ETHIOPIA: UN warns of "serious problems" in Afar, Oromiya

ETHIOPIA: UN warns of "serious problems" in Afar, Oromiya

ADDIS ABABA, 9 Jul 2002 (IRIN) - The UN in Ethiopia has issued a “special alert” over the looming food crisis in parts of the Afar and Oromiya regions, warning of "serious problems" unless nomadic pastoralists receive help in the next few weeks.

The Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (UN-EUE) reiterated that particularly hard hit were Awash Fentale district in Afar Region and Fentale district in Oromiya Region.

"Cattle and even the more drought resistant camels have started dying," it said. "Luckily no malnutrition has been reported yet...Nevertheless, people will face serious problems in the next few weeks if they are not addressed quickly and efficiently."

The report blamed ethnic conflict for exacerbating the food crisis, saying that pastoralists had been forced to change their usual migration patterns "and most importantly were denied access to traditional water points and wells and grazing areas".

"Present negotiations between elders of the various clashing groups were unable to arrive at a resolution,” the report added.

The warning comes as the US Agency for International Development (USAID) warned that the drought threatened the hand to mouth existence of pastoralists as a “viable way of life”. It said most of the 1.2 million population in Afar survived on the bare minimum of just several cattle or camels.

The report from USAID’S Food Emergency Warning System Network (FEWS) said that if conditions in the arid region worsened, more livestock would die - threatening the pastoralists' future.

Poor and late rains have already weakened animals over the last year, forcing pastoralists to travel even further with their livestock in search of pasture.