Hunger or famine games in Ethiopia?
By Alemayehu G. Mariam
USAID says there is no famine in Ethiopia, only hunger (a/k/a “severe malnutrition”, “food insecurity”, “food scarcity”, “food insufficiency”, “food deprivation”, “severe food shortages”, “chronic dietary deficiency”, “endemic malnutrition”, etc.) caused by El Nino drought.
I say there is famine, as in F-A-M-I-N-E!
In countless commentaries over the past 8 years, I have called attention to the occurrence, recurrence and flareup of famine in different parts of Ethiopia.
Is there or is there not famine in Ethiopia in April 2016?
The only people in Ethiopia who could answer that question are the people who are facing the Black Horseman of the Apocalypse straight in the eye.
They have spoken.
The people of Tigray have told USAID they are facing FAMINE as never before.
A couple of weeks ago, the people of Tigray told Jeremy Konyndyk, Director, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance that they are teetering on the verge of total collapse.
Konyndyk summarized what the people of Tigray told him:
This drought is massive. It is the worst drought in 50 years in most of this country… When we were out in Tigray yesterday we spoke with many people living in communities there who told us this was the worst drought they had ever seen in their lives — worse in many cases than the conditions that their areas had seen in 1983, 1984. And yet we also know that the outcomes of this drought don’t need to look like the outcomes in 1984…” (Emphasis added.)
What were the “outcomes” in 1984?
In 1984, 32 years ago, Ethiopians in Tigray region and other parts of northern Ethiopia faced “biblical famine”.
Today even though the people of Tigray are telling Konyndyk and USAID that they are facing “the worst drought they had ever seen in their lives” and by Konyndyk’s admission is the “worst drought in 50 years, Konyndyk and USAID adamantly refuse to use the “F”amine word to describe their catastrophic condition.
Is Konyndyk willfully ignorant or simply turning a deaf ear to the people of Tigray?
There is no question Konyndyk would have heard the same story if he had visited various parts of Oromia, Afar, Amhara and SNNPR regions devastated by the “drought”/famine.
Frankly, I do not know why Konyndyk did not go to the other regions.
Perhaps the T-TPLF would not allow Konyndyk to go to the other regions. The T-TPLF probably thought Konyndyk would go to Tigray, listen to the T-TPLF line about “very severe malnutrition”, do a photo op and come back and do a press conference at the “5 star” Marriott Hotel in Addis Ababa.
But the people of Tigray would not lie for the T-TPLF by saying they are facing “very severe malnutrition”. They told him the real deal. They ARE suffering from biblical FAMINE!
Wouldn’t it make sense for Konyndyk, the chief U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, to visit at least a couple of the other regions as part of a more complete fact-gathering effort?
Perhaps Konyndyk did not bother to go to the other regions because he believed that if you have seen one “drought”/famine, you’ve seen ‘em all!
Konyndyk and USAID talk about DROUGHT, DROUGHT, DROUGHT…?
But they never ask and answer in public the logical next question: What are the effects and consequences of DROUGHT?
Konyndyk glossed over the question in his interview. He just said the “outcomes of this  drought don’t need to look like the outcomes in 1984.”
What exactly were the “outcomes” of the “drought” in 1984?
Konyndyk says Ethiopia is facing “massive drought” today, the worst in 50 years!
A massive drought in 1984-85 caused massive famine in Ethiopia. But Konyndyk wants us to believe a massive drought in 2016 is just a massive drought?
“Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
There was a time when USAID used to be able to tell the truth about drought/famine in Ethiopia.
That was three decades ago! How time flies and the Big Lie flies with time.
USAID in its “Final Disaster Report: Ethiopia Drought/ Famine, FY 1985-1986” (p. iii) told it like it was:
In 1984, the world came to know, through the nightly television news broadcasts, the tragic plight of the famine victims in Ethiopia. By the end of 1984, with nearly 8 million people In Ethiopia considered at risk of death due to starvation, appeals were made for 1.3 million metric tons of food, in addition to millions of dollars in other emergency relief supplies. The response was tremendous. (Emphasis added.)
