Ethiopia’s hunger crisis
But Usheto is not the typical face of Ethiopia’s chronic food problems, the scrawny baby or the ailing toddler.
At 55 years old, he is among a growing number of adults and older children – traditionally less vulnerable groups – who have been stricken by severe hunger due to poor rains and recent crop failure in southern Ethiopia, health workers say.
“To see adults in this condition, it’s a very serious situation,” nurse Mieke Steenssens, a volunteer with Doctors Without Borders, told The Associated Press as she registered the 1.65m Usheto’s weight at just 33kg.
Aid groups say the older victims suggest an escalation in the crisis in Ethiopia, brought on by a countrywide drought and skyrocketing global food prices. But while figures for how many adults and older children are affected are not available, at least four aid groups interviewed by the AP said they noticed a troubling increase.
“We’re overwhelmed,” said Margaret Aguirre, a spokesperson for the International Medical Corps, a California-based aid agency. “There’s not enough food and everyone’s starving and that’s all there is to it.”
“Older children are starting to show the signs of malnutrition when normally they might be able to withstand shocks to the system,” Aguirre added.
Ethiopia’s top disaster response official, Simon Mechale, insisted that the food situation was “under control” and would be resolved within four months.
Despite the international help, the country was facing hunger on a mass scale. Part of the reason, according to John Holmes, the top UN humanitarian official, is the country’s climate, chronic drought and the large population – some 78 million people. He said the UN was hoping to boost the number of people it helps here.