Millions of people, many of them children, will not celebrate Christmas this year in East Africa. They will be dead before then, unless help from the international community arrives. Fast.
The Horn of Africa is again the stage for a tragic drama which unfolds every time there is severe drought. This year, rains came late after a prolonged drought, swamping what little crops there were, resulting in a harvest so poor that many women are so under-nourished that they have stopped producing milk to breast-feed their babies. These are the first to die but others will follow soon. The Ethiopian government has estimated that there are two months’ stocks left and that after these have run out, 15,000,000 people will be directly dependent on food aid from the international community.
Must of eastern Ethiopia is now a dustbowl, strewn with the skeletons of cattle. The situation is not new, but 2002 was, according to UNO sources, the worst ever in terms of drought. WHO figures show that 15% of the population in the drought-stricken areas are already suffering from serious malnutrition, while over 25% are affected. The last time Ethiopia had a serious drought was in 1984-1985, the occasion of the Live Aid concert around the world, when a million people died. Since then the population of the country has doubled, standing at 65,000,000. The vast majority of these subsist on less than one USD per day and live from subsistence farming.
The tragedy is unprecedented. It is hoped that the international community will act, fast, once the war games are over.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru
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