In a logistical race against time, terrain and transport capacity, this long-awaited food is the result of weeks of local and international cooperation, including a unique Lutheran-Catholic-Orthodox partnership in Ethiopia that promises to deliver much more relief in the months ahead.
"There has been a good response so far and more help is on the way", according to Jan Schutte, Lutheran World Federation's interim director in Ethiopia. "Three more large food shipments are scheduled to arrive in May, June and September." The aid, including most of the food now on hand, travels by sea to Djibouti and then by lengthy truck routes into drought-stricken areas. The relief food for Bale-Borena, however, was purchased in Ethiopia.
Since hundreds of thousands of tons of food and other relief items are expected in the next few months, the government is now coordinating transportation along an aid corridor from land-locked Ethiopia to the port in neighboring Djibouti, Schutte said. By current estimates, eight million people in Ethiopia will need food assistance for the remainder of this year.
A total of 765,000 people will receive food, seeds, tools and fertilizer through the $32-million, interchurch program that LWR is supporting. LWR and other members of the emergency alliance, Action by Churches Together, are raising funds to pay for the work. LWR is also seeking U.S. government support for projects that will help farmers stay on their land-including pond excavations, water deliveries, and replacement of draught animals that have succumbed to drought.
A relief distribution network of parish and community representatives is already in place, as are facilities. "We're working hand in hand with other churches throughout the area," said Negase Jeremaanih, a Catholic Relief Services official in Kombolcha, north central Ethiopia. Baltimore-based CRS has secured the bulk of the food received or pledged so far. "By cooperating together we can better respond to those who need food," Jeremaanih said. The huge warehouse he manages was used by the same Lutheran-Catholic-Orthodox aid partnership during the Ethiopian famine of the mid-1980s.