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In 1984 -1985 the Ethiopian provinces of Gojjam, Eritrea, Hararghe, Tigray, and Wollo received little rainfall; drought conditions were exacerbated by a lack of government preparations and increased military spending on fighting various insurgencies.The failure of crops in the north was compounded by fighting in Eritrea which hindered the the transport of relief products and created hazards for for famine relief workers. Ethiopia was governed by the Communist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam from 1974 to 1991. He ordered that almost half of the Ethiopian Gross National Product in 1984 be alocated to the military. By 1986 the famine had spread to parts of south of the country. Locust plagues exacerbated the situation. (A decade earlier Mengistu is also alleged to have been responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Ethiopeans during the period 1975 - 1978 which included the era of the Ethiopian Red Terror).

I traveled to Ethiopia in 1984 with my wife Janet. In Tigray province, north of Addis Ababa, we witnessed the international response to the famine which engulfed much of the country. Much has not changed in the Horn of Africa in 25 years.