Severe Food Crisis hits most vulnerable in Ethiopia – Irish Red Cross

June 30th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

A combination of drought and escalating food prices has left millions vulnerable and in need of food. Failure of the rains in early March/April of this year has led to reduced water and food availability and significantly worsened crop and pasture conditions. This in turn has impacted on the condition of livestock competing for limited water and pasture areas, resulting in lower livestock prices. Already this year, general food rations or supplementary food accounts for almost half of the Humanitarian Assistance Requirements of 2.2 million people in need of emergency assistance and this number is presently being revised upwards in view of the deteriorating food security situation.

The Ethiopian Red Cross and the International Federation, determined to stop the rising malnutrition rates launched a four month preliminary emergency appeal to assist 40,000 people, in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s (SNNP) Region in Wolayita Zone, Southern Ethiopia, affected by food shortages. The Wolayita Zone, with a population of 1.6 million people where 50% of food comes from agriculture, 40% from the market and 10% from animal products, has seen increasing levels of malnutrition and some of the worst affected communities in the whole country. The current situation has reduced access to food for most of the Zone’s population, by reducing output of crops for self consumption, and by limiting sources of cash, as livestock deaths and poor condition, failed crops and reduced economic activity has resulted in limited opportunities for earning cash and casual work.

The Irish Red Cross has been monitoring the ever worsening situation since early 2008 and has already contributed \x8020,000 to assist with immediate food needs. “Ethiopia has always been and remains a priority focus for the Irish Red Cross. Our staff continue to monitor the situation closely but remain deeply concerned at the deteriorating conditions” stated John Roycroft, Secretary General of the Irish Red Cross.

Furthermore, the Irish Red Cross is in discussions with the American, British and Danish Red Cross societies with a view to sending a joint monitoring mission to the country to assess the situation in detail and to report back on other urgent needs facing the most vulnerable of which children and people living with HIV are most at risk.

Every week, the local health centre in Damota Pulassa in Wolyayita takes in 162 children coming from surrounding villages for intensive emergency feeding. Six months earlier the Damota Pulassa health centre was assisting 10 to 15 children per week. Statistically, for every severely malnourished child, one should count an additional 10 to 20 malnourished children. It means that in Damota Pulassa alone there could be between 2,000 and 4,000 malnourished children from a population of 130,000. Health specialists consider these numbers very alarming.

“It takes an average of ten days of specialised care until a severely malnourished child’s condition is stabilized” says Nurse Mentewab Zenebe, in charge of the centre, underlining that children are then sent home with some supplement feeding and followed up in five outpatient centres.

As food shortages worsen and prices continue to soar, the most vulnerable in Society including those suffering with HIV are especially hard hit. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent World Disaster’s Report focusing on HIV and AIDS was recently launched in Dublin by the Irish Red Cross. Particular focus was given to the specific impacts on HIV-positive people when natural disasters strike their community. “Scarcity of food is hard on everyone, but for someone living with HIV, malnutrition is likely to speed up the progression and negative effects of the infection” John Roycroft warned

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) has established a Global Task Force to define a coordinated response to the current global food crises and provides support to other ongoing initiatives in many countries to address food shortages. As an active member of the IFRC the Irish Red Cross continues to keep a watchful eye on food insecurity in Ethiopia and the many other African countries suffering similar crises.

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Link to photo gallery on Ethiopia Food security June 2008

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