Sunday, November 08, 2009

No Famine Here

If you scan all the news outlets from Ethiopia in the last month, both govenment-owned and private, you would not know that the country is on the brink of famine. The reason is because the government is too busy doing all it can to discourge any talk of the impending famine.

In an article published two days ago, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports on the attempt to hide the famine in this way:
On the 25th anniversary of the famine that killed nearly a million Ethiopians in 1984, any talk of drought and hunger is still a highly sensitive issue in this impoverished country, subject to draconian controls by the government. Two regimes were toppled in the 1970s and 1990s because of discontent over famines, and the current regime is determined to avoid their fate.

Aid agencies that dare to speak out publicly, or even to allow a photo of a malnourished child at a feeding centre, can be punished or expelled from the country. Visas or work permits are often denied, projects can be delayed, and import approvals for vital equipment can be buried. Most relief agencies are prohibited from allowing visits by journalists or foreigners, except under strict government control.
An article by René Lefort in March of this year titled "Ethiopia's famine: deny and delay" correctly pointed out the government's approach to handling news of the drought that has gripped the nation since 2007. But the regime was quick to lambast Mr. Lefort's article as "full of exaggerations and in some cases downright inventions." I am pretty sure they will come after Geoffrey York, the reporter for the Globe and Mail article, with the same gusto!

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