In April 2016, Konyndyk says:
It is the worst drought in 50 years in most of this country… The figure, the estimate of the people in need of relief are about, well they exceed 10 million and that’s the current projections. We expect that the period over the summer will be the worst period…” (Emphasis added.)
Even though Ethiopia is in “the worst drought in 50 years”, Konyndyk gags and chokes as he tries to utter the “F”amine word.
“How inexpressible is the meanness of being a hypocrite! How horrible is it to be a mischievous and malignant hypocrite?”, quizzically ruminated Voltaire.
How come the world does not see on “nightly television news broadcasts” bloated and emaciated Ethiopian children ravaged by famine?
The answer is simple: The T-TPLF has stonewalled and sandbagged all information from the famine-stricken areas.
Any journalist who reports from the famine-stricken areas will be charged under the T-TPLF’s bogus “anti-terrorism” law.
But it is not only journalists who are gagged and censored by the T-TPLF.
The T-TPLF has also delivered stern warnings and threats to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that if they use the “F”amine or “S”tarvation words or phrases like “children are dying on a daily basis,” “the policies of the government in Ethiopia are partially to blame” in their public statements, they will be kicked out on their tails before they can say Jack!
When will we begin to see a few smuggled photos of bloated and emaciated Ethiopian children famine victims on “nightly television news broadcasts”?
Simple. As soon as the T-TPLF allows the international media free access to the famine-stricken areas.
Konyndyk would have done American taxpayers a great service if he had brought along with him international journalists to visit Tigray region and other parts of the country to freely report on the famine/”drought”.
Is it too much to ask that USAID operate with minimal transparency in a country where it claims to be the Second Coming?
Konyndyk sat at the Addis Ababa “5-star” Marriott and fielded softball questions from representatives of international media: (How ironic! Talking about starving people hanging out at a “5 star hotel”? WOW!!!)
Paul Shem (Associated Press/ Washington Post): “A lot of aid agencies were saying about a month or two ago that there’s a chance of the food pipeline breaking down… ?”
Konyndyk: “On the food pipeline issue… We’ve also been talking with the Ethiopian government who are very keen to avoid that… I’ll defer to them on what their plans would be for covering any break [in the pipeline]…”
Eskinder (VOA Horn of Africa Service): “I see here that the HRD [Humanitarian Requirements Document] will be updated by the Ethiopian government and its partners. Does this mean that, we already know that there are 10.2 million people in need of emergency food assistance?
Konyndyk: “We’re still, ultimately the [Ethiopian] government sets that number and we’re supporting the government in that process.” Really?!
Just like USAID supported the propagation of the bogus 10 percent annual economic growth figure fabricated by the “government”?
Andualem Sisay (National Media Group): “My question is about lasting solution for such humanitarian crisis. We’ve been in such a situation every three and four or five years, so what is your suggestion for a lasting solution to such crises?”
Konyndyk: “That’s a great and a really important question… [T]his is not an every four or five-year drought. This is an every 50 years drought… This is an extraordinarily strong global El Nino… Ethiopia so far has had some of the most severe weather impacts of that, but southern Africa is suffering quite a lot as well now.” (Emphasis added.)
Really!? Ethiopia is El Nino’s chosen one this time around?
By the way, USAID knows how to synchronize talking points. USAID Administrator Gayle Smith said exactly the same thing in a recent interview: “This phenomenon called El Nino, [ ] is striking hard at a number of parts of the world, [but] nowhere harder than in Ethiopia.” (Emphasis added.)
They all babble from the same talking points!
Why can’t the various members of the international media go out in the drought/famine affected areas and report on their own?
Why must they be spoon-fed information sitting comfortably at a “5-star hotel”?
Konyndyk sits at the “5-star” Addis Ababa Mariott and showers his agency, the T-TPLF, the U.N. and the other partners with self-serving commendations and complements on a job well done.
