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DISASTER RELIEF IN ETHIOPIA

In Ethiopia, the cumulative effects of 17 years of reoccurring drought conditions have resulted in chronic food insecurity in many areas of the country. In 2002, especially low secondary and primary rainfall totals in the lowlands of the Southern Nations and Peoples Region, (SNNPR) triggered a full-blown food security crisis. To make matters worse for the SNNPR, overall health, nutrition, and sanitary conditions were deteriorating in an area whose inhabitants had exhausted all other coping strategies. An already precarious situation developed quickly into a full-scale humanitarian emergency. In response, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa declared the drought situation a disaster in October of 2002. This declaration signaled the beginning of a multi-million dollar food assistance campaign coordinated with the United Nations World Food Program (WEP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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Even with the tremendous boost in food support, conditions in the areas hardest hit continued to worsen. In order to enhance the USG response, a disaster assistance response team (DART) from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance was deployed to the region to provide a more responsive and 'on the ground' presence. Disaster response specialist, Ron Libby, from the International Programs of the Forest Service served on the team from June to August 2003 as the program officer. The team conducted field assessment visits to the six most affected areas of the country to determine the appropriate USG non-food response to the humanitarian crisis. On the recommendations of the DART and in collaboration with USG partners, USAID/OFDA supported emergency recovery activities to improve water and sanitation conditions, health and nutrition, and to address seed shortfalls in the agricultural sector. During this fiscal year alone, the USG has provided over thirty million dollars in humanitarian assistance in response to this emergency.


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