Ethiopia’s Prime Minister has once again urged the international community to send more food aid to the 15 million people in his country who are currently facing the worst drought in 50 years. This comes in-spite of the fact that the country has been frequently touted as a sub-Saharan Africa success story in development for its alleged 11 percent annual economic growth in the last decade.
However, the country still suffers from chronic food insecurity as a result of intense population growth, the second most populous in Africa, whose over-cultivation of small landholdings has put immense pressure on the soil.
On top of that, it has had three consecutive failed rainy seasons resulted with a drought with a level of devastation that could rival the major famine of the 1984 that killed more than 900,000 people.
As of February, 75 percent of harvests have been lost, one million livestock have died, and 10-15 million people require emergency humanitarian food assistance, with 430,000 children experiencing severe malnutrition.
In an interview he held on Thursday with the Associated Press (AP), PM Hailemariam Desalegn said that donor countries and international relief agencies should not neglect Ethiopia “despite all the other crises that are going on elsewhere in the world.”
“The aid provided to us so far is very little and it often came very late. I urge organizations like UNICEF to come in if they think this is a worst case scenario. Just talking is not a solution,” said Desalegn.
Despite its efforts to present itself to the world as leading sub-Saharan Africa’s economic renaissance, Ethiopia remains a desperately poor country, ranked 174th in the world, that can not yet feed itself.
The UN, therefore, made a $1.4 billion appeal for emergency food aid to address the drought-induced crisis for this year alone, to only become world’s third-largest humanitarian appeal following Syria and Yemen.
How Ethiopia can overcome its worst drought in five decades, therefore, depends on how quickly donor countries act to aid the millions potential victims of famine.