eastern and Southern Africa (DMC). In addition, as regards relief distribution,
99, 912 MT of food was transported to drought-affected areas in the country,
84,683 MT was transported by the DPPC; the remainder was delivered by NGOs.