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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 13:12 GMT
Massive famine stalks Ethiopia
Starving children during a 2000 famine in Ethiopia
Famine: Ethiopia's "recurring nightmare"
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has warned that his country faces a famine worse than that of 1984 which killed nearly one million people and sparked a big international relief effort.

If [the 1984 famine] was a nightmare, then this will be too ghastly to contemplate

Meles Zenawi,
Ethiopian PM
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies renewed an appeal for aid, calling for $11m to alleviate drought suffering across Ethiopia, where much of the population already lives in abject poverty.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told the BBC that some six million people already needed food aid and the number facing starvation could rise to 15 million early in the new year if international donors did not come to the country's aid.

Mr Meles said it was "like living through a recurring nightmare".

"If [the 1984 famine] was a nightmare, then this will be too ghastly to contemplate," he said.

Disaster warning
Six million directly at threat but 15 million face famine in the new year
2million tonnes of food aid required
1984 famine killed nearly 1 million
The Ethiopian Government was already barely able to keep its people alive let alone supply adequate food, he said, and could not afford to buy in extra stocks itself.

He predicted that the number of people who could be hit as a result of the new drought might be three times the number affected during the earlier famine.

Bob Geldof, the driving force behind the 1984 relief effort Live Aid, said the new crisis suggested that famine relief programmes of recent decades were "untenable".

Out of sight

Mr Meles said he feared that people in developed countries might be lulled into thinking that the drought was a manageable problem because there were no pictures on TV screens of skeletal figures as there were in the 1980s.

Meles Zenawi
Meles says his government just cannot cope

Ethiopia still lacked the facilities to conserve rainwater, Mr Meles added.

During a visit to the village of Dir Fakar, 200 kilometres south of the capital Addis Ababa, BBC Today programme correspondent Mike Thomson saw vital watering holes reduced to dustbowls surrounded by fields of failed crops.

Some local people are already resigned to death from starvation, our correspondent says.

Georgia Shaver, the World Food Programme's director in Ethiopia, says that while up to 14 million people needed food aid across six countries in southern Africa, "in Ethiopia we could have the same number in just one country".

EU effort

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Geldof said that the new crisis in Ethiopia showed that current ideas about famine prevention did not work.

"Live Aid, if it did nothing else, put this at the very top of the political agenda... and yet we see 15 million people in one country alone. That's frankly untenable," he said.

Bob Geldof in Ethiopia in 1985
Geldof says Live Aid is now as relevant as ever

"It means that all your nostrums hitherto haven't worked."

He criticised the European Union which, he said, was spending huge sums on agricultural subsidies at home which could be better spent in Ethiopia and other trouble spots.

Michael Curtis, a spokesman for the EU's commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said the EU had contributed 60m euros - the equivalent of 100,000 tonnes of cereal - to Ethiopia to date in 2002 and planned to donate more.

He said the EU was also working alongside the Ethiopian Government and the United States to create irrigation systems.

Andrew Pendleton, who advises the charity Christian Aid on Ethiopia, pointed out that Ethiopia's ability to cope with the drought was hampered by its continuing foreign debt, which eats up at least 10% of the state's revenues.

"That is an enormous amount of money to take away from a country that is critically poor," he said.

The BBC's Mike Thompson
"They say their government hasn't done enough to prevent the crisis"
International Development Secretary Clare Short
"We stay poised to send our share of what's necessary"
Sir Bob Geldof
"You can't put a sticking plaster on a gaping wound"

Key stories

Horn of Africa

Southern Africa

West Africa

Ways to help



See also:

11 Nov 02 | Africa
01 Oct 02 | Africa
06 Aug 02 | Africa
05 Nov 02 | Africa
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