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U.N. says millions of Ethiopians need food aid

 

CNN- January 28, 2000

Web posted at: 12:35 PM EST (1735 GMT)

 

                  ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Reuters) -- The United Nations said on Friday

                  that more than eight million Ethiopians will need emergency food aid this year

                  and appealed to donors for $190 million to finance the operation.

 

                  U.N. officials in Addis Ababa said a long drought in some areas and

                  excessive rains in others had battered food production and many families

                  had no alternative means of survival because their livestock had either died

                  or been sold.

 

                  "The situation now is very serious," said Judith Lewis, country director of the

                  U.N. World Food Programme (WFP). "We will need a lot of food,

                  especially in the next six months, to address the immediate food needs."

 

                  Experts say Ethiopia's grain harvest fell to 10.7 million tonnes last year from

                  11.4 million in 1998 and was about two million tonnes short of what is

                  needed to feed the country's 60 million people.

 

                  This year's emergency food relief will target over eight million Ethiopians and

                  about 250,000 foreign refugees -- mainly from neighboring Somalia and

                  Sudan.

 

                  Foreign donors sent food aid to almost seven million Ethiopians last year but

                  while it helped avert a disaster, the underlying food shortage was

                  exacerbated by fresh crop failures.

 

                  "If adequate assistance is slow in arriving, the crisis will not only return but

                  will be much larger in magnitude and severity and certainly more costly and

                  difficult to mitigate," the U.N. said in a statement on Friday.

 

                  There have been recent reports of several young children dying every day in

                  eastern Ethiopia from diseases such as dysentery.

 

                  About one million people are believed to have died in a drought which

                  ravaged Ethiopia in 1984-85. The government of the time would not admit

                  to the disaster so food assistance came too late to save many victims.

 

                  Much of the Horn of Africa and eastern Africa has been hit by drought over

                  the past two years, partly due to the La Nina weather phenomenon which

                  cools sea surface temperatures, leading to lower rainfalls.

 

                  In a separate appeal on Friday, the U.N. said it would need $42.8 million to

                  help around 600,000 people in neighboring Eritrea this year. About $27.9

                  million would go to food aid and the rest to non-food items.

 

                  Most of the beneficiaries of the aid programme have been pushed from their

                  homes by a 21-month-old border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

 

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