Re: the T-TPLF, Konyndyk says, “I want to convey our thanks at the top to the government of Ethiopia for hosting a very useful visit and for the broader partnership that we’ve had together for many many years and the strong partnership that we have together on this response to the drought.”
“Many, many years and the strong partnership” with the T-TPLF!
I am cool with that.
Barack Obama visited Ethiopia in July 2015 and declared the ruling T-TPLF regime (the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front, an organization currently classified as a terrorist group by the Global Terrorism Database, which claimed to have won the May 2015 parliamentary elektion by 100 percent) “democratic”.
I guess that’s what strong partners do for each other. Lie through the teeth for each other.
If Barack Obama can stand in front of the world and call the T-TPLF democratic, no one should be surprised when Konyndyk stands in front of the world and denies there is FAMINE in Ethiopia.
There is an old Ethiopian saying, “Fish stinks from the head.”
Konyndyk acknowledges, “Thanks as well to our partners from the United Nations and the NGO community who are doing really tremendous and heroic work supporting the response to this drought.”
Wouldn’t these words sound more convincing if they were said by the international media?
USAID says the cause of “hunger” (a/k/a “very severe malnutrition”, etc.) in Ethiopia is drought caused by “El Nino” (warming of the ocean surface resulting in a shift in atmospheric circulation and reduced rainfall).
Not only is El Nino the cause, it seems, if one is to believe USAID Adminstrator Gayle E.Smith , El Nino is sent by Providence to punish Ethiopia.
I was so incensed by Smith’s nonsensical statement that I wrote a letter asking her why she thought Ethiopia was singled out by El Nino and struck harder than any other country on the planet.
I also asked Smith if she believed poor governance, lack of planning and organization by the T-TPLF is an actual cause or at least a partial proximate cause for the “drought”, or at least an aggravating factor in the causation, spread and/or persistence of the current “drought” in Ethiopia.
Smith passed my letter off to her assistant administrator to respond. In his letter, the assistant administrator tried to finesse me with bureaucratic mumbo jumbo: “First, we acknowledge that food shortages and livestock losses related to the drought are having a direct and significant impact on people’s ability to thrive.”
What happens to people who cannot “thrive” because they have absolutely nothing to eat?
I say the root cause of the persistence of famine in Ethiopia is the depraved indifference of “El T-TPLF”.
El T-TPLF has been in the saddle of power in Ethiopia for the last 25 years. In May 2015 El T-TPLF claimed to have won 100 percent of the seats in “parliament.
In 2010, El T-TPLF claimed to have won 99.6 percent of the seats in “parliament”.
El T-TPLF has been in total control of Ethiopia for the past 6 years after rigging elections.
What has the T-TPLF done to prevent “very severe malnutrition” in Ethiopia over the past 6 years?
Not a doggone thing!
What has the T-TPLF done to deal with the effects of a “very severe malnutrition”?
Not a doggone thing!
What the T-TPLF has done is siphon off humanitarian aid and spirit it out of the country into its off shore accounts.
What the T-TPLF has done is stretch out its begging bowls year after year for international alms and handouts.
I guess not much more could be expected from Africa’s premier Baksheesh (Beggar) State.
USAID and T-TPLF in Denial-istan, Ethiopia
The T-TPLF and USAID have entered into a silent conspiracy of famine denial in Ethiopia.
They give self-congratulatory and self-laudatory interviews from Denial-istan, Ethiopia and expect the world to buy their lies, damned lies and statistics.
The T-TPLF (the “LF” in T-TPLF stands for “Lie Factory”) has been denying the occurrence of famine for at least eight years.
When the T-TPLF leaders were in the bush, famine was the all-important issue and topic. They claimed famine alleviation and prevention is their be-all and end all.
