Save the Children sounds alarm on Ethiopian drought famine conditions mirroring 1984 are reported

Westport, CT - An assessment team from Save the Children is voicing extreme concern over a dramatically deteriorating situation for children and families in Ethiopia. A persistent drought, resulting in widespread hunger, is evoking images of the devastating famine that ravaged the country in 1984-1985. Estimates are that upwards of 8 million people could be affected by the dire situation brought about by an almost complete lack of rainfall in many parts of the country.
Responding to the Government of Ethiopia's appeal for humanitarian assistance, Save the Children's assessment team documented the growing disaster in several zones near the Somalian border. In the Gode Zone, which has experienced inadequate rainfall for the past 3 years, observers report severe shortages of food; outbreaks of malaria, measles, and diarrhea among children weakened by malnutrition; an alarming increase in the number of children under age five dying from disease and malnutrition; shortages of medicine; extensive livestock deaths and outbreaks of livestock disease. A growing migration of families in search of water is creating the additional problem of thousands of internally displaced persons.

The report indicates that certain areas in Ethiopia are on the brink of an impending humanitarian emergency, and predicts a continuing deterioration over the next three to six months.

Save the Children, which has conducted child-focused emergency relief and community development programs in Ethiopia since 1984, is developing and initiating new emergency interventions in the southern part of the country, particularly in the Dollo and Somali regions. Rudolph von Bernuth, Save the Children's director of Humanitarian Response, said, "In an emerging emergency like this one, the threat to children's lives is what drives Save the Children's work. We need to get in quickly before these children, who are already malnourished, literally starve to death."

Save the Children is initiating distribution of food and water to meet the immediate basic needs of children and families, especially pregnant women and nursing mothers. The agency is also focusing on protecting livestock herds which have been particularly hard hit by the drought. Save the Children is vaccinating livestock to prevent disease and death, improving the food security of families and their children who rely on livestock for milk and income.

Since the devastating famine of the mid-1980s, Save the Children has worked to improve health, education and economic conditions for Ethiopian children and their families. The ongoing programs include preventive health care for mothers and infants, water resource management, pasture reclamation, agricultural and livestock production, and basic education for children in refugee camps. The goal is to create ongoing, sustainable programs that will make positive, lasting change in the lives of Ethiopian children and their families.

Ethiopia is ranked among the poorest countries in the world, with GNP per capita at approximately $120 USD, one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa. Chronic drought combined with endemic poverty have resulted in extraordinarily high rates of hunger, disease, and death, particularly to the most vulnerable in the population-children. After its initial emergency relief efforts during the famine of 1984, Save the Children remained in Ethiopia and continues to run community development projects ranging from nutrition and food production to child survival programs and cross-border conflict resolution activities.

Save the Children is an international nonprofit child-assistance organization working in 46 countries worldwide, including the United States. Our mission is to make lasting, positive change in the lives of children in need. Save the Children also is a member of the International Save the Children Alliance, which is a worldwide network of 26 independent Save the Children organizations working in more than 100 countries to ensure the well-being and protect the rights of children everywhere.