The following is an excerpt of an article written by Lutheran World Relief President and CEO, Ambassador Daniel V. Speckhard (rt.) and published on the TIME Magazine website. Ethiopia has a large rural population that has been heavily affected by conditions described and LWR and local partners are working to assess needs and develop a response.
Fortunately, this is no rerun of the 1983-85 famine that gave us the Live Aid benefit concert for the country, which elevated famine to the international stage and screen and helped secure humanitarian aid. Far more than the music industry has invested in Ethiopia since then, including the U.S. government, helping Ethiopia make impressive strides in fighting poverty, fostering economic growth and improving infrastructure. Unfortunately, Ethiopia’s current crisis threatens to obscure news of its impressive growth.
Examples Speckhard cites of Ethiopia’s progress are an annual growth rate of 11%, more than twice the regional average, and a reduction by one-third of the share of Ethiopians living in poverty between 2000 and 2010.
Ethiopia’s success story means that this drought will not result in the mass casualties experienced in the 1980s where hundreds of thousands perished. But a significant food crisis could be all it takes for Ethiopia to fall into an economic and political tailspin. This is not just a humanitarian concern; a food and water crisis could quickly turn into a political crisis. Witness Ethiopia’s own past, or Sudan, or the recent experience in Syria, where a prolonged drought led to urban migration and protests that catalyzed into an organized opposition and eventual civil war.
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Speckhard calls on the international community to fully fund the $1.2 billion the United Nations says it will need for an adequate humanitarian response, only one-third of which has been pledged so far. And in the long term, we must take a more comprehensive and regional approach to humanitarian response, developing a system that makes resources available before a disaster strikes and increasing the resilience of communities to better handle such catastrophes.