By Martin Plaut
BBC Ethiopia analyst
The Ethiopian government has issued an emergency appeal for food aid for more than three million people.
The great majority of Ethiopians depend on agricultural activities
A UN spokeswoman in Ethiopia warned that 136,000 children were severely malnourished and that this figure could double over the next few months.
The announcement comes despite an announcement in January that Ethiopia, backed by UN agencies, had enjoyed a bumper harvest last year.
Some aid workers now say these figures were inflated for political reasons.
Ethiopians are going to the polls later this month, and the government did not want to appear to be in the middle of a serious crisis.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is also sensitive about the high-profile role he is playing as a member of the Africa Commission initiated by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Ethiopia, Georgina Shaver, is now warning that without increased aid, the lives of children will be at risk.
So what has gone wrong?
Despite the good harvest, food assistance is still needed in Ethiopia
The reality is that even in a good year Ethiopia cannot feed itself.
Its highlands are so overcrowded and eroded that five million people are now permanently in need of food aid from abroad.
The only question is how many more need feeding from year to year.
Aid agencies now estimate that by the end of this year as many as 10 million Ethiopians could be relying on foreign food aid - putting a rather different gloss on the country's claims of having reaped a bumper harvest.