25th Anniversary Of The Ethiopia Famine

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16th October 2009, 07:59pm - Views: 711
25th Anniversary of the Ethiopia Famine

25 years ago, Ethiopia was struck by one of the worst famines in its history. An estimated one million people died, and millions more suffered from extreme hunger and malnutrition.

On 23 October 1984, Michael Buerk, reporting for BBC News, famously filed a report which woke the world up to the scale of the crisis.

The subsequent Live Aid concert was one of the most widely watched events in history and captured global attention. The public response to the famine caused a seismic shift in people's consciousness about the developing world, and raised millions of dollars for urgent life-saving aid.

Oxfam Australia - then known as Community Aid Abroad (CAA) - responded to the famine with an ambitious program of desperately needed aid to the drought victims in the so-called `rebel held' provinces of Tigray and Eritrea where most famine victims were to be found.

These areas were being denied access to the international aid being channelled through the Ethiopian government.

Whilst most international agencies elected to work with the Ethiopian government, CAA decided early on to work solely in rebel held Tigray and Eritrea, and lobbied the Australian government which agreed to allocate one third of its Ethiopian food aid to communities in Eritrea and Tigray.

CAA's relief efforts made international headlines, when CAA water drilling equipment purchased following a $1 million appeal in the then Melbourne Herald together with 6,000 tonnes of this food aid, was seized when the ship `Golden Venture' docked in error at the Ethiopian controlled port of Assab and Ethiopian authorities discovered the intended destination of the aid was the rebel provinces.

The experiences learnt from the Ethiopia famine led CAA to set up its first Disasters Response Unit which, in its current form in Oxfam Australia, is leading the organisation's response to the recent regional disasters in Indonesia, Samoa, Cambodia, Philippines, Laos and Vietnam.

In East Africa, 25 years later the need for humanitarian support continues. Almost 23 million people are again facing severe shortages of food and water after years of successive poor rains. Like other countries in the region, Ethiopia continues to suffer frequent droughts and food crises despite having made progress - for instance on establishing a groundbreaking national safety net.

On the 25th anniversary of the Ethiopia famine, Oxfam is releasing a new report Band Aids and Beyond calling for a radical change in the way the world deals with food crises: Instead of waiting for drought and focusing on emergency food aid, we should be preparing for them in advance, preventing a dry season from turning into a disaster and mitigating the impact on poor families.

Oxfam has several spokespeople available for interviews, including current staff in Ethiopia and aid workers involved in Oxfam Australia's (Community Aid Abroad) response to the 1984 famine.

Footage and photos from the current food crisis, in Ethiopia and across the region, are also available.

For more information contact:
John Lindsay
Media & External Relations Manager, Oxfam Australia
+61 425 701801
[email protected]

SOURCE: Oxfam Australia

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