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Ethiopian famine

Ethiopian famine refers to periods of famine in Ethiopia. Periodic droughts, high population density, and governmental destabilization have caused such famines in the late 20th and early 21st century, most notably in 1984-1985, and one beginning around the turn of the millennium.

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Background

Ethiopia's economy is based on agriculture, as of 2002 accounts for half of GDP, 90% of exports, and 80% of total employment.

The major agricultural export crop is coffee, providing 65%-75% of Ethiopia's foreign exchange earnings. Coffee is critical to the Ethiopian economy: according to current estimates, coffee contributes 10% of Ethiopia's GDP. More than 15 million people (25% of the population) derive their livelihood from the coffee sector.

Ethiopia's agriculture is plagued by periodic drought, soil degradation caused by overgrazing, deforestation, high population density, and poor infrastructure, making it difficult and expensive to get goods to market. Yet it is the country's most promising resource. A potential exists for self-sufficiency in grains and for export development in livestock, grains, vegetables, and fruits. As many as 4.6 million people need food assistance[?] annually.

Dependent on a few vulnerable crops for its foreign exchange earnings and reliant on imported oil, Ethiopia lacks sufficient foreign exchange. The financially conservative government has taken measures to solve this problem, including stringent import controls[?] and sharply reduced subsidies on retail gasoline prices. Nevertheless, the largely subsistence economy is incapable of supporting high military expenditures, drought relief, an ambitious development plan, and indispensable imports such as oil and, therefore, must depend on foreign assistance.

1984 famine

Almost one million people died in the famine in sub-Saharan Africa in 1984 and 1985. BBC news[?] reports brought the famine to public attention, and Live Aid, a fund-raising effort headed by Bob Geldof induced millions of people in the West to donate money and to urge their governments to participate in the relief effort.

Late nineties situation

A border war with Eritrea that erupted in May 1998 has strengthened the ruling coalition, but has hurt the nation's economy.

In November 2002, Meles Zenawi[?], the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, was reported as saying that the famine that threatens his country could be worse than the 1984 famine.

He is reported as saying that "if that was a nightmare, this will be too ghastly to contemplate", and has appealed for funds for Ethiopia to prevent a new outbreak of famine.

more to come...

See also: Economy of Ethiopia

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