Friday, August 05, 2011

Investigation finds Ethiopia using aid as a weapon

Ethiopia has received some praise for its aid distribution during the recent famine. Some say that food distribution operated by the government has helped to soften the impact of the drought.

An undercover investigation has called into question just how equally the food is given out. The BBC has found that people who vote for or support the opposition political party are often passed over for aid.

From the BBC, we find out more about what the investigation uncovered.

Our reporters visited one village in southern Ethiopia with a population of about 1,700 adults.

Despite being surrounded by other communities which are well fed and prosperous, this village, which cannot be named for fear of reprisals, is starving. We were told that in the two weeks prior to our team's arrival five adults and 10 children had died.

Lying on the floor, too exhausted to stand, and flanked by her three-year-old son whose stomach is bloated by malnutrition, one woman described how her family had not eaten for four days.

"We are living day to day on the grace of God," she said.

Another three-year-old boy lay in his grandmother's lap, listless and barely moving as he stared into space.

"We are just waiting on the crop, if we have one meal a day we will survive until the harvest, beyond that there is no hope for us," the grandmother said.


In another village 30 km (19 miles) away it was a similar story.

There our team met Yenee, a widow who along with her seven children is surviving by begging, eating leaves and scavenging scraps from the bins in the nearest town.

"The situation is desperate," she said. "We have been abandoned... It is a matter of chance if we live or die."

The two villages sit just 15km (9 miles) either side of a major town, surrounded by other communities where the populations are well fed and healthy. They are in desperate need, but no-one is helping.

According to local opposition members they are being punished for failing to vote for the ruling party, the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which Mr Meles leads.

Further north a group of farmers alienated by Mr Meles' government met the BBC/Bureau team at a secret location on the edge of a remote village.

One farmer described how he had been ostracised for failing to support EPRDF: "Because of our political views we face great intimidation. We are denied the right to fertiliser and seeds because of political ideology," he said.

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