What defines famine?
– According to dictionary.com, famine is: a severe shortage of food (as through crop failure) resulting in violent hunger and starvation and death
Where is this happening?
* Many African countries, mainly on the horn of Africa, witness famines on a regular basis.
* Ethiopia, located in western Africa, above Kenya and neighbouring Somalia
* 1973; Famine in Northern provinces, contributed to fall of Imperial government and led to Derg rule.
* Ethiopian famine in 1984, claimed nearly one million lives which was considered as a massive death toll in any one famine.
* In 1981, a substantial drought wiped out harvests. In March the Government warned that 5 million people were risking starvation because only 6.2 million tonnes of grain a year could be made, one million less than needed.
* By August, thousands dying; six million people at risk.
* Only in November, after consistent media coverage was aid being stepped up.
* In 2002, 17 years after the famine, another famine faced the country with officials estimating 15 million people were risking starvation. 2 million tonnes of food aid were required
* In May 2003, 12 million Ethiopians were in need of food aid.
* Only half the food needed for the 2003 famine was pledged
* As of 2006, The FAO estimates more than one million people in the Somali Region of Ethiopia are facing severe food shortages. Although crops are currently being harvested, shortages are still expected to occur in the country’s south-east.
What is happening?
* Ethiopia is located in the “Horn of Africa” region which normally experiences rainy seasons in March-May and October-December.
* When a rainfall shortage or drought occurs, as in the last 20 years, the situation changes.
* For example in 2005, the area only received around 35% of the average annual rainfall, totalling to a deficit of around 350 mm,
* These droughts and rainfall shortages, combined with other factors such as high cereal prices, a sharply increasing population and political conflict are the main conditions that lead to famine.
* That said, there are contrasting opinions on the relationship between drought and famine
* Some experts claim that based on certain case studies, it can be seen that the famines of the 1970’s show that drought leads to famine only if inequalities fixed into the methods of food distribution are present.
* These inequalities can be lack of media freedom and democracy, which flaw the system of distributing the little food there is.
* Another economist, Yves Engler has claimed that the International Monetary Fund, trade policies and mismanagement in handling the food are responsible for worsening the famines.
* The consequences of the famines in Ethiopia are similar to those in places around.
* Large percentages of the population become so undernourished that death by starvation is a likely consequence.
* Close to 8 million people became famine victims during the drought of 1984, and over 1 million died
* The Ethiopian government’s inability or unwillingness to deal with the 1984-85 famine provoked universal condemnation by the international community.
* The original government answer to the drought and famine was the resolution to evacuate large numbers of peasants who lived in the affected areas in the north and to relocate them in the southern part of the country
* In 1985 and 1986, about 600,000 people were moved, many forcibly, from their home villages and farms by the military and transported to various regions in the south
What, if anything at all, is being done to help?
* A warning network in Ethiopia, established by the United States, indicated in the opening months of the year that poor rains would mean hunger.
* Both rainy seasons failed, meaning that crops were far below the requirements of the population.
* In July, food aid was being sent from abroad to feed 250,000 people facing immediate hunger.
* Serious efforts have been made to prevent further famines
* There have also been efforts to improve rural transport and roads to link rural communities with the main road systems to improve delivery of food in times of shortage.
* Overall, Ethiopia has not been able to overcome the major problem of erratic rains and the effect this has on national food production.