The famine in the Horn of Africa used be blame mainly for the drought caused by the global climate change ignoring the pricipla culprit the the dictatorial regime. In the past the same has brought regime change in country of hunger Ethiopia two times, that of the Negus in 1974 and the Derg Military Junta in 1991. As the French says there is no two without three, we expecting a regime change in the country since all conditions are meeting as those of the last two experiences due to the starvation in Wello in 1974 and in Tigre in 1984 which cost the lives of millions in the past. The main culprit for this in human repeated catastrophe this day has been mainly given to the extreme weather conditions demonstrated by hurricanes, floods, droughts all over the globe.
The current drought conditions have been caused by successive seasons with very low rainfall due to wanton construction of the dams all over Ethiopia by the dictatorial regime of Melese Zenawie. Over the past decade the Horn of Africa has experienced consecutive failed rainy seasons having direct co-correlation in this period of intensification of damming in the region. According to surveys of local communities, this is part of a long-term shift as seen in Borana communities in Ethiopia report that whereas droughts were recorded every six to eight years in the past, they now occur every one to two years since the construction of dams in Omo and Shebelle rivers.
Today’s rainfall projections are unclear. Most modeling, as reflected in the IPCC’s last assessment, suggests more rain will fall in the east Africa region as a whole, with an increase in “heavy events” (sudden downpours, so more flood risk). However, some recent studies suggest rainfall will decrease, particularly in the long rains. To reverse the trend the regional governments must stop wanton damming and wasteful irrigation likes that of Sudan and Ethiopia. According to IPCC’s last assessment, suggests more rain will fall in the east Africa region as a whole, with an increase in “heavy events” (sudden downpours, so more flood risk). However, some recent studies suggest rainfall will decrease, particularly in the long rains.
Since the construction of the Mega dams in the Southern Ethiopia the regional meteorological data supported the argument by demonstrating the increase of the annual temperatures from 1960-2006 by 1C in Kenya and 1.3C in Ethiopia, and the frequency of hot days is increasing in both countries in the region of the dams. However, more recent research suggests that rainfall decreased in the rainy seasons of March to June. When it comes to records and data collections like Europe and America climate change could not be attributed to the Horn of Africa’s drought, since t the current drought is directly climate change. True, there are now a few cases in which scientists have been able to estimate the extent to which man-made climate change has made a particular extreme weather event more likely, but these exercises require reliable long-term weather data that only exists for Europe and North America – no such studies as yet exist in the case of the current drought.
What about the future? Globally, climate change modeling projects an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like droughts and floods. In the absence of urgent action to slash global greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures in the region will probably increase by 3C-4C by 2080-99 relative to 1980-99. The combination of higher temperatures and more unpredictable rains is alarming for food production. In a recent estimate horn of Africa could suffer a decline in the length of the growing period for key crops of up to 20% by the end of the century, with the productivity of beans falling by nearly 50% if the dictatorial regimes continue letting land grabbing and disfranchising the local family hold farmers and pastoralist for the sake of this international speculators. More over, the dam is prepared for these grabbed lands irrigation for an eventual cash crop cultivation of exportation.
According Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen that drought is caused by lack of rainfall, famine is man-made, and thus famines do not occur in functioning democracies.
Melese Zenawie the genocidal dictator of Ethiopia came to power in 1991 baying arms with the money collected by Band Aid in mid 80’s. In 2010 he used famine aid money to intimidate the voters to maintain his power for life. Read here under how Band Aid tried to justify how he makes million on the back of million Ethiopian Dry Bones making discs. Bob Guldof and his group must face international investigation on his complicity with African dictator to suppress the famines. Surely he will face the international court of justice with his complicit Melese Zenawie.
Since a criminal comes back on his crime scene, Melse and Bob Guldof continue cheating the whole world. One keeps his powers the other continuing his so called “Band Aid “to perpetuate the starving millions in misery. His disc was in bankrupt in mid 80′ when band Aid ingeniously saved him rather than the dying millions supposedly helped.
