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Eye Witness Accounts of Poverty
A close-up look

Sub-Saharan Africa is suffering growing rates of famine.

The British development charity, Tearfund, commented in their website, “Ethiopia, Somalia, northern Kenya and Uganda are the worst hit areas with 17 million people in need of emergency food aid. Drought, poor harvests and the continuing rise in food prices are the main factors driving a worsening humanitarian situation….” If the poor rains continue and the next harvest also fails, the could become catastrophic.

The following article focuses on first hand accounts from Ethiopia.

One of the oddest phenomena in Ethiopia is a “green drought.” Fields are vibrant green there's water in the creeks, but people go hungry because earlier rains failed and people were forced to eat their seeds to survive. This was a tough choice faced by extremely poor people. They could not afford to buy new seeds.

“You can sense the desperation when you arrive in a village,” said BBC reporter Gavin Hewitt in June 2008.

Another British reporter, David Pratt, visited Ethiopia to report first-hand on hunger there. He compares how he saw large amounts of food wasted in Glasgow, Scotland, while in Ethiopia such a waste would be inconceivable.

When you go into an Ethiopian village, some people hold up their children. They want you to see the distended stomachs, a sign of extreme hunger. The parents hope that if foreign journalists and others see their children, they will be taken to a treatment center.

“In another village,” says Hewitt, “some mothers carried young children slung on their backs…some were carried in bundles of cloth. All were sick. Some had the bloated faces of the severely malnourished…others were covered with flies.”

The BBC notes that it traveled through five or six villages. In every one, there are vulnerable children who will not survive until the next harvest without emergency food aid.

12 Million Ethiopians face death from hunger
David Pratt reports how ravages of hunger are etched in the faces of one mother’s children as they sit listlessly in the dust of a village called Garamba. If food does not arrive, these children will most likely be dead in about a month.

He quotes a local man, “Every day we bury at least one person in the district…we are like a large family here. What affects one affects us all.” Ethiopia, in fact, now faces its worst famine since the days of Bob Geldof and Band Aid in 1984.

Misplaced priorities
The United States is far more focused on emergency relief than development projects. Of the total $1.2 billion in food aid for Africa in 2007, only $167 million was allocated for development projects compared to $1 billion allocated for emergency food aid.

The situation in Ethiopia is even worse. The USA is giving this hungry nation more than $460 million for food and $350 million for HIV/AIDS treatment but only $7 million for agricultural development projects.

More aid must go to development projects to ensure that production increases will offset the effects of rising food prices.

We need to change our priorities, so people can better help themselves to avoid future famines. In the long run, this change will save money - and millions of lives.

Is famine is inevitable? Can famine be eradicated? There are no “quick fixes for Africa,” Plenty more can be done, and you can help make it happen: Join/Donate

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by Larry Kreger, Hearts & Minds volunteer
Copyrights: Entire website 1997 - 2015 by Hearts and Minds Network, Inc., This web page - http://www.heartsandminds.org/poverty/firsthand.htm - online
December 19, 2008, latest changes December 19, 2008


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