Ethiopia on brink of famine disaster once again, says Minister Douglas Alexander: ‘The outlook is very worrying.’
19 October 2009 -Ethiopia is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe if next month’s harvest fails, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander has warned.
Mr Alexander recently announced an extra £30m of UK aid to the African country, taking this year’s total to £49m, but he added further assistance may be needed.
He told MPs that 25 years after the famine that killed one million people there was “once again a growing drought and conflict-related humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa”.
In a written statement to Parliament, Mr Alexander said: “The humanitarian outlook for 2010 is very worrying.
“The current humanitarian crisis could tip over into a humanitarian catastrophe.
“The prospects for the main harvest in November, which accounts for 90 per cent of Ethiopia’s annual food production, are a particular cause for concern.
“The late arrival of the rains and prolonged dry spells mean that the harvest is likely to be below average at best, with total crop failure a possibility in some parts of the country.”
Mr Alexander said six million people in the country needed emergency assistance until the end of the year, a third of them living in the Somali region.
Unicef estimates there are more than 500,000 acutely malnourished children.
Mr Alexander called on the Ethiopian authorities to be open about the size and scope of the crisis and the help needed.
He also warned aid agencies were being hampered by the long-running insurgency in the Somali region and called on the Ethiopian government to help them to enter the area.
The famine in the mid-1980s led to criticism of the Ethiopian government as well as of leaders in the developed world who were accused of being slow to react to the crisis. Shocking television news reports led to a concerted international aid effort which included the Live Aid concerts run by Bob Geldof.