A Democratic congressman and his wife took direct action recently to help alleviate hunger in famine-ravaged Ethiopia.

U.S. Rep. Bill Nelson, of Florida; his wife, Grace; and six others chartered a DC-8 cargo plane to transport 40 tons of food and medical supplies to Ethiopia. Nelson said he hoped the trip, financed by $200,000 in private donations, would set an example for other private relief efforts.

The idea for the trip began last year when Grace Nelson and three other congressmen’s wives visited Senegal and Mali (CT, Nov. 9, 1984, p. 49). After seeing the suffering firsthand, Nelson returned to Florida to help raise funds for famine relief. An appeal from WCPXTV of Orlando brought in $80,000 and two truckloads of blankets. An anonymous donor contributed $100,000, and $10,000 was raised after an article appeared in Jacksonville Today.

The lives of some 7 million Ethiopians are threatened, and relief workers say the famine shows no signs of subsiding. “The more you do [to feed people], the more the word spreads, and people come from the rural areas to the feeding centers,” said Bill Kliewer, executive vice-president of World Vision, a Christian relief-and-development organization. “There was a period of time at our feeding center when we had absolutely no food.…

“People will die by the hundreds of thousands before the year is over if there is not a massive effort,” Kliewer said. “We have not yet comprehended the immensity of the problem that is facing us in Africa.”

Twenty African nations are affected by famine, with seven countries considered critical. Ethiopia has been plagued not only by four major droughts in the last 35 years, but by archaic agricultural techniques, inadequate systems to access underground water supplies, ...

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