(London) – The Ethiopian government is using development aid to suppress political dissent by conditioning access to essential government programs on support for the ruling party, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch urged foreign donors to ensure that their aid is used in an accountable and transparent manner and does not support political repression.
“The Ethiopian government is routinely using access to aid as a weapon to control people and crush dissent,” said Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “If you don’t play the ruling party’s game, you get shut out. Yet foreign donors are rewarding this behavior with ever-larger sums of development aid.”
Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of development aid, more than US$3 billion in 2008 alone. The World Bank and donor nations provide direct support to district governments in Ethiopia for basic services such as health, education, agriculture, and water, and support a “food-for-work” program for some of the country’s poorest people. The European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany are the largest bilateral donors.
Local officials routinely deny government support to opposition supporters and civil society activists, including rural residents in desperate need of food aid. Foreign aid-funded “capacity-building” programs to improve skills that would aid the country’s development are used by the government to indoctrinate school children in party ideology, intimidate teachers, and purge the civil service of people with independent political views.
Political repression was particularly pronounced during the period leading up to parliamentary elections in May 2010, in which the ruling party won 99.6 percent of the seats.
The Ethiopian government is routinely using access to aid as a weapon to control people and crush dissent. If you don’t play the ruling party’s game, you get shut out. Yet foreign donors are rewarding this behavior with ever-larger sums of development aid.(Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch)
Despite government restrictions that make independent research difficult, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 200 people in 53 villages across three regions of the country during a six-month investigation in 2009. The problems Human Rights Watch found were widespread: residents reported discrimination in many locations.
Farmers described being denied access to agricultural assistance, micro-loans, seeds, and fertilizers because they did not support the ruling party. As one farmer in Amhara region told Human Rights Watch, “[Village] leaders have publicly declared that they will single out opposition members, and those identified as such will be denied ‘privileges.’ By that they mean that access to fertilizers, ‘safety net’ and even emergency aid will be denied.”
Rural villagers reported that many families of opposition members were barred from participation in the food-for-work or “safety net” program, which supports 7 million of Ethiopia’s most vulnerable citizens. Scores of opposition members who were denied services by local officials throughout the country reported the same response from ruling party and government officials when they complained: “Ask your own party for help.”
Human Rights Watch also documented how high school students, teachers, and civil servants were forced to attend indoctrination sessions on ruling party ideology as part of the capacity-building program funded by foreign governments. Attendees at training sessions reported that they were intimidated and threatened if they did not join the ruling party. Superiors told teachers that ruling party membership was a condition for promotion and training opportunities. Education, especially schools and teacher training, is also heavily supported by donor funds.
“By dominating government at all levels, the ruling party controls all the aid programs,” Peligal said. “Without effective, independent monitoring, international aid will continue to be abused to consolidate a repressive single-party state.”
In 2005, the World Bank and other donors suspended direct budget support to the Ethiopian government following a post-election crackdown on demonstrators that left 200 people dead, 30,000 detained, and dozens of opposition leaders in jail. At the time, donors expressed fears of “political capture” of donor funds by the ruling party.
Yet aid was soon resumed under a new program, “Protection of Basic Services,” that channeled money directly to district governments. These district governments, like the federal administration, are under ruling party control, yet are harder to monitor and more directly involved in day-to-day repression of the population.
During this period the Ethiopian government has steadily closed political space, harassed independent journalists and civil society activists into silence or exile, and violated the rights to freedom of association and expression. A new law on civil society activity, passed in 2009, bars nongovernmental organizations from working on issues related to human rights, good governance, and conflict resolution if they receive more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources.
“The few independent organizations that monitored human rights have been eviscerated by government harassment and a pernicious new civil society law,” Peligal said. “But these groups are badly needed to ensure aid is not misused.”
As Ethiopia’s human rights situation has worsened, donors have ramped up assistance. Between 2004 and 2008, international development aid to Ethiopia doubled. According to Ethiopian government data, the country is making strong progress on reducing poverty, and donors are pleased to support Ethiopia’s progress toward the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Yet the price of that progress has been high.
