In a few months time it will be thirty years since a devastating drought that swept across the Horn of Africa.
Millions were driven to the edge of starvation and nowhere was worse hit than Eritrea. But in 1984 the Eritrean people had been fighting for their independence from Ethiopia for more than two decades.
Large parts of the country – particularly the rural areas – were only accessible by working with the main liberation movement, the Eritrean Peoples’ Liberation Front, or EPLF.
At the time a consortium of aid agencies, working through War on Want (where I was Vice-Chair) helped the EPLF via its relief wing. This was the Eritrean Relief Association.
This picture captures that effort – an effort which brought grain via Sudan and transported it deep into Eritrea. It was the moment that the EPLF saved millions.
This is the caption that was sent with the picture to newspapers around the world:
“Drought and famine in Eritrea – Urgent help is needed”
“A new famine is on its way in rural Eritrea because of the forth year of drought now. Help from foreign countries is urgently needed. 85-90% of Eritrean territory are under the well-established de facto administration of the Eritrean Peoples’ Liberation Front (EPLF), and so the only humanitarian agency operational in this area is the Eritrean Relief Association (ERA) to date. Picture: Problems of transport can be difficult”