NAIROBI, 9 Jan 2003 (IRIN) - US Congressman
Frank Wolf has warned of a looming crisis in Ethiopia and Eritrea, stressing
that both countries are desperately in need of help.
Wolf, a Republican who has just returned from a visit to the two countries, said he never thought he would again witness what he saw in Ethiopia in 1984 when nearly a million people died of starvation. But in a report on his latest visit, he said: "I have. Last week."
"By Easter, thousands of Ethiopians could be dead from starvation," he warned.
An estimated 11 million people are at risk in Ethiopia, while in Eritrea over two thirds of the population are in need of food and non-food aid because of the drought.
Wolf noted there were many factors aggravating the situation - the increased population, the spread of HIV/AIDS, the border war between the two countries. "But perhaps the greatest difficulty is getting the world to respond," he said.
"I do not believe this situation should ever have been allowed to develop. Does anyone really believe that the world would turn a blind eye if this crisis were unfolding in France or Australia?"
"Getting the world - and the United States in particular - to focus on the issue is difficult because of the war on terrorism, the situation in Iraq and the growing crisis in North Korea," he said.
"Time is of the essence," he added. "A village can slip dramatically in just a matter of weeks. Many of the children I saw last week will be dead by early February. The world cannot afford to wait any longer."