When Human Rights Watch presented its findings to donor officials, many privately acknowledged the worsening human rights situation and the ruling party’s growing authoritarian rule. Donor officials from a dozen Western government agencies told Human Rights Watch that they were aware of allegations that donor-supported programs were being used for political repression, but they had no way of knowing the extent of such abuse. In Ethiopia, most monitoring of donor programs is a joint effort alongside Ethiopian government officials.
Yet few donors have been willing to raise their concerns publicly over the possible misuse of their taxpayers’ funds. In a desk study and an official response to Human Rights Watch, the donor consortium Development Assistance Group stated that their monitoring mechanisms showed that their programs were working well and that aid was not being “distorted.” But no donors have carried out credible, independent investigations into the problem.
Human Rights Watch called on donor country legislatures and audit institutions to examine development aid to Ethiopia to ensure that it is not supporting political repression.
“In their eagerness to show progress in Ethiopia, aid officials are shutting their eyes to the repression lurking behind the official statistics,” Peligal said. “Donors who finance the Ethiopian state need to wake up to the fact that some of their aid is contributing to human rights abuses.”
Background Led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party is a coalition of ethnic-based groups that came to power in 1991 after ousting the military government of Mengistu Haile Mariam. The government passed a new constitution in 1994 that incorporated fundamental human rights standards, but in practice many of these freedoms have been increasingly restricted during its 19 years in power.
Although the ruling party introduced multiparty elections soon after it came to power in 1991, opposition political parties have faced serious obstruction to their efforts to establish offices, organize, and campaign in national and local elections.
Eight-five percent of Ethiopia’s population live in rural areas and, each year, 10 to 20 percent rely on international food relief to survive. Foreign development assistance to Ethiopia has steadily increased since the 1990s, with a temporary plateau during the two-year border war with Eritrea (1998-2000). Ethiopia is now the largest recipient of World Bank funds and foreign aid in Africa.
In 2008, total aid was US$3.3 billion. Of that, the United States contributes around $800 million, much of it in humanitarian and food aid; the European Union contributes $400 million; and the United Kingdom provides $300 million. Ethiopia is widely considered to be making good progress toward some of the UN Millennium Development Goals on reducing poverty, but much of the data originates with the government and is not independently verified.
Quotes from the Report
“There are micro-loans, which everybody goes to take out, but it is very difficult for us, [opposition] members. They say, ‘This is not from your government, it is from the government you hate. Why do you expect something from the government that you hate?'”
– A farmer from southern Ethiopia
“Yesterday in fact the kebele [village] chairman said to me, ‘You are suffering so many problems, why don’t you write a letter of regret and join the ruling party?'”
– A farmer with a starving child from southern Ethiopia, denied participation in the safety net food-for-work program”The safety net is used to buy loyalty to the ruling party. That is money that comes from abroad. Democracy is being compromised by money that comes from abroad. Do those people who send the money know what it is being used for? Let them know that it is being used against democracy.”
– A farmer from Amhara region”It is clear that our money is being moved into political brainwashing.”
– Consultant to a major donor, Addis Ababa”Intimidation is all over, in every area. There is politicization of housing, business, education, agriculture. Many of the people are forced or compromised to join the party because of safety net and so on, many do not have a choice – it is imposed.”
– Western donor official, Addis Ababa”Every tool at their disposal – fertilizer, loans, safety net – is being used to crush the opposition. We know this.”
– Senior Western donor official, Addis Ababa”Which state are we building and how? It could be that we are building the capacity of the state to control and repress.”
– World Bank staff member, Addis Ababa
Ethiopia used aid to bribe voters – Human Right Wach
Aid was denied to those known who belong to opposition parties, Human Rights Watch found
Ethiopia’s government has been withholding foreign aid from opposition supporters, Human Rights Watch says.
Its report urged donors to ensure their aid was distributed transparently.
Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipient of development aid – in 2008 international donations to the country totalled $3bn (£1.8bn).
Its government has not yet commented on the report but has rejected similar accusations in the past as “ridiculous and outrageous”.
