By Elias Zeray
Following the drought caused by the recent El Niño in Ethiopia, various local and international media have been reporting the situation. Some even went as far as misleading the public and tarnish the image of the country by fabricating stories that people are dying every day of famine.
There is a heated debate that the 1984/5 famine is reoccurring after 30 years and that Ethiopia is starving. The BBC reporter added fuel into the fire by reporting unfounded yet sensational story on the matter. The BBC reporter went far to the remote Wollo area of the Amhara State and came up with the conclusion that people are dying of famine. The programme included an interview with a mother whose kid died of hunger. However, this story has been proved wrong later on raising serious question on the credibility of BBC.
Some pseudo-politicians, journalists and bloggers have also been engaged in spreading false accounts of the so called drought-famine- politics. It has for long been said that the legally registered political parties have no political alternatives to convince the people with. Hence, they always engage in hear and say political game to blackmail the ruling party – EPRDF, without providing alternative policies.
Hence, the opposing political parties and their pseudo-journalists are blindly busy in spreading the impact of the drought to give the impression that EPRDF is nothing but similar to the governments of the past who let their people starved. The calculation seemed that by tarnishing the ruling part, they would get political benefit and in the same time cover their own weaknesses.
Nevertheless, though it is manageable and under control, the fact is, the drought in Ethiopia is pressuring the government. Yes, the effects of the drought is very challenging for a developing country like Ethiopia, yet it is not beyond its capacity, though, there are shortcomings.
This is the time where EPRDF is being tested seriously and seemed to pass the challenges. The government showed its willingness and strength to save the lives of the people and their cattle endangered by the drought. Food items and grass for cattle are being extensively distributed. It is feeding more than 12 million drought stricken citizens together with their cattle.
This is historic at its best that Ethiopia is able to feed 12 million citizens from its pocket. It also proved that Ethiopia has been registering rapid political and economic development. In the past, Ethiopia lost several lives whenever drought happened. It is worth recalling the 1958 and 1985 droughts where millions of lives dropped like dried leaf.
I think the concerted efforts which have been taken place on rural areas by the people and government for the last decades have contributed to ensuring food security enabling the country to bear the burden of the drought. To be realistic however, Ethiopia seriously needs foreign additional food aid so that it can save lives until the next rainy season.
More importantly, the current drought can give actual image of Ethiopia. We have been repeatedly told that the agricultural sector has been steadily growing where millions of farmers have ensured their food security. We have also been told that modern irrigation and other water related activities have been massively realized and increased the production significantly. Eventually, the drought has proved wrong partially that Ethiopia still remains prone to the effects of acute drought.
Yet, it reminds us that there remain a lot be done. False and exaggerated data reports of the agricultural activities have been partially exposed. I can only understand and be proud that Ethiopia could be able to save its people from this devastating drought whatsoever. This is historic, to say the least. However, I am convinced that we have to do more works to develop agriculture in a modern way contrary to what has been reported.
Sadly, the opposing political parties and their few decibels are immersed in spreading false accounts of the drought to the extent that people are dying. I say this is a deliberate and false propaganda aimed at gaining political profit at the expense of the realities on the ground.
Lastly, EPRDF showed its real commitment towards its citizens and in the same time it has to cross-check its reports of development coming from cadres at lower level. EPRDF need to understand this and work to make sure that accurate data report is produced in the future. In addition, it must still work hard in rural areas to make agriculture more robust and productive.