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Envoy To Visit Ethiopia On Humanitarian Crisis

Special Envoy Marti Ahtisaari To Visit Ethiopia On Humanitarian Crisis – Un

New York, Aug 24 2005 4:00PM

The United Nations Special Envoy for the Humanitarian Crisis in the Horn of Africa, Martti Ahtisaari, will travel to Addis Ababa tomorrow as part of a four day visit to Ethiopia, a nation beleaguered by a year of erratic rain and the lingering economic effects of a two-year war with Eritrea, and with half a million children predicted to die from disease and malnutrition this year.

Mr. Ahtisaari will meet with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and other government officials, humanitarian agency chiefs, and international donor organizations. The trip follows a two-day visit to neighbouring Eritrea.

On his fifth trip to Ethiopia since his appointment in June 2003, the former Finnish President will be pressing for humanitarian goals. Given the long term effects of the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, failed harvests and the resulting malnutrition, the country will be facing many economic and social challenges. A possible malaria epidemic in the country could only add to its woes.

Mr. Ahtisaari will also emphasize the UN approach that was introduced in January of this year that distinguishes between the chronically and the acutely “food insecure” in the population. The Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) will be used to reach 4.8 million people living in the most chronically food insecure districts, while another 3.3 million will continue to require emergency relief assistance.

The nation is heavily dependent on the weather for its economic well-being, and rain in 2005 has been erratic and poorly distributed. Despite a bumper crop in 2004 which was 21 per cent above the previous five year average, production was still not sufficient to feed the population, leaving millions of Ethiopians requiring emergency food and suffering from chronic hunger. Agriculture contributes to 45 per cent of the gross domestic product, while 80 per cent of the population earns a living from agriculture, either directly or indirectly.

The UN Security Council has stressed previously this year that ongoing food insecurity in Eritrea and Ethiopia who fought a border war from 1998 to 2000, diverting much needed development monies into military activities, have the potential to create greater instability in this country of more than 70 million people, and has been urging Member States to provide generous support to prevent future unrest.

ENDS

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