BBC East Africa correspondent Will Ross says this leaves donors in a dilemma because they are reluctant to turn off the taps as they feel this would reverse the gains.
In May, Ethiopia’s governing party trounced the opposition in elections – only one opposition MP was elected in the 536-seat parliament.
In contrast, the opposition won more than 170 seats and swept the board in the capital, Addis Ababa in the previous election, in 2005.
However, they said they had been cheated of victory and organised street protests.
Nearly 200 opposition supporters and several policemen were killed and a comprehensive crackdown on the opposition followed, with politicians and supporters jailed.
Many analysts suggest the muzzling of the opposition was a major factor behind the governing party’s sweep to victory in May.
Our correspondent says the government has worked hard to deliver services to the population.
But Human Rights Watch accuses the donors of focusing only on the development and ignoring the repression as they continue to pour money into the country.
“If independent NGOs were allowed to work, civil society was allowed to play its role and international NGOs were allowed to distribute directly to Ethiopian citizens then you would cut out the pernicious role that the state is playing,” Mr Rawlence said.
He said that Ethiopia now was one of the most repressive societies in the world.
“People were very, very scared about talking to me – they would only do so in safe-houses,” he said.
A new version of the Band Aid song Do They Know It’s Christmas? and a DVD of the Live Aid concert are expected to be big sellers in the festive season. Where is the money going?
No. The bottom line is at least £2.43 from each £3.99 CD single is going to charity, but it may rise to £3.53.
Record company Mercury and the Band Aid Trust say £1.83 goes straight to charity. Another 60p will be paid in VAT then refunded to the Trust by the government.
Record shops would normally keep a £1.10 slice. But most big chains – including HMV, Virgin Megastores, Woolworths, Tesco, WH Smith and Sainsbury’s – have agreed to give their profits to charity.
But it is not as simple as giving £1.10 back per CD. Shops have bought huge quantities from Mercury and need to sell enough to cover those costs before breaking even.
Only then would any profit go to charity – so the more copies sold, the more likelihood there is of shops making a profit, and the higher that amount is likely to be.
The other 46p in the £3.99 covers the record company’s essential costs – such as manufacturing, labels and distribution, which are all done by the company itself. Mercury is not making any profit from the CD.
But lots of people who would normally be paid have given their time and effort for free – from the singers and musicians themselves to PR people, artwork designers, shops that have done marketing activities and TV stations and magazines who have donated advertising space.
What about internet downloads and mobile phone ringtones?
The new version of Do They Know It’s Christmas? is being sold for £1.49 to download, or for £1.99 they will throw in the original 1984 version too.
But unlike CD singles, there is no manufacture and delivery process so almost every penny goes to charity. The same goes for ringtones, with telephone companies giving most proceeds to charity.
How much will be raised for charity?
If a million copies of the CD are sold, the total proceeds going to charity, including funds from downloads and ringtones, could be about £3m – depending on where they were bought.
What about the Live Aid DVD?
1. £1.83 - straight to Band Aid Trust charity 2. 60p - VAT to be given to charity by government 3. £1.10 Retailer's cut. How much goes to charity depends on the retailer and how many are sold 4. 46p - Record company costs eg manufacture, distribution
As with the single, the full price you pay does not go to charity – but it is impossible to say exactly how much does.
A DVD of the 1985 Live Aid concert has just been released
Warner Vision International won a bidding war for the rights to release the 1985 concert for the first time, paying an unspecified but “huge” sum in the millions, they say, to the Band Aid Trust.
On top of that, they are paying an “above-standard royalty rate” that will go up as sales increase.
Record shops and other retailers are taking some of their cut. They pay up to £27 per four-disc set and would normally keep the difference between that and the price fans pay. But shops are believed to be making an unspecified “fixed contribution” to charity for each DVD sold.
Internet retailers are the cheapest, selling the DVD for £27.99, with prices elsewhere rising to the recommended retail price of £39.99.
What will the charity money be used for?