In 1985 when hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians were dying of famine, the late Meles Zenawi said:
There is no point in fighting if the people are finished. This is the saddest time in my life. I have seen many desperate times. But none of them is as desperate as this one. Because the people I am fighting for are dying because of lack of food. They are hardworking but because of lack of support, because of lack of scientific agricultural practices these people are dying. Because of no fault of themselves. That is the toughest thing for a fighter to face. (Emphasis added.)
(Yeah, right! In 1984-86, Meles and his crew siphoned off tens of millions of dollars earmarked for famine relief in the Tigray region to buy weapons and enrich themselves. Read all about it in my commentary “TPLF Licensed to Steal”. That’s what I call easy money for a “tough fighter”.)
In August 2008, 17 years after sitting in power, Meles Zenawi waxed philosophical telling Time Magazine, “Famine has wreaked havoc in Ethiopia for so long, it would be stupid not to be sensitive to the risk of such things occurring. But there has not been a famine on our watch — emergencies, but no famines.”
Meles Zenawi’s “Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development”, Mitiku Kassa, echoed his boss stating, “In the Ethiopian context, there is no hunger, no famine… It is baseless [to claim famine], it is contrary to the situation on the ground. It is not evidence-based. The government is taking action to mitigate the problems.”
In 2011, Meles Zenawi pompously declared, “We have devised a plan which will enable us to produce surplus and be able to feed ourselves by 2015 without the need for food aid.” In other words, famine, starvation, severe malnutrition, etc. will be banned from Ethiopia for eternity!
In January 2012, CNN asked Meles Zenawi: “Ethiopia is facing a major famine. How can you justify spending on a military operation in another country when your own people are starving?” Zenawi responded, “There is no famine in Ethiopia as all humanitarian organizations will tell you. There is a serious drought, but we are able to keep our people fed….”
In June 2012, USAID reported:
The drought was considered in some parts of the region to be one of the worst in 60 years, affecting more than 13.3 million people in the Horn of Africa. The month before the official drought declaration, USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) warned: ‘This is the most severe food-security emergency in the world today.’
In December 2015, T-TPLF “Deputy Prime Minister” Demeke Mekonen said, “It is obvious that the foreign media works with different bodies of special interest. There is no such thing as famine in Ethiopia these days.”
On April 11, 2016, USAID reported, “The projected level of relief food assistance for [Ethiopia in] 2016 is 10.2 million people.”
Does that mean 10.2 million people have nothing to eat and if handouts do not arrive on time, a whole lot of them will die?!
Such is T-TPLF-USAID broadcasting from Denial-istan, Ethiopia. No famine! No starvation! No Nothing. Only El Nino-caused drought.
I will never forget what Meles Zenawi said in his very first press conference after parking himself comfortably in the saddles of absolute power in 1991. Meles said he would consider his “government a success if Ethiopians were able to eat three meals a day.”
Today, over 10 million Ethiopians are facing famine in the eye.
Today, the T-TPLF bosses and their cronies are living high on the hog.
Does the T-TPLF leadership today ponder on the ultimate litmus test of success set by its founder and visionary leader?
The T-TPLF leadership today does not give a rat’s behind about its dead visionary leader’s dreams of three meals a day or the millions of Ethiopian dying from FAMINE! That is a FACT!
But the famine is getting worse by the day in Ethiopia. Untold number are dying every day hidden from the world.
On April 12, 2016, Bloomberg News citing UN sources reported:
The number of Ethiopian districts identified as suffering a humanitarian emergency increased 18 percent to 219 from December to March as the impact of drought worsened, the United Nations said.
Consecutive missed rainy seasons last year caused by the ocean-warming effects of El Nino have left about a fifth of Ethiopia’s approximately 100 million population in need of food aid. A total of 443 districts were categorized as being in at least some difficulty, up from 429 in December, the UN’s humanitarian office said Tuesday in an e-mailed bulletin.
Of those, 219 areas are defined by a “very severe lack of food security,” which may include “excess mortality, very high and increasing malnutrition, and irreversible livelihood asset depletion,” according to the government. Ethiopia comprises about 800 districts, or woredas. (Emphasis added.)
