The spectre of famine has returned to the Horn of Africa nearly a quarter of a century after the world’s pop stars gathered to banish it at Live Aid, raising £150m for relief efforts in 1985. Millions of impoverished Ethiopians face the threat of malnutrition and possibly starvation this winter in what is shaping up to be the country’s worst food crisis for decades.
Estimates of the number of people who need emergency food aid have risen steadily this year from 4.9 million in January to 5.3 million in May and 6.2 million in June. Another 7.5 million are getting aid in return for work on community projects, as part of the National Productive Safety Net Program for people whose food supplies are chronically insecure, bringing the total being fed to 13.7 million.
Donor countries provided sustenance to 12 million Ethiopians last year, more than half of it through the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP). Having passed that total only eight months into this year, and with the main harvest already in doubt, aid agencies fear the worst is still to come. “We’re extremely worried,” said Howard Taylor, who heads the Department for International Development’s office in Ethiopia. DfID has given £54m in aid to the country this year, and Britain has also contributed through the EU. “This is exactly the time when we shouldn’t turn away from the people in need,” he said.