The Band Aid Trust has been going since the original single was released, handing out $144m (£75m) to famine relief projects across Africa between January 1985 and November 2004.
The Band Aid Trust has been funding projects in Africa since 1985,Bob Geldof in Ethiopia in 1985
Of the latest money raised, a Band Aid statement said: “These funds are distributed to various organisations that implement sustainable projects aimed at relieving poverty and hunger in Ethiopia and the surrounding area via a funding process.
“This involves inviting organisations to submit proposals to the trustees for consideration – those projects that meet the Trust’s objectives and the approval of the trustees are funded.
“The progress of each project is monitored by the trustees through the receipt of regular reports from each of the charity organisations funded.”
Ethiopia is indexed among 25 hungry countries where over 53 % children are stunted, while in Eritrea more than 50 % are starving according to IFPRI.
Ethiopia Ranked the worst among the 25 least to greatest levels of hunger, they included: Nepal, Tanzania, Cambodia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, Djibouti, Mozambique, India, Bangladesh, Liberia, Zambia, Timor-Leste, Niger, Angola, Yemen, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, the Comoros, Haiti, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia.
Eritrea figured among the most alarming countries with Congo DR & Chad.
‘Alarming’ numbers go hungry in 25 countries including Ethiopia due to poverty, conflict, and political instability causing some billion people to go hungry this year, many of them children in Africa and Asia, according to the Global Hunger Index of 11th of October, 2010.
Out of 122 countries included in the annual report, of IFPRI, Ethiopia & Eritrea are among 25 hungry countries where 53 % children are stunted & More than 50 % are starving.
The Ethiopian and Eritrean poor governance and lack of political interest in nutrition, and stimulating demand is the main reason of the problem. Both countries do not have the necessary infrastructure to meet increased demand for health care and other services that go hand-in-hand with anti-hunger programs,
The overall number of hungry people surpassed one billion in 2009, even though it decreased to 925 million in 2010. Over 20 billion is from Ethiopia not shown in the index.
Though the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fared the worst in the hunger index, which is based on data from 2003-2008, the 2009 and 2013 which is not covered by the IFPR will put surely Ethiopia among the extreme situation despite the double score economic growth announced t by the dictatorial regime of Melese Zenawie.
The index ranked countries on a 100-point scale, with zero being the best score—no hunger—and 100 being the worst. A score higher than 20 indicated “alarming” levels of hunger and above 30, “extremely alarming” hunger.
The DRC was the only country in this year’s index with a score above 40.
The other three countries with extremely alarming hunger levels were Burundi, Eritrea, and Chad. All have been involved in simmering or open conflict for many years.
With the exception of Haiti and Yemen, all 25 countries with “alarming” levels of hunger were in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia.
According to IFPRI’ Report the Sub-Saharan Africa situation is described as:
2010 Global Hunger Index: Facts and Findings: Sub-Saharan Africa
Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Eritrea have the greatest levels of hunger.
Angola, Chad, and Somalia have the highest under-five mortality rates at 20 percent or more.
More than 50 percent of people in Burundi, the Comoros, the DRC, and Eritrea are undernourished.
In Burundi, Madagascar, and Malawi, 53 percent of children are stunted (low height for their age); in Ethiopia and Rwanda, the figure stands at 51 percent; and in Niger, 47 percent of children are stunted.
More than one-third (34 percent) of Mali’s children are stunted, and 11 percent suffer from wasting (low weight for one’s height). Stunting levels were nearly the same in 1996, and the prevalence of wasting has more than doubled.
Based on the 1990 and 2010 GHI scores, the DRC has experienced the greatest deterioration in hunger, largely because of conflict and political instability. The DRC also has the highest proportion of undernourished people—three-quarters of the population—and one of the highest child mortality rates in the world.
Three over half of the population in Ethiopia and Eritrea is under-nourished. The proportion of undernourished people and the child mortality rate in each country were among two of the three factors used to compile the index.
