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Hope in the Horn of Africa

Jeremy Koch

March 2012

The Horn of Africa is no stranger to drought and famine. There have been 42 droughts in the Horn since 1980. The 2011 famine was caused by the worst drought the region has seen in 60 years. It is a chronic challenge for the people and governments of the region, and many wonder if the Horn will ever be able to rid itself of famine.

The World Food Program estimates that more than 13 million people have been affected by the ongoing famine and that number continues to rise. 

Amid the current emergency response, however, a story of hope has emerged, one starkly at odds with the too-memorable images of the drought and famine in Ethiopia in the 1980s.

Efforts of the last 15 years to limit the devastation have borne fruit. That famine affected about 8 million Ethiopians; the current famine is affecting about half that many. Instead of creating refugees, Ethiopia is housing refugee camps to support those fleeing the famine in neighboring countries. Ethiopia is no longer the face of famine; instead it is a part of the response effort.

With the support of international development organizations, Ethiopia has made significant investments to expand its water distribution infrastructure and make fertile land more productive. Health extension workers have been mobilized to provide much needed medical care. Cereal banks have been established to ensure that farmers can feed their livestock. There is still a lot of work to do, but the progress is undeniable.

To an expatriate living and working in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, the drought is hardly noticeable. This, too, is a sign of progress. The limited geography of the drought-affected areas helps focus the response effort.

Continuing along this path of development means a day may come in the not too distant future when Ethiopia can say that it has brought an end to famine within its borders. This would be a tremendous achievement and could serve as a model of development for other countries suffering from chronic droughts in the Horn of Africa. 

–Jeremy Koch '02


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