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UN urges Ethiopia to address all those in need

UN envoy urges Ethiopia and partners to address all those in need

Reaching all those in need of assistance must remain the basic aim of the Ethiopian Government and its partners as it grapples with the problems posed by transition following a year of erratic rain and the lingering economic effects of a two-year war with Eritrea, a United Nations senior envoy said.

“Strengthening partnerships and increasing flexibility between Government, donors, (non-governmental organizations) NGOs and UN will achieve this goal as Ethiopia moves towards development and an environment of self-reliance,” said Mr. Ahtisaari, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Humanitarian Crisis in the Horn of Africa said yesterday in Addis Ababa.

During a four-day visit to country, Mr. Ahtisaari also met with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Deputy Prime Minister Addissu Legesse, and other Government ministers, along with NGOs, donors and the UN Country Team.

Throughout his discussions he focused on the Government’s new food security initiatives and the challenges they present, and on ways to broaden ongoing programmes in health, nutrition, agriculture and water sanitation.

The Ethiopian Government is attempting to become more self-reliant with regard to food security through various longer-term programmes. However, officials noted that there were problems which needed to be addressed during this transition period, Mr. Ahtisaari said.

He said that during the first year of the Productive Safety Net programme, which aims to help 5 million chronically food insecure people, there have been problems with higher than expected grain prices and capacity at the local level in effecting transfers, especially during the time of the election process.

There were also problems in timely provisions of cash and food resources in the first two months of the year. But the Government acknowledges these problems and