An Appeal of JRS Ethiopia, Eastern Africa
The Current Situation
The present grave food and water shortages in Ethiopia have already led to some displacement of people - in the East (Haraghe), about 25,000 have moved into a more productive area (Bale National Park) where they hope to get some relief and a chance for better land. They may have to return. In the meantime, some women and children live in squalid conditions in an ex-army camp. Pastoralists from Afar have been seen miles from their area further south looking for pasture for their animals. The scarcity of resources, cereals as well as water, breeds the danger of violent confrontation. There has been some talk of mass movements of people which would signal the beginning of a much greater tragedy; as then proper relief cannot be brought easily to the right place and people are out-of-place for the next planting. Since the 1980's, the infection of the population with HIV has been enormous which will ensure that with poor nutrition many will die sooner this time.
The Relief Appeal
The government appeal for 2003 is for 1.4 million tonnes of food and about $150 million for non-food assistance for the 11 million people at risk. The Catholic Church has launched an appeal for $2.4 million through the Caritas network. After early scepticism and several appeals, the response has now been better. Caritas has responded to the Church with about half the amount (small compared to the overall needs). Governments have also begun to respond. The main worry now is to have supplies on their way and not just pledged. In the 1980's, the delays led to many of the approximately one million deaths.
Why this Situation?
Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world ($100 per capita income compared to even the sub-Saharan average of $500). Little has been invested since the 1980's and since then, the country has finished one war and then fought another major war. The price of coffee, its major export, has fallen dramatically. 2% of the country is irrigated - this in a drought-prone region. The population growth is 2.8% (each woman has an average of 6 children) in spite of AIDS, which is increasing the death rate. 166 children in a 1000 die before the age of five. The life expectancy is 43 years (1998). 52% of the rural population is in food poverty. 3 million people are HIV+ and there are already 1.2 million AIDS orphans. Adult illiteracy is 58% for men and 70% for women. Primary school enrolment is 46% (1998-9). So far from progressing since the 1980's, the overwhelming poverty has spread. The present government has acknowledged the situation, which is at least a step towards fighting this war on poverty in the next decades.
What about the World Response?
A very good world response to the Ethiopia Relief appeal is needed NOW. If there is such a response and the worst is avoided, some will say that it was a false alarm. This can be investigated if it arises. If there is not the response, we of the wealthier nations and its peoples will also have to examine why we have not learnt the lessons of the past. The United Nations agencies along with the NGO's here in Ethiopia and the government agree on the major needs and the basis of this appeal.
Whatever we do, we have to do something. Any donation is welcome and to whatever agency you prefer (some suggestions below). You can search yourself for an area to which you wish to contribute or you can forward something to one of the accounts suggested below. Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Ethiopia is not involved in food distribution. We can however forward contributions to work of church communities or others. Some needs that are known:
- Milk for children among the Bale displaced people
- Contributions for food in Tigray, where people in need are already being put on waiting lists
- Contributions for people on the street coming into the cities
- Assistance for mother & child programme run by Sisters in Midagedu