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Salesian missionary sounds alarm on Ethiopian famine

An Italian nun at Zway in Ethiopia has written to the General Chapter of her congregation to raise awareness of an "impending disaster of large proportions" caused by a famine that followed the failure of the rains.

"This year, the rains came late and ended 45 days early," said Sr Elisa Tonello. "Last year, too, harvest was very poor and the last great famine in the country was just two years ago."

Sr Elisa's report is consistent with that of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who told the BBC earlier this week that the country faces a famine worse than that of 1984 which killed nearly one million people and sparked a big international relief effort.

"There are clear signs of impending disaster of even large proportions, but the world does not pay attention to it. It is busy with other things."

Sr Elisa said that the entire population of 12,000 in the Zway area will go hungry within three months.

"It is the first time that I find myself in the midst of a catastrophe of such dimensions," she said. "It frightens me."

The Congregation's Australian Province Secretary Sr Maureen Irvine has passed on Sr Elisa's alert to media organisations in this country.

Salesian Sisters

Massive famine stalks Ethiopia (BBC)

15 Nov 2002