Food aid trickles in as famine threatens

 

Food aid trickles in as famine threatens Ethiopia

 

Reuters (04/11/00) By Simon Denyer

 

ADDIS ABABA, April 11 (Reuters) - The failure of the rainy season means Ethiopia will need even more food this year to ward off the threat of famine than previously thought, donors and aid agencies said on Tuesday.

 

But the West is not reacting fast enough to the crisis in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa country and has pledged only 200,000 tonnes of food this year, Ethiopian officials said.

 

Ethiopia has appealed for around 800,000 tonnes of food to feed eight million people this year, assuming a normal "Belg" harvest in June.

 

But rains expected from February to April have not arrived, meaning the Belg harvest is likely to fail. The "Belg rains" is the name given to seasonal rains due at this time of the year.

 

"When the Belg fails, it will increase the number (of people needing food aid) by 1.2 million," Ben Foot of Save the Children UK in Addis Ababa said.

 

The World Food Programme says food aid needed this year could rise to a million tonnes if the Belg harvest fails.

 

Pockets of famine in the parched southeastern plains of the Ogaden could also intensify if the drought continues.

 

Ethiopia said on Tuesday its appeal for food aid this year had only attracted pledges of just over 200,000 tonnes.

 

The United States has promised to deliver 400,000 tonnes of food but only 215,000 tonnes will go to this year's appeal and the rest is allocated to refugee or other projects andto fulfilling previous pledges.

 

"The international community certainly did not respond adequately to Ethiopia's numerous appeals," a foreign ministry statement said.

 

FOOD RESERVES DOWN

 

Donors have not delivered all the food they pledged in previous years and they owe the government's reserve nearly 300,000 tonnes.

 

Berhane Gizaw of the government's Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission said reserves were down to 30,000 tonnes and stocks needed to be rebuilt at the same time as people are fed.

 

"Nobody has fulfilled any pledge (of aid) so far this year," he told Reuters. "Very little is happening, only in the media." Ethiopia has rejected claims that its war with neighbouring Eritrea would hamper efforts to counter the famine.

 

The European Union has argued that using the Eritrean ports of Massawa and Assab could significantly speed up food deliveries to northern Ethiopia.

 

But Berhane said the Red Sea port of Djibouti had enough capacity to handle at least 100,000 tonnes of food a month out of a maximum requirement of 120,000 tonnes. The Somali port of Berbera could make up the difference, he said.

 

Karl Harbo, head of the European Union delegation in Addis Ababa, said he was "a little worried" that roads from Djibouti to Ethiopia were "not up to scratch", potentially slowing down food deliveries.

 

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