'I Never Thought I'd See Anything Like that Again'

A famine worse than that of 1984 threatens Ethiopia

In good years, Ethiopia's southern flatlands are the African nation's breadbasket. This is not a good year. In the small, bone-dry village of Hawzen, several Ethiopian children sit with bloated bellies, staring into space. In nearby Dir Kiltu, 90 miles south of Addis Ababa, a rainwater collection pond is dry and cracked. An old man gulps his first glass of water in two days. Nearby, a teenage girl limps along on pencil-thin legs.

One million people died during Ethiopia's famine of 1984-85, and Congressman Frank Wolf saw some of that horror during a one-week visit. "What I saw—and experienced—changed me forever," the 12-term Virginia Republican said. "I never thought I would see something like that again. I have—last week."

Wolf spoke those words in January after returning from Ethiopia and Eritrea, its small neighbor in the horn of Africa. Wolf cannot believe the nightmare is repeating itself—this time on an even bigger scale—but his eyes confirmed it. Worse, he says, the international community, distracted by the Iraq War and other issues, seems less inclined to help.

Wolf told Christianity Today, "Ethiopia is on the brink of a crisis of biblical proportions."

Border war and drought


Short rainfalls last year, poor government planning, the effects of a two-and-a-half-year border war with Eritrea (which split from Ethiopia in 1993), and donor fatigue have worsened the current crisis. About 11.3 million of Ethiopia's of 69 million people face severe malnutrition or starvation. The total could reach 14 million by July.

Two decades ago, 8 million people were at risk in a population of 45 million, but massive world sympathy averted an even greater catastrophe.

Ethiopia has recently received 850,000 tons of food aid, including 289,000 ...

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'I Never Thought I'd See Anything Like that Again'
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May 2003

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