ETHIOPIA Food prices add to crisis

 Emergency Response
 17th Jul 2008

When one-year old Nebele Kadir arrived at CARE’s stabilisation centre in Haramaya, East Hararghe, 10 days ago, she was almost comatose. Weighing 2.5kg, she was smaller than many newborn babies. Along with the other twenty-eight inpatients of the centre, she is severely malnourished, a victim of the food crisis engulfing millions of Ethiopians as food prices soar out of reach and food stocks dwindle.

Across the country, another 75,000 children are affected by acute malnutrition, and the numbers are rising fast. But unlike Nebele, who has gained 0.5kg during the week since she started her programme of 3-hourly feeds, most are still in urgent need of life-saving treatment.

Carefully holding her tiny daughter, her mother slowly explains ‘She is here because I don’t have money. The price of food is rising so much that despite working harder and harder, my income doesn’t make any difference. I don’t have anything to feed her.’

The global rise in food prices could not have come at a worse time. It is almost harvest time in Nebele’s village, but across the country late and inadequate rains mean there is little to harvest. Families who depend on what they grow are long used to surviving a 2-month annual ‘hunger gap’, but this year the gap could last more than 5 months - until at least November.

With no crops to sell, and with the price of many basic foods having more than tripled in a year, millions of families are facing a daily struggle to stay alive. In total, more than 4.6 million people are in need of urgent emergency assistance.

A short drive away, at the Balla health clinic, Misra Ahmed weighs out her 4 year-old son’s ration of FAMIX – a nutritious powdered supplementary food provided by CARE. He has been referred for early treatment of moderate acute malnutrition, after being spotted by staff at his local health post - one of many that have been set up countrywide thanks to heavy investment from the government in recent years.

CARE is already supplying supplementary food to more than 50,000 malnourished children and pregnant or breastfeeding women, and transferring food to a further 200,000 people across Ethiopia to prevent their falling into the same state.

‘This food will help my son, but it doesn’t cover my whole family’s needs’ Misra admitted. ‘I have not eaten since yesterday, and the quality of food I can afford for my other children is close to water.’

Even the supply of this emergency food is uncertain, as quality and quantity are squeezed by the sheer numbers of admissions, combined with the increasing cost of emergency food.

Misra continues ‘I am not alone, my neighbours are like me and we have to share what we have with each other. But I have nothing, so without help things will only get worse and worse.’

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