“Very severe lack of food security” sounds like, you know, F-A-M-I-N-E to me.
What could be worse than “very severe lack of food security”?
Very, very, very, very… severe lack of food security?
The “very severe lack of food security” could produce “excess mortality”. I think that is a nice way of saying the famine (or is it drought?) is going to wipe out a whole lot of Ethiopians.
George Orwell said, “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
The USAID, T-TPLF and the UN are engaging in semantic gymnastics to make the 2016 famine look like 10 milloin Ethiopians are missing mid-afternoon snack.
Why are USAID, the U.N and others lying through the teeth about the FAMINE in Ethiopia?
In May 2012, I wrote a commentary entitled, “African Hunger Games at Camp David.”
In that commentary, I complained about how Meles Zenawi and his international supporters and international poverty pimps have been able to play public relations and semantic games with famine and starvation in Ethiopia.
I get it!
It is embarrassing for a regime wafting on the euphoria of a bogus “10-11 percent economic growth over the past 10 years” to admit famine.
If USAID and their international “partners” begin to use the “F” word, then the U.S. Congress may have to conduct hearings into the causes and consequences. That means accountability for USAID.
The international press would be demanding access and accountability, and all hell could break loose.
Martin Plaut in a recent article in News Statesman argued, “Ethiopia’s “biblical” famines of 1973 – 74 and 1984 – 85 left hundreds of thousands dead, probably around 200,000 and 400,000 respectively. The first resulted in the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie; the second contributed to the end of the Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam.”
The T-TPLF knows it could share the fate of previous Ethiopians governments if the people find out the scope and magnitude of the FAMINE today.
That is why USAID and the T-TPLF react reflexively and defensively whenever the “F” word is mentioned. The T-TPLF lackeys froth at the mouth condemning the international press for making “baseless” claims of famine, and castigate them for perpetuating “negative images” of the country merely because the international press insists on finding out verifiable facts about the food situation in the country.
USAID famine/hunger/ drought semantic games
USAID’s messaging and talking points on drought/famine in Ethiopia are carefully calculated to insulate and immunize the T-TPLF from any legal, moral and political responsibility for its depraved indifference to the spreading famine in Ethiopia.
USAID and the other international partners know full well the consequences of openly talking about FAMINE.
But USAID needs to know two simple facts:
1) Ethiopians are not as dumb as they look. You can stand up and tell them their lives under T-TPLF dictatorship is a democracy. But do not mistake their stony silence for stupidity. Do not insult their intelligence. Do not equate being hungry and poor with being stupid and dumb.
2) A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But famine by any other name (“very severe malnutrition”, “El Nino caused drought”, etc.) is the bitter fruit of tyranny. (Is “very severe malnutrition” a kinder and gentler word for famine?)
USAID is free to defend its T-TPLF partners, cover up and tell lies for them and do whatever they like. Emile Zola said, “If you shut up truth, and bury it underground, it will but grow.”
The seeds that sustain life may not be growing in Ethiopia, but there is a forest of truth about the T-TPLF and USAID that is growing like weeds.
How shameless of USAID not to mention a single (not one) fact about the failure of governance and the failure to adequately plan for famine/drought mitigation?
How shameless of USAID not to mention the death of a single person (one person) from the 50 year-drought!!!
USAID thinks it can pull the wool over the eyes of Ethiopians by feeding them a steady diet of feel-good propaganda:
Thanks as well to our partners from the United Nations and the NGO community who are doing really tremendous and heroic work supporting the response to this drought.
This drought is unquestionably a disaster. It is not necessarily a catastrophe.
It is entirely possible to ensure that we do not see severe, catastrophic outcomes due to this drought.
We have seen very clear leadership by the government of Ethiopia in tackling this drought. I saw across the board a strong, strong political will, strong commitment to ensuring that this does not become a catastrophe.