According to the report’s co-author Marie Ruel, director of IFPRI’s Poverty, Health and Nutrition division “the third, the prevalence of underweight children, is the most important to address when trying to wrestle down hunger in a country because it accounts for nearly half the global hunger score.” And she further stressed on the child food security which is 51% of the case in Ethiopia Ruel confirmed that:
“In order to improve their hunger index, countries have to accelerate efforts to reduce child under-nutrition,” with a particular focus on the 1,000 days from conception to the age of two.
“Those 1,000 days… are a key time because damage done by under-nutrition in early life is largely irreversible.”
Adding to the above confirmation that :- “a child is not properly nourished during that period, there is “absolutely cast-iron, empirical proof” it will have “profound” long-term consequences, which ultimately going to have an impact on a country’s capacity to grow economically and socially in the future,” Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide affirmed.
Hunger mitigation programs that failed to focus on children under put Ethiopia “alarming” hunger index despite its relatively high gross domestic product per capita claimed by the dictatorial regime who blow up the growth.
Yet the true progress was found elsewhere, especially in Southeast Asia and Latin America, which both slashed their hunger indices by more than 40 percent since 1990.
Eight of the nine countries in which the hunger index went up between 1990 and 2010 were in sub-Saharan Africa mostly in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The 2010 Global Hunger Index (GHI) offers a useful and multidimensional overview of global hunger while the two countries of the horn of Africa boasted as fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 (MDGs).
In case of Ethiopia after the 1980s Bob Guldof’s detoured Band Aid experience all the relief must be given directly to the people. One must not even address the rebels since they will take the starving population as a hostage as a means to win the war. When it comes to the government who is the main cause of the famine itself will use food to punish those who are not loyal or voting for him. In either case we have learned from the last 40 years experience that Aid must be directly delivered to the population suffering. We think also this the only methodology to be applied as a principle in any relief distributions in any country like Ethiopia known as mainstay of government instigated famine and conflict.
The actual government in Ethiopia made its way to power by robbing relief and Aid from the starving population and buying guns instead. Today in power continues to benefit from the international aid to use it to maintain itself in power and dump the money in the international fiscal paradises across the pacific. Still today those part of the population who are not the same ethnic group as the group in power or others who are not pro government groups will starve to death.
When a natural disaster hits a country a like Chile and Haiti the national infrastructure is also damaged and most of the avenues of delivery are closed. In the last case the international organizations must directly deliver to the people first and then help the government re habilitate itself but not on the back of the starving population. We must not forget that the government was suppose to work for the people a not the vice versa.
Should you consider your feelings about a country’s government when deciding to donate to disaster relief?
A decision to donate towards disaster relief will be determined by a number of factors, but support or otherwise for the government of the country affected, should not be one of them.
Modern worldwide news coverage can bring details of disasters right to the heart of our living rooms. Reporters, photographers and their producers are adept at being in the right place at the right time, sometimes regardless of their own personal safety, and through their skill and courage we are made aware of the personal tragedies which may unfold after a disaster.
The quality and empathy shown in such reporting can be a decisive first element in a decision to donate. Michael Buerk’s report for the BBC in 1984, from famine torn Ethiopia, led to a sudden awareness of the horrors unfolding and a tremendous outpouring of generosity from ordinary people.
We see the needs of those affected – housing, food, water, medical supplies, clothing, warmth, etc., etc. and we feel unable, in all conscience, to not donate towards their relief.
But do we pause to consider the government of the country affected? We may, but this should not affect our decision. It will not be the government which has caused the problem, and it may be doing all it can in the most difficult of circumstances.
Were we to consider that we do not support the government personally, perhaps because it is too extreme, or because it has a reputation for corruption, should this affect our decision to donate? I hope not. The people most affected by a tragedy will need help whatever their government does or does not do, and the less effective the government is, the more those people need our help.
Many examples come to mind. The Haitian government was in no position, for a variety of reasons, to offer organised assistance following the earthquake there. Does that mean we should not give? After the Armenian earthquake in the early 90s, people sat around waiting to be told what to do, the communist regime of several generations having removed their ability to decide for themselves. Does that mean we should not have given?
