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MCC seeks $1.5 million for emergency food aid

Tim Shenk
August 25, 2008

AKRON, Pa. – Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is appealing for $1.5 million in financial contributions to provide emergency food assistance to people who are facing hunger in Ethiopia and other countries because of drought and high global food prices.

MCC is working with a partner organization, the Meserete Kristos Church Relief and Development Association (MKC-RDA), to distribute more than 3,000 metric tons of corn, wheat and cooking oil to about 81,000 people in the Boricha and Awassa Zuria districts of southwestern Ethiopia. The Meserete Kristos Church is a Mennonite World Conference member denomination.

Boricha and Awassa Zuria are densely populated districts where many families tend small farms. Local harvests failed in June and July because of inadequate rains in February and March, according to Mekonnen Dessalgn, MCC's Ethiopia program manager.

Meanwhile, food prices have risen sharply throughout Ethiopia, making it more difficult for families who lost their crops to purchase what they need. Corn is more than three times as expensive in Ethiopia as it was a year ago, mirroring a steep rise in the prices of basic foods worldwide, Dessalgn said.

Even in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, children are leaving school early because they do not have enough to eat, Dessalgn said.

"The problem is really very, very critical here," he said.

Earlier this year, some families in Boricha and Awassa Zuria were forced to sell their cattle at low prices to buy staple foods, Dessalgn said.

In June, MCC and MKC-RDA began distributing food in Boricha and Awassa Zuria, and local people stopped selling off their cattle, according to Dessalgn. In exchange for the food, more than 9,000 men and women are working on community projects, including digging reservoirs, building terraces to control erosion and planting trees.

MCC and MKC-RDA are also distributing bean seeds and sweet potato cuttings to more than 3,600 farm families in Boricha and Awassa Zuria.

MCC received funding for these projects from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. However, because of rising prices, MCC needs an additional $1 million to continue distributing food until the end of October, when families will be able to harvest their crops, according to Bruce Guenther, an MCC relief coordinator.

Because of the global rise in food prices, many countries where MCC works are experiencing food shortages. MCC is planning to provide an additional $500,000 in emergency food aid in locations that will soon be determined, according to Ron Flaming, MCC's director of international programs.

Flaming said he expects food shortages to be a continuing, worldwide problem because of climate change, high fuel prices and the use of crops to produce biofuels such as ethanol. MCC is planning a long-term response to this global food crisis that will increase MCC's agricultural development work with low-income farmers, according to Flaming.

"We're going to have to focus more on production in the years ahead," he said.

Contributions to help MCC respond to the global food crisis should be designated "Food for All." They may be made online at mcc.org/donate or to any MCC office.

In Ethiopia:

  • $12 will provide supplementary food to one woman and one child for one month.
  • $42 will feed a family of six for one month.
  • $210 will cover the cost of feeding the family for five months.