Archives

Ethiopia Faces New Drought, Seeks Urgent Aid for 5 Million

The carcasses of goats and sheep litter the ground near the airstrip in this remote eastern region of Ethiopia, which is struggling to counter a new drought that authorities say has left 5.6 million people in urgent need of assistance.

U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien visited a local camp for displaced persons on Saturday, saying that “these people are really struggling to survive.” He cautioned, however, against “dramatizing by saying this may degenerate into famine.”

Last year’s drought, exacerbated by the El Nino climate phenomenon that affected seasonal rains, left 10.2 million people hungry and killed several hundred thousand of the animals that the local pastoralists depend on for their livelihood.

Sarah Aliso came to the Garlogube displaced persons camp from a village 70 kilometers (43 miles) away three weeks ago after all 50 of her family’s cattle perished.

“I have nothing to eat, so I came here with my 40-day-old baby. All of us are hungry and are praying for the rains to come soon,” she said, cleaning her child’s face.

For this drought, Ethiopia’s government is appealing for $948 million from the international community. The country’s disaster prevention chief, Mitiku Kassa, said the government has had to combat this new drought with little outside support, allocating than $47 million for the response.

The charity Save the Children warns that malnourished refugees are arriving from neighboring Somalia as well, compounding the crisis.

“Children are being hit particularly hard,” the aid group said in a statement, adding that a number of disease outbreaks affecting livestock have been reported.

Aid in the wrong hands

Is Ethiopia’s government, whose security forces are guilty of rape and torture, a worthy recipient of £329 million of British taxpayers’ money?

Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn speaks during a press conference at the Prime Minsters palace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 18, 2014. The Prime Minster gave remarks and answered questions ranging from the South Sudan conflict, extradition of opposition leader Andargachew Tsege, as well as current GDP figures for the last fiscal year. The Ethiopian Prime Minister also delivered a stark warning to anyone linked to terrorist groups hours after a group of Ethiopian bloggers and journalists detained for nearly three months were charged with terrorism. 'Anyone who is seen and acting within this terrorist network... will be eligible for the course of law,' Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told reporters

Hailemariam Desalegn, the Ethiopian prime minister, is untroubled by criticism in the local press or any public opposition, for the simple reason that both are effectively banned Photo: Getty Images

Almost 30 years ago, Band Aid mobilised a generation of British teenagers behind the campaign to help Ethiopia recover from famine. Today, Ethiopia is the second-biggest beneficiary of British aid, receiving no less than £329 million last year. And yet the same government that is favoured by this largesse has also carried out appalling atrocities. This week, Amnesty International detailed how Ethiopia’s security forces are guilty of rape and torture as they struggle against separatist rebels. Meanwhile, Hailemariam Desalegn, the prime minister, is untroubled by criticism in the local press or any public opposition, for the simple reason that both are effectively banned. The Department for International Development’s plan for Ethiopia shamelessly notes the country’s “progress toward establishing a functioning democracy”, but adds: “There is still a long way to go”. Indeed. A very long way to go.

The question is whether such a government is a worthy recipient of British taxpayers’ money. Our aid does not go to Ethiopia’s security forces, of course, nor to the secret police who create such fear. Yet British funding for schools and hospitals could release resources for Mr Hailemariam to spend on repression. Foreign aid will always give recipient governments more discretion over what to do with their own money. DfID would say that British aid is, for example, helping almost two million Ethiopian children to go to school – and that is a fair point. But DfID’s budget jumped by 32 per cent between 2012 and 2013 – the biggest percentage increase ever enjoyed by any Whitehall department in peacetime history. DfID has failed to allay the suspicion that its officials are more concerned with spending this money than guarding against possible unintended consequences. Sadly, that risk is greater in Ethiopia than almost anywhere else.