FAR from the recent fighting to the north, farmer Abdra-man
Mumed, one of Ethiopia's 7 million drought victims this year, was
His crops have withered several seasons in a row, and his food
reserves are almost gone, but today he was getting a heavy sack of
wheat flour, courtesy of CARE, the American relief agency.
Rebels took over Addis Ababa, the capital, on Tuesday, but the
protracted fighting cut many supply routes. Meles Zenawi, leader of
the victorious Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front
(EPRDF), said Tuesday in London that getting food relief moving
again was one of his top priorities.
Meanwhile, a shortage of international food donations has meant
that many Ethiopians, like Mariama Omara, are getting little or no
For seven months, Mariama Omara tried to keep her nine children
alive - coaxing them, sometimes in vain, to take the only food
available - a kind of grass cows eat and a cactus fruit baboons
like. But, she explained at a squatters camp near here, at the
village of Towfik, "because of shortage of food and disease" three
of her children died.
Recently, CARE distributed a small amount of concentrated flour
for the children in the camp, but famished adults took their share.
Among the 260 or so survivors in the make-shift, grass-hut camp,
many looked weak. Three more people died the day several journalists
and relief workers visited the site.
Ethiopian officials were told about needs in the village in
March, but hadn't completed paperwork authorizing regular food
Famine serious in north
The most serious famine areas are the northern provinces of
Eritrea and Tigre, the southern provinces of Hararge and the Ogaden,
and scattered areas throughout the country.
In many parts of the country, recent fighting has halted relief
operations. Here in the Hararge region, land mines apparently set by
the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) have killed several relief workers
and delayed food shipments to some remote areas. In addition, an
estimated 400,000 Sudanese refugees in southwestern Ethiopia, who
fled drought and war in their own country, are cut off from food
deliveries because of rebel takeovers.
Many diplomatic and some relief personnel were evacuated from the
capital before Tuesday's rebel capture of the city. But most relief
agencies have local staff to carry on some of the work.
John Wiater, Catholic Relief Services' (CRS) representative in
Addis Ababa, says "basically, everything is interrupted now." But,
he adds, as soon as the supply routes can be reopened, "we're ready
to go." CRS is a major distributor of relief food in Ethiopia. Mr.
Wiater says there are several weeks stock of food in most drought
areas. But, he cautioned, after that "we run out."
Rebel spokesmen say they are willing to reopen relief supply
routes. And in rebel-controlled Eritrea, food deliveries may go even
more smoothly than before, because "it's under one management now,"
says a Western relief official in Addis Ababa.
But even when regular deliveries are being made, Ethiopian and
Western relief officials say thousands of Ethiopians remain outside
the emergency food distribution system. …