Monday, 14 April 2014

MALNUTRITION AND FAMINE


IN ETHIOPIA

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

·        Ethiopia is a land-locked country in Eastern Africa. Wadla, in the Amhara region is badly affected
·        One of the least developed and poorest countries in the world with a GDP of $470 per capita
·        Malnutrition is one of the main health problems facing the population; they have also experienced several prolonged and widespread famines and many Ethiopians are chronically hungry.



CAUSES

·        Drought:  is the most commonly given reason for famine is drought, and parts of Ethiopia have unpredictable rainfall that can lead to droughts. e.g. in 2011 the March-May rainy season failed, which was thought to be caused by La Nina, an abnormal cooling of waters in the Pacific Ocean. Wadla is in an arid region and experiences extreme diurnal temperature ranges which can damage crops

·        Poverty: The main factor leading to famine in Ethiopia is poverty. Poor people do not have the resources to deal with shocks, and are more likely to be pushed into unsustainable ways of coping such as selling equipment, sending children out to work or eating less. Wadla is an isolated area with a lack of infrastructure: only 13.5m of road and no electricity, transport, telephone or postal services.

·        Agriculture:. In Ethiopia, individuals do not own land; it is assigned according to the size of a family, and redistributed every few years. Every time land is redistributed it is divided between more people, so each farmer gets less. Lack of investment, and the need for large yields from a small area, leads to land degradation. The average amount of land for a household in Wadla is only 1.1 hectares. Over-exploitation of wood for fuel and timber has led to deforestation while overcrowding means that it is not unusual to graze up to 40 sheep on 0.1 hectare of land. These factors have led to severe soil erosion.

·        Conflict: There have been frequent conflicts in Ethiopia. In the early 1990s, 60% of the national budget was being spent on war. Obviously this reduces the money available to improve agriculture or provide relief for hungry people. The Arab Spring across the Middle East and North Africa led to a decline in the demand for livestock exports from Ethiopia, reducing the incomes of the affected communities

·        Trade: Unequal trading systems also contribute to hunger in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government purchase crops from farmers at low fixed prices. International organisations encourage Ethiopia to produce cash crops to export, which reduces the land available for growing crops. The world price for agricultural exports such as coffee is also very low. In Wadla over 95% of people depend on subsistence farming and there are very few opportunities for formal work. People with little or no land find it especially hard to ensure they have enough food.



CONSEQUENCES

·        Malnutrition can severely affect the growth and development of children, 44% of children in Ethiopia are affected by stunting; a word used to describe the diminished physical and mental capacity of children who do not receive enough vitamins and nutrients from an early age. E.g. a 15 year old child may have the mental capacity and height of a 6 year old.  Many children are so badly affected they do not survive.

·        Malnourished people are more susceptible to other infections and more likely to suffer complications.

·        Those who survive have a reduced capacity to contribute to the economy of the country as they are less able to learn new skills and less productive in their work.

·        It has been estimated that the annual value of the loss in productivity that can be attributed to child stunting is 2.9 billion ETB (Ethiopian Birr). Moreover, iodine deficiency, which results in irreversible impairment of intellectual capacities, has been estimated to cost the Ethiopian economy 1.35 billion ETB per year.



STRATEGIES TO MANAGE THE ISSUE

·        Charities such as ActionAid work with local people to: provide short term food aid; improve farming methods; provide farmers with loans to buy new equipment and train locals in land conservation.

·        They also train people in other skills e.g. carpentry so they have an alternative income rather than relying on subsistence farming and improve infrastructure to create easier access to markets and food aid.




Discussion point: What is the biggest cause of famine in Ethiopia and can it be overcome?


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