By Laura Hammond and Daniel Maxwell (2002). Disasters, Vol. 26(3), pp. 262-279.
During 1999-2000, Ethiopia was brought to the edge of a major disaster, with some 10 million people estimated to be in need offood assistance at the height of the crisis. A repeat of the catastrophic famine of 1984-5 was avoided, but the numbers of people affected, the loss of life and the destruction of livelihoods made this one of the most serious crises in the Horn of Africa in the past 15 years. The humanitarian community has been slow to recognise the lessons of 1999-2000, and there have been surprisingly few attempts to conduct a serious, post-event evaluation of the overall crisis and response. The label ‘famine averted’ seems to summarise the crisis to the satisfaction of most parties involved. This paper reviews the crisis, the events that led up to it and the response effort. It examines the factors that contributed to making this crisis so serious, in order to draw conclusions and note issues that are relevant to current thinking about disaster preparedness and response – in Ethiopia and elsewhere. Some of the lessons learned from the 1999-2000 crisis are not new. However, the very fact that mistakes have been repeated should be a lesson to the humanitarian community.