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History of Ethiopia/Famine in Ethiopia
Ethiopia has a very rich cultural heritage. Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations in Africa. Its people remained Orthodox Christians even though the people of many other African countries converted to Islam following Muslim expansion into Africa in the 800ís. Unfortunately, it also has a history of droughts and famines, which were caused by environmental factors but worsened by economic plight and political instability. The most recent of these famines are described below:
The famine of 2003 in Ethiopia was the worst famine since the mid-1980s (discussed later). About one fifth of the population was left without food and tens of thousands of people died as a result of starvation and malnutrition.
A possible repeat of the world-infamous Ethiopian famine of 1985, in which 1,000,000 people died from starvation caused panic and probed many organizations to immediately provide aid to Ethiopia. The prime minister of Ethiopia at the time, Meles Zenawi, admitted that the government was unable to provide relief for its people and that the economy was stagnating due to the failure of the harvest (due to the drought). He called for aid in order to prevent mass starvation. Many organizations provided relief, and the magnitude of the crisis was lessened to some extent.
Many analysts attributed the crisis to the inability of the government to take preventive measures and lessen the degree of the famine. The government has been blamed for not promoting and introducing beneficial farming practices which would increase agricultural yield and efficiency and thus provide a larger and more available food supply. Most Ethiopian farmers work small plots of land in which the soil is depleted by poor practices. The rural population is not able to sustain itself in times of famine because the drought kills their crops and destroys their food sources (it is difficult to obtain imported goods in Ethiopia due to the imbalance in import-export trade and the difficulty to transfer goods due to poor roads and lack of water transportation).
1984 - 1985:
Known as the Great Famine, this was the worst famine in recent Ethiopian history, and left a scar in the both Ethiopian history and world history. About one million people died of starvation during that famine, and many of those deaths could have been prevented. Looking back on the situation, the rest of the world was criticized for not providing sufficient aid in time.
The Ethiopian government predicted that the agricultural yield of the nation was going to be considerably lower in at the beginning of 1984 because there had been less rainfall than expected. However, preventive measures were NOT taken by either the government or the rest of the world to prevent the mass starvation that ensued. Aid was also hindered by rebel fighting and conflict from Eritrea, Ethiopia's neighbor to the northeast. The government had spent a lot of time and money on the fighting and was not prepared financially or organizationally to deal with the food crisis.