Growing crisis in Ethiopia

Report
from Oxfam
Published on 23 Mar 2000
Severe drought and food shortages threaten many parts of Ethiopia again and while the international community acknowledges the gathering crisis, it is not reacting fast enough to prevent death and suffering.
One of the worst affected areas is the Somali region of south-eastern Ethiopia particularly in Jijiga, Gode and Shinille where Oxfam says the situation is deteriorating rapidly. Here rains have failed for three years and this season's rains have not started. Thousands of people are on the move in search of food, water and survival. People and livestock are dying on these long journeys.

"All the signs are that if it doesn't rain, then what we're seeing in the Somali region now might be repeated in many parts of Ethiopia", according to Nick Roseveare, Oxfam's Emergency Co-ordinator for the Horn of Africa.

A feeding centre, which opened in Gode on 26th February, catered for 500 children in the first two weeks of operation. This has risen to 1000 children at the end of the first month. More than fifty children are believed to have died already in Gode from diseases associated with malnutrition.

The United Nations said on Tuesday (21/3) that the lives of 2.3 million Ethiopians are at immediate risk because of a shortage of food, water and healthcare. As many as 8 million people are at risk this year if the rains continue to fail and the aid effort is ineffective.

Oxfam, its local partners in Ethiopia and other agencies are already responding by providing clean water, medical help and special food for the sick and malnourished in the southeast region but fear the crisis is overtaking them.

Food pledges have been made -- USAID has promised 400,000 metric tonnes of food aid -- but turning these pledges into enough sacks of grain on the ground is not yet happening.

But it's not only about food. Governments have yet to respond with money to fund vital health care and water provision needed to keep people alive in a crisis like this. Without clean water, people will quickly become sick with diarrhoea and no amount of food can help them recover.

Oxfam, the water specialists, are providing clean water to Gode each day by supporting four water tankers that have to make a 140 km round trip to the nearest adequate water source.

The international community must act early and decisively if it is to avert a worsening of the crisis. The stark lesson of Mozambique is that lives are lost needlessly if the world does not act quickly when disaster strikes.

Video footage available:

VNR R/T 5.20 Rough Edit Natsot (NO ACCESS US B'casters - see below):

SHOTLIST:

ETHIOPIA Gode March 2000 - vs of cattle walking along the road; jeep arriving in compound; several shots of severely malnourished children; child breathing with difficulty; food being prepared and distributed at feeding centre; mothers and malnourished children eating; exterior of warehouse; warehouse interior half full with sacks of food aid; several shots of suffering children.

UK Oxford 22/3/2000 Nick Roseveare, Oxfam Emergency Co-ordinator for Horn of Africa SOT in English:

1) "All the signs are at the moment on the ground that if it doesn't rain, then what we're seeing in the Somali region now might be repeated in many parts of Ethiopia and there are as many as 8 million people at risk" (14 secs)

2) "There's been an appeal by the Ethiopian government and the United Nations for food and health and water assistance and the international community has been very generous with its promises of food support. But that's really got to be translated into hard delivery on the ground, so that trucks are rolling and arriving in villages and distributed to people so they can eat. At the moment there are unacceptable delays for that. But it's not only about food, it's also about health and water and those bits of the appeals have been much less well supported" (30 secs).