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Friday, 14 April, 2000, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
'Crisis waiting to happen'
ethiopia
More than 90% of income is spent on food
The food shortage in Ethiopia was a crisis waiting to happen and could have been prevented by the international community, says the charity Oxfam.

They have nothing to fall back on and the loss of one or two harvests because of drought can push millions to the brink of starvation

Nick Roseveare, Oxfam
Hundreds of thousands of people are facing starvation in the East African country, but even if a disaster is averted this year the cycle of crisis will not be broken, the charity warned.

Research by Oxfam shows it is the extreme poverty most Ethiopians live in that leaves them vulnerable to famine during drought.
Hundreds of thousands face starvation
It points to the failure by the Ethiopian Government - which has been fighting with Eritrea since 1998 - and the international community to tackle the underlying problems of development and food insecurity.

The charity found that more than 90% of income is spent on food, leaving virtually nothing for healthcare or education, while 70% of households were "very poor", with no livestock and little or no land.

Ethiopia
Only four doctors per 100,000 people
Only a quarter of the population has access to clean water
Life expectancy is just 43 years.
Nick Roseveare, Oxfam's emergency co-ordinator for the Horn of Africa, said while drought might be inevitable in Ethiopia, famine was not.

"We see Ethiopia in crisis and we ask: 'How could this happen again?'.

"The answer is that most people in Ethiopia are weakened and aching with poverty, they have nothing to fall back on and the loss of one or two harvests because of drought can push millions to the brink of starvation."

The solution is a substantial package of debt relief and development assistance for Ethiopia and Eritrea to help overcome the poverty and address the underlying causes of food shortages, Oxfam believes.

The Ethiopian and Eritrean governments must make peace and use the money to reduce poverty, it added.

See also:

13 Apr 00 | Africa
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