When farmers aren't selling off their possessions for food, they're watching their cattle starve for lack of grass to graze. Aggravating the problem are price increases in grains that have sharply reduced farmers' abilities to purchase consumer goods and agricultural supplies.
For a nation whose livelihood depends on two rainy seasons, Ethiopia is, once again, far behind the curve on rainfall. Erratic rains in two consecutive planting seasons in 2002 February to April and June to September are largely responsible for an acute shortage of crops.
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The drought is affecting more and more areas, and it shows. Crops of maize and sorghum staple foods for most people have been lost. For millions of farmers, there is nothing left to grow. In some parts of Ethiopia, children ages five and younger are experiencing severe malnutrition.
This year alone
According to the World Food Program (WFP), this situation may become worse than that of the early 1980s, when more than a million lives were lost and millions more were threatened with starvation. The WFP adds that the number of starving people may grow from the current six million to as many as 14 million by the end of 2003.
A complex problem with no easy answer
With droughts hitting Ethiopia every three to five years in the north and every eight to 10 years nationwide, this persistent dilemma requires long-range solutions. But problems such as en masse migration and deforestation complicate relief efforts and contribute to already looming social and environmental crises.
In one case, more than 22,000 people moved en masse in search of food and water and settled around Bale National Park, home to a government-preserved rainforest. Movements of this scale complicate the problem on two fronts. Food distribution becomes difficult in attempts to reach the moving human target of migrants. And the need for charcoal, farming and construction leaves enormous scars or destroys land up to 100,000 hectares (approximately 250,000 acres) each year.
Long-standing goals for long-term development
Compassion is stepping in to expand our assistance with emergency relief aid, targeting the nearly 5,000 children who live in our 20 drought-affected project areas with additional food and supplemental nutrition. There are instances, such as this drought, when relief is needed as an extension of our long-term commitment to child development.
You can be involved, too
Everyone affected by the drought needs your prayers the children, families and workers. And if you sponsor a child in Ethiopia, it will mean so much to know you are praying. Take a moment to let him or her know by writing.
If you are a sponsor of a child in Ethiopia, sign up to receive Ethiopia updates via e-mail.
You don't have to be a sponsor to be involved. You can also help by giving to the Disaster Relief Fund.