And, closer to home, the American government’s failure to act quickly and decisively when New Orleans needed so much help appalled people throughout the world. But should this have affected whether people donated or not? Again, I hope not.
The Hazards Of Doing Good
From Live Aid in the mid-1980s to today, Western attempts to help famine-plagued Ethiopia have had little effect. Peter Gill explains why in “Famine and Foreigners.” William Easterly reviews.
If it were possible to sum up in one sentence Ethiopia’s struggles with famine over the past quarter-century, I’d suggest this: It’s not the rains, it’s the rulers. As Peter Gill makes clear in “Famines and Foreigners,” his well-turned account of the country’s miseries since the 1984-85 famine and the Live Aid concert meant to relieve it, drought has not been as devastating to Ethiopians as their own autocratic governments.
Ethiopia is a classic example of Amartya Sen’s dictum that famines don’t occur in democracies, only under tyrannies. The “foreigners” in Mr. Gill’s story either didn’t know about this sad fact of life or chose to ignore it. In any case, the celebrities and humanitarians who rushed to the aid of starving Ethiopians in the mid-1980s unwittingly supported the very people most responsible for those grim days.
he Derg, the brutal Marxist junta running Ethiopia at the time, contributed to the 1984 famine by forcing farmers to sell crops to the state at low prices. Many farmers instead consumed much of what they grew. The tradition of Ethiopians in areas with surplus food selling it to those in famine-stricken areas was thus disrupted.
The Derg, who had come to power in the mid-1970s after a famine discredited Emperor Haile Selassie, further exacerbated the country’s hunger problems with a military campaign—against rebels from the Tigrayan region in the north—that deliberately targeted food production and trade. A government official said at the time: “Food is a major element in our strategy against the secessionists.”
And then the Derg forced people to resettle in the southern lowlands from the parched northern highlands, partly in an effort to undermine the recruiting efforts of the Tigrayan rebels. One instrument of coercion: the relief supplies sent by well-meaning foreigners. The Derg denied food and medicine to anyone who refused to resettle. The refugees arriving in the lowlands found unfamiliar diseases and unsanitary conditions. The veteran aid writer Alex de Waal, assessing this era in Ethiopia, concluded: “Resettlement certainly killed people at a faster rate than the famine.” The aid also allowed the government to reduce its own spending on the domestic emergency and instead buy imported arms, which amounted to billions of dollars at the height of the famine. It took until 1991 for the guerrilla alliance to finally oust the regime.
Fast-forward to the present: Although Stalinist Marxism is done, not much else has changed. The former Tigrayan rebels, led by Meles Zenawi, now rule Ethiopia. The country’s agriculture remains in what Mr. Gill calls “a state of almost permanent crisis.” A famine in the south in 2000 escaped much international notice while the government was busy prosecuting a war against neighboring Eritrea. In 2008, the Ethiopian army conducted a counterinsurgency campaign in the south, attempting to put down a rebellion in its Somali region amid a food crisis there. Human Rights Watch accused Mr. Meles’s forces of “demonstration killings,” torture, torching villages—in sum, “war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Mr. Gill captures the brutality of the Meles regime, but he does not say as much as he might about the government’s failure to address Ethiopia’s perpetual food shortages. He supportively describes Mr. Meles’s decision to continue the Derg’s policy of government ownership of all land. One searches in vain for a suggestion that letting farmers own their land might be a good idea, giving them incentives to prevent erosion and invest in soil fertility.
Mr. Meles’s authoritarian stripes make life awkward for Westerners who want to aid Ethiopians. Mr. Gill quotes Mr. Meles’s writings on the “developmental state,” which conveniently for the ruler “will have to be undemocratic in order to stay in power long enough to carry out successful development.” Elections in 2005 were almost certainly rigged, and critics were jailed in the aftermath. Public protests were suppressed, with hundreds killed. Mr. Gill speaks to a source “surprisingly close to government” who tells him that security forces opened fire “deliberately to show who was in charge.”
