There are renewed reports of severe famine in Ethiopia. The League of Red Cross Societies?
There are renewed reports of severe famine in Ethiopia. The League of Red Cross Societies has been told by its Head of Ethiopian Relief Action, Mr. Martin Perret, that the situation in Wollo Province appears to be as bad as it was during the drought of 1972-3, when tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of people died. Mr. Perret, speaking in Geneva, said that two million people faced starvation; children were already dying; and the situation was deteriorating at an alarming rate.
SYNOPSIS: The people of Wollo and Tigre provinces, in north-eastern Ethiopia, had been suffering acute privation for a year or more in 1973, before the extent of the disaster was realised in the rest of the world. At that time, reports had concentrated on the severe drought across on the western side of the American continent, in the Sahel. When it at last became known that people were dying in large numbers in Ethiopia, international charities and religious organisations rallied to their aid. No precise figures of those who died have ever been given. Then, as now, it was the very young and the very old who succumbed first
Five years ago, charitable workers were complaining of haphazard distribution hampering their efforts to get supplies through to the starving. The Imperial Government of Haile Selassie was in power then. The famine contributed to the unrest that brought about his overthrow.
International aid experts in the capital, Addis Ababa, have said that the present government is coping much more efficiently; but Mr. Perret in Geneva is still reporting a severe shortage of transport.
Improved water supplies are the ultimate answer. Wollo province is arid country, suffering badly from soil erosion, and depending heavily on the spring rains for crops to feed men and livestock.
Many of the people are nomads. Only the relief camps stand between them and starvation if their crops fail the they lose their animals. seven food distribution centres have been opened by the government.
The League of Red Cross Societies fears that scenes like these - typical of wollo and Tigre provinces in the last bad drought - are already starting to occur again, Mr. Perret says it will need about six hundred and fifty thousand U.S. Dollars to continue its relief programme in the area for another six months.
The crisis in Wollo province is part of a winder problem. The Ethiopian government has acknowledged that the whole country is suffering from good shortages. One basic cause is primitive farming methods; two civil wars have also made things worse. In September, the Head of State, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, described the situation as "frightening".
He blamed reactionary merchants and hoarders, and said the problem would only be solved by creating a collective economy, with the government handling all food purchasing from rural areas.