International Relief Agencies

January 25, 1985

Report Outline
Responding to Crisis
Evolution of Agencies
Need for Development
Special Focus

Responding to Crisis

Massive Donations for Ethiopian Victims

In late October 1984, the British Broadcasting Corporation aired a five-minute videotape in London. The NBC Nightly News then rebroadcast the brief film sequence on Oct. 23 and 24 to an estimated audience of 15.5 million Americans, who were shocked by its horrifying images of famine-stricken Ethiopians. These and subsequent media reports of the East African country's devastating drought have set in motion a spontaneous outpouring of millions of dollars in donations to the hundreds of public and private agencies that make up the international relief community.

Ethiopia's need for outside help is great. The United Nations has estimated that 300,000 Ethiopians died in the last nine months of 1984. A quarter of the nation's 32 million inhabitants are threatened with starvation. Emergency food relief will be necessary throughout this year and possibly into 1986. The Ethiopian government has said 1.2 million tons of grain will be required in 1985 alone. Drought and famine do not stop at the Ethiopian border. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports abnormal food shortages in 34 countries, 25 of them in Africa.

The Ethiopian rescue effort illustrates the international relief system in action and points up some of its strengths and weaknesses in the face of formidable obstacles, both natural and man-made. The continuing drought that is the immediate cause of Ethiopia's plight has dried up the groundwater reserves necessary for next year's planting, killed livestock and aggravated “desertification” of the land, the relentless depletion of the topsoil caused by overgrazing, over-cultivation and wind erosion.

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