The timing could not have been worse. In 2005, Mr. Meles was also serving on British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Commission on Africa, a high-profile panel whose report called for increased aid to Africa. The G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in July 2005 was focused on Africa—particularly in response to the Blair commission’s report. The Live 8 concerts held at that time were an homage to the Live Aid concert two decades earlier and aimed at mobilizing public pressure for the G8 to indeed increase African aid.
Yet few reporters covering the G8 summit, and surely few members of the Live 8 concert audiences around the world, seemed to grasp the key role played by Mr. Meles, an autocrat who had just rigged an election, killed demonstrators and imprisoned opponents. It was the political cluelessness of Live Aid all over again.
In recent years donors have steered aid away from Ethiopia’s central government and toward local governments. Such efforts have had little effect, though, since the former controls the latter. If anything, the Meles regime has become harsher still. In “Famines and Foreigners,” Mr. Gill shows us the nexus of politics and aid at the core of Ethiopia’s famines. Surely little good can come of Westerners offering their help to Ethiopia in ignorance of the cruel way the country is governed.
Mr. Easterly, a professor of economics at New York University, is the author of “The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good.”
In 2010, WFP plans to help more than 9 million people in Ethiopia. Copyright: WFP/Judith Schuler
Threats to Food Security
• Rainfall patterns (droughts and floods) • Land degradation (deforestation and soil erosion) • Population density • Infrastructure development • Insecurity and conflict • Poverty • Fall in world prices of cash crops
An ancient land with roots stretching back thousands of years, Ethiopia is in many ways culturally, linguistically and historically distinct from much of the rest of Africa. But like many African nations, agriculture is the foundation of the Ethiopian economy. The country’s wellbeing is dependent on uncontrollable factors including rain, climate change and the global market. Droughts in 2008 and 2009 continue to affect the food security situation of 5.2 million inhabitants of Africa’s second most populous country. Certain areas are currently facing droughts and flooding.
Ethiopia has recently made huge gains in primary school enrollment, rural road investment, health extension system expansion and food security programmes. Despite these achievements, Ethiopia remains highly vulnerable to food crises, with food insecurity linked to rainfall patterns, land degradation, population density and infrastructure development. Of Ethiopia’s 79 million inhabitants, about 28 million, or 35 percent of the population, live below the poverty line. Eighty percent of the population lives in rural areas with limited access to infrastructure, making it difficult for food, healthcare and other resources to reach the area. Ethiopia is a least developed country ranked 171 out of 182 countries in the UNDP Human Development Index for 2009.
In 2010, WFP will assist almost ten million people in every region of Ethiopia. The Government of Ethiopia continues to address food insecurity through its Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP). All WFP activities in Ethiopia contribute to PASDEP.
The main intervention in 2010 provides emergency food assistance to up to 4.7 million people highly affected by temporary food insecurity. WFP is also a major partner in Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), which reaches 7.5 million rural dwellers with much-needed support while generating community assets. Launched in 2005, the programme provides transfers of food or cash, or a combination of both, to help bridge food deficit periods and to ensure people do not sell their assets in order to meet their basic food needs.
In addition, WFP also provides food assistance to Somali, Eritrean and Sudanese refugees, people affected by HIV/AIDS, and pregnant and nursing mothers and children suffering from malnutrition. Many pilot projects, such as the Risk Insurance project, are launched in Ethiopia.
WFP Ethiopia’s Development Programme consists of two core components: School Meals and MERET (Managing Environmental Resources to Enable Transition), a programme supporting sustainable land and water management and increased productivity in food-insecure communities. MERET was recognized at the Copenhagen Climate Conference at the end of 2009 as one of the ways to combat climate change. It has great potential for countries that are unable to withstand climate shocks and proves how community-based land and water management can halt serious environmental deterioration.
The School Meals component and the Children in Local Development (CHILD) initiative focus on supporting formal education and on enhancing child-friendly schools by developing schools into community resource centers that promote good nutrition and environmental awareness.
WFP is working to connect farmers in Ethiopia to markets through the Purchase for Progress initiative.