ADDIS ABABA (Somalilandpress) — An Ethiopian minister has denied reports that millions of people need urgent food aid after failed rains.
Disaster Prevention Minister Mikitu Kassa told the BBC that the government was helping those hit by the drought.
He was speaking after the US-funded Famine Early Warning System warned of increased hunger in parts of the country in the coming months.
Ethiopia has been extremely sensitive to images showing its people as starving since the famine of 1984-5.
Mr Mikitu said the report was “not evidence-based”.
“It is baseless, it is contrary to the situation on the ground,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.
In pictures: Living with hunger
He admitted that 5.7 million people were currently getting food aid but argued that “in the Ethiopian context, there is no hunger, no famine” and that the situation was not as bad as in recent years.
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“The government is taking action to mitigate the problems,” he said.
The latest Famine Early Warning System (Fewsnet) projections show parts of the country in the extreme east, north-east and south-west as “extremely food insecure” – one level below that for a famine – in the period January-March 2010.
The worst affected areas are in the Somali, Gambella and Afar regions.
It says high food prices, poor livestock production and low agricultural wages will lead to increased hunger.
Its report comes after the failure of both rainy seasons in 2009.
Aid agency Oxfam recently warned that drought had hit parts of East Africa for the sixth year in a row.
Oxfam said Somalia’s drought was the worst for 20 years, and November rainfall was less than 5% of normal in parts of Kenya and Ethiopia.
The UN has already said it is aiming to feed 20 million people in East Africa over the next six months.
Source: BBC News, 1 January 2009
Rather than attribute this to Ethiopia's sensittivity to its image, I would argue that it is an attempt to quell potential internal conflict. An admission of the food crisis would give momentum to opposition parties ahead of the 2010 General Elections. This would have the effect of galvanizing the opposition and the emergence of a self-conscious oppressed groups (i.e the OLF or political parties would mobilize support within the different ethnic regions pointing to the lack of action or oppressive measure of Zenawi).
Moreover, it would make sense for Ethiopia to deny the food crisis on the basis that its "sensitive to images showing its people as starving", when they could use the food crisis to ask for more donor funds, to add to the more than a billion dollars they receive annual.
On the whole, I find the article lacks depth and is based on the assumption that Ethiopia is denying the existence of a food crisis solely for the sake of its global image.
Sorry, the third word in the second paragraph should be -wouldn't.
Whatever the reason, the indisputable fact about Ethiopia is that the country is synonymous with famine and has repeatedly failed to feed itself.
From Haile Selassie of late 1960s and early 1970s to Mingistu Haile Mariam of the 1970s and 1980s and now TPLF’s Meles Zenawi, all Ethiopian rulers have miserably failed to safeguard the dignity of their people.
It is predictably familiar for aid agencies and others to warn the world that yet again Ethiopians will die in their millions if the life saving grain does not arrive in time. Meles receives billions of dollars in aid but is unable to break the cycle.
What is unique to Ethiopia is the fact that no other African country, indeed the world, including those who nature has not been kind to and have less natural resources suffers from famine as Ethiopia does and are not only able to feed their people but some never had famine or asked for food aid. Even the chaotic Somalia who not only endured two decades without central government but have not known a day without fighting and unnecessary deaths somehow fairs better than Ethiopia.