"The region is cursed with a cyclical drought that occurs approximately every 10 years and the current water table depletion and desertification conditions have been intensified by La Nina-related weather. It is imperative that we continue to assist those in need," says Frank Carlin, Deputy Executive Director for Catholic Relief Services.
Unlike in 1984-85, when over a half million Ethiopians died, now there are distribution systems in place and organizations are working together. However, today the population is larger and greater numbers of people are at risk.
Catholic Relief Services' Response:
Catholic Relief Services is a founding member of the Joint Relief Partnership (JRP), a group of mostly Ethiopian faith-based organizations formed during the 84-85 famine. Through the JRP, Catholic Relief Services is helping to reach nearly 400,000 with food aid. Local Ethiopian partners are managing the food distributions on the ground while Catholic Relief Services is supplying materials and technical support.
The JRP demonstrates a unique local collaboration of the Church family in Ethiopia. It is motivated to maximize the efficiency and reach of various local Church groups working to prevent famine. Today, as opposed to the famine 16 years ago, the Church network is actively working together to respond to the emergency.
Complementing the efforts of the JRP is a consortium of international faith-based non-governmental organizations. Catholic Relief Services is the administrative agency of the consortium tasked with delivering US government food to the other organizations, each of which is responsible for a certain area of the country. Working together, the consortium will reach more than 730,000 people with wheat, corn soy blend, and vegetable oil. The goal is to keep food in the pipeline so that the people of Ethiopia have food until the next harvest.
In addition to emergency relief, CRS/Ethiopia is continuing its development projects, which focus on health, agriculture, and micro finance. These development programs better prepare people to cope in times of emergency and help prevent other areas from falling victim to climate variations.
Background of the Situation:
Current emergency efforts focus on helping those victims in the southeast region of the Ethiopia. However, the JRP continues to reach the people located in the north as well as the hardest hit areas of Ethiopia.
The countries of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan and Kenya commonly called the Horn of Africa continue to suffer from the drought. Compounding the cyclical droughts, La Nina has pushed the warm humid weather to the south, hence the flooding in southern Africa. This shift in water currents has left the Horn of Africa with cooler, dryer weather and forecasters expect very little rain in the future.
Delayed and erratic rains for the last four years have negatively affected subsistence agricultural and pastoral production systems throughout the Horn of Africa. The southeastern part of Ethiopia, which is pastoral and relied entirely on livestock for survival, has been the hardest hit. More than 80% of the cattle and sheep have died due to lack of rains, and those that remain are emaciated. With no livestock, the people have little means of survival.
Forty percent of all rural Ethiopian households do not produce enough food or income to meet their basic nutritional needs. Therefore, when climatic variations affect what little they are able to produce, they are at risk of starvation.
Catholic Relief Services opened three offices in Sub-Sahara Africa in the late 1950s and Ethiopia was one of them. In 1984-85, the agency provided relief assistance and helped to save millions of lives with feeding programs for targeted populations reached through institutions such as hospitals, schools and orphanages. Currently, CRS/Ethiopia's Maternal Child Health program and a Food for Work program sponsored by the United States Agency for Development focus on projects designed to address community problems.