Category: "Food Shortage"

Drought Victims In Ethiopia In Urgent Need Of Aid

August 19th, 2011
Recently arrived refugees from Somalia dig a grave for 18-month-old Sahro Mohamed, who died of acute severe malnutrition and dehydration, at the Kobe refugee camp, near the Ethiopia-Somalia border, August 12, 2011 Reuters

Drought Victims In Ethiopia In Urgent Need Of Aid

By Lisa Schlein | Geneva

VOA News

A senior official of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warns many people in drought-stricken Ethiopia are at risk of dying if urgent action is not taken to assist them. The official, who has just returned from Ethiopia, says millions of drought affected people are being overlooked because of the focus on famine-stricken Somali refugees who have fled to Ethiopia in search of food.

Millions affected by the drought

The United Nations estimates more than 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are affected by drought. More than one-third of them are in Ethiopia. And, yet a senior official of the International Red Cross Federation says not enough attention is being paid to their plight.

Red Cross Operations Coordinator Christine South says the international community is focusing most strongly on the Somali refugees. She says this is quite understandable as Somalia is in the grips of a famine and its people are in desperate need of food and other assistance.

“But, at the same time, the host or indigenous communities are, particularly in some of these dry areas in the southeast, are pretty well on the edge…If you are in a camp, there is a structure in place to provide support," South states. "I think these families live in very remote rural communities. Some of them are nomadic, so they are on the move. They are much harder to reach and to identify, and to assess. So, they are harder to work with in a sense. But, that does not mean that their needs are not grave and that they do not need to be met.”

Running out of options

Ethiopia has been without significant rain for three seasons in a row and, South says, the people are pessimistic that the next rains due in October will be good. This, she says, means people not only have to be able to survive the present crisis, they also must plan ahead for the coming months.

Unfortunately, she says, people are running out of options. “So, many of their options are just closed down to them. And, I think it is that lack of anywhere else to go, which means that their need for support is urgent," South said. "And, we want to do it before we start seeing human deaths rather than wait until we have a more dire situation before reacting.”

The International Red Cross Federation estimates about two million of the 4.5 million drought-affected Ethiopians are in need of food. The agency has launched a $10 million preliminary appeal to assist 165,000 people. It only has received 29 percent of that amount.

Nevertheless, given the needs, the Red Cross says it plans to scale up its operations and will issue a revised appeal to meet the increased needs of a larger number of drought victims.

Priority - getting food to people

Christine South says getting food to hungry people is the priority. This, she says, can be done by food distributions or, in many cases, by providing cash vouchers so people can buy food in the markets.

Other priorities include water and sanitation and health care. Once the immediate survival needs are met, she says the Red Cross will focus on longer-term solutions. For example, it will help people improve their agriculture and sustain their flock through better water management and irrigation.

Ethiopians starve as more Somali refugees arrive

August 17th, 2011

Ethiopians starve as more Somali refugees arrive

The Horn of Africa’s food crisis has spotlighted Somalia and Kenya.

But as it struggles to cope with tens of thousands of famine refugees, millions of people in Ethiopia are starving.

About 118,000 Somali refugees are now seeking aid in camps in Ethiopia’s Liben region.

Nearly half arrived in the country’s south east, where it borders with Somalia, in the last two months, fleeing drought, famine and war.

The number of people descending has overstretched the Liben camps, which were originally built to shelter 45,000 people.

Soaring malnutrition is making things worse. Many children were already malnourished when they left Somalia, and during the long walk to cross the border — for some, it took as long as 20 days — their health has gone further downhill.

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Ten Somali children a day die in Ethiopia's Kobe refugee camp

August 17th, 2011

Ten Somali children a day die in Ethiopia's Kobe refugee camp

UN reports 'alarming' figures as fresh questions are raised about al-Shabaab rebels' responsibility for the impact of the famine

Ten Somali children under the age of five are dying every day of hunger-related causes in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, according to the UN refugee agency.

UNHCR reported the "alarming" increase in the number of deaths at Kobe camp after completing an assessment this week. The main cause was malnutrition, although a measles outbreak has contributed to the high mortality rate.