[We can lick the famine in 2016] because we have capacity and expertise that we did not have 30 years ago. We have techniques and technologies we did not have. We have specialized feeding products.
We’ve been working with the government. The government has stepped up in a big way. So there is a lot being done, there’s a lot that’s been achieved, there’s a lot that’s been in place.
USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to help prevent the drought in Ethiopia from becoming a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe. (Is a “full-blown humanitarian catastrophe” FAMINE?!
Why can’t USAID use the word FAMINE? “The 2016 drought in Ethiopia could become a full blown FAMINE.”
USAID’s approach to famine prevention and mitigation in Ethiopia is HANDOUTS and MORE HANDOUTS.
The Indian economics Nobel laureate Amartya Sen argued that the best way to avert famines is by institutionalizing democracy and strengthening human rights: “No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy” because democratic governments “have to win elections and face public criticism, and have strong incentive to undertake measures to avert famines and other catastrophes.” Famines are kept hidden from public view by jailing opposition leaders, journalists and civic society advocates who could sound the alarm over an impending famine. That isexactly what is happening in Ethiopia today!
Barack Obama last July stood up in Addis Ababa and declared the T-TPLF is a “democratic government.” In his defense, he did not say a “functioning” democracy.
A non-functioning democracy is a thugmocracy. (That is what you get when you cross a thugocracy with democracy or when thugs hijack democracy.)
The T-TPLF is a thugmocracy.
The truth about famine in Ethiopia is occasionally told by honest members of the international donors and loaners.
In 2011, Wolfgang Fengler, a lead economist for the World Bank, in a refreshingly honest moment for an international banker said, “The famine in the Horn of Africa is a result of artificially high prices for food and civil conflict than natural and environmental causes. This crisis is manmade. Droughts have occurred over and again, but you need bad policymaking for that to lead to a famine.” (Emphasis added.)
In other words, it is bad and poor governance that is at the core of the famine problem in Ethiopia, not drought, El Nino or El Nina.
Penny Lawrence, Oxfam’s international director, after visiting Ethiopia observed: “Drought does not need to mean hunger and destitution. If communities have irrigation for crops, grain stores, and wells to harvest rains then they can survive despite what the elements throw at them.”
Martin Plaut, BBC World Service News Africa editor explained that the food “crisis [in Ethiopia] is in part the result of policies designed to keep farmers on the land, which belongs to the state and cannot be sold.”
So the obvious questions are:
Why does a regime that has rejected socialism and is presumably committed to a free market economy insist on complete state ownership of land?
Why is there not an adequate system of irrigation for crops, grain storages and wells to harvest rains throughout the country?
What is the T-TPLF’s food security policy for Ethiopia?
Meles Zenawi said Ethiopia will not need food aid by 2015? Is that T-TPLF’s food policy?
In a 1992 article, Prof. Edmond J. Keller argued:
The ‘Great Famine of 1983-86’ was exacerbated by the ill-conceived policies of the Derg. Because of climatic changes, the drought of that period was bound to be major, but under other circumstances its effects might have been mitigated through effective policies and timely foreign disaster relief. But the Ethiopian [Derg] regime seemed more interested in pursuing a political agenda of statist control rather than a strategy designed to achieve food security.
Today, the T-TPLF is more concerned about a political agenda of total statist land ownership and land grabbing and land giveaways than a strategy designed to achieve food security by ensuring land security.
USAID cannot save El T-TPLF from accountability for famine in Ethiopia by blaming El Nino.
USAID! Stop insulting the intelligence of the people of Ethiopia as you watch them perish in famine.
Man up USAID!
If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, IT MUST BE A DUCK!
If it looks like famine, feels like famine and kills like famine, IT MUST BE FAMINE.
That is food for thought at USAID.
I will make USAID an offer they can’t refuse:
If USAID stops telling lies about the non-existence of famine in Ethiopia, I will stop telling the truth about USAID’s El Nino and severe malnutrition lies in Ethiopia.