The United States' Response to the Ethiopian Food Crisis

NSIAD-85-65: Published: Apr 8, 1985. Publicly Released: May 1, 1985.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO described U.S. knowledge of Ethiopia's need for massive food aid and the adequacy of the U.S. response to the crisis.

The United States knew that acute malnutrition and serious drought conditions existed in the northern provinces of Ethiopia in 1982. However, the severity of the food needs in the rest of Ethiopia was unclear until the spring of 1984. Despite strained relations between the U.S. and Ethiopian governments and delays incurred in the initial U.S. response, the United States has provided, overall, more drought and famine relief assistance to Ethiopia than any other government or international organization. During fiscal years 1983 and 1984, the Agency for International Development (AID) approved 11 requests for emergency food assistance for Ethiopia from four private voluntary and international organizations. GAO found that a time lapse occurred in filling a 1982 Catholic Relief Service request for food aid because of concerns about the ability of Ethiopia and private voluntary organizations to carry out a food program that would reach all hungry Ethiopians, but the need for food and the relatively small amount requested by the organization raised legitimate questions as to the reasonableness of the delays in approving the requests. The basic problems which impact on the program include: (1) extremely poor relations between the United States and Ethiopia; (2) a lack of AID presence in the country; (3) government restrictions on the movement of foreigners in Ethiopia; and (4) hostilities between Ethiopia and rebels.

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