The camp, one of four in Dollo Adow in south-east Ethiopia, opened in June when Somalis fleeing drought and conflict poured over the border in large numbers. Kobe reached its 25,000 capacity in a month, and while new arrivals from Somalia are being directed elsewhere the death toll is not slowing.

In a briefing in Geneva, UNHCR said the average of ten deaths a day stretched back to late June, meaning that at least 500 young children had died in less than two months.

Read More From The Guardian ...

Ethiopia counts the cost of East Africa's crisis

August 15th, 2011

Ethiopia counts the cost of East Africa's crisis

Its population is starving while the country takes in more Somali refugees

By Emily Dugan

Since the food crisis began in the Horn of Africa, Somalia and Kenya have dominated the headlines. But more than a third of the nearly 13 million now going hungry in East Africa are in Ethiopia. With its own rural population facing starvation, the country is struggling to cope with a fresh influx of 78,000 refugees in seven months.

The newcomers are mainly women and children; many are so weak they die on arrival. In the past month, the health charity Merlin says it has witnessed more than 50 dying in the Gode area, near the border, having arrived too weak to be saved. Unlike in Kenya, where provision for refugees was initially adequate but has been overstretched for months, Ethiopia was little prepared for arrivals on such a scale

Read More from The Independent

Thousands struggle in Ethiopia's "green drought"

August 11th, 2011
Shundure Tekamo cares for her malnourished son Berhanu in an emergency feeding centre in Shebedino, about 225 kilometres south of Addis Ababa on August 6, 2011. This is Berhanu's second bout of severe malnutrition since December. Shundure says the family's crop failed this year because of delayed rains. Drought in the Horn of Africa has affected more than 12 million people, and children are the most vulnerable.
Photograph by: Jenny Vaughan, AFP/Getty Images

Thousands struggle in Ethiopia's "green drought"


— Shundure Tekamo faces a tough choice — stay with her severely malnourished son in hospital, or return home in the desperate search for food for her five other children.

"I cannot think of anything, because I want only to save my child," she said, standing by the bedside of her baby son Berhanu in an emergency feeding centre.

"But I am worried because I left my other children," she added sadly.

This is the second time Berhanu has been in hospital for malnutrition since December, as his frail body struggles from a lack of food.

Some 4.5 million people in Ethiopia need assistance from the worst drought to hit the region in decades, according to the UN, with 12 million across the Horn of Africa affected.

Repeated years of erratic rains in Ethiopia's densely populated Southern Nations region have damaged or delayed crops, leaving thousands hungry.

At first glance the land around Shebedino, a small town some 225 kilometres south of the capital Addis Ababa, might not appear to be in crisis.

But the region faces a "green drought" — while the landscape appears lush, crop harvests are delayed because of poor or delayed rains.

Over 250,000 people are in need of emergency food assistance in the southern region, according to government figures, although foreign aid officials estimate up to three times as many people could be struggling.

Aid workers say the crisis is the worst in years.

"The major causes of this food insecurity are recurrent drought, population pressure and degradation of land," said Getachew Lemma, the region's food security co-ordinator.

Conditions are expected to worsen in the coming months, the UN has warned.

"The malnutrition rate is increasing," said government food security expert Daniel Legisso, noting a five per cent jump in malnutrition among children and lactating mothers since May.

"The current condition is very strained compared to previous years," he added.

For farmer Melcamu Tilahun, poor rains meant his maize crop died, and three of his four children are malnourished.

"This year I can't even feed my family for three weeks — and it's getting worse," he said.

In the past enough food was grown to get by for Melcamu's family, but now he wants to leave farming and become a small trader.

"If I can get credit and change my job, I can feed my family," he said.

The government has embarked on education campaigns to teach mothers to recognize signs of malnutrition, but there is also pressure to find long-term solutions to the crisis.

The UN World Food Program runs a "safety net program," a five-year scheme that provides food and cash in exchange for labour.

But there is a need for more irrigation schemes and greater access to fertilizer to support struggling farmers, said WFP program officer Yohannes Desta.

"For the long-term, there has to be diverse solutions," he said.

But for those struggling to survive like Shundure and her son, emergency relief remains the basic priority.

"There's no food in my house to feed my children. I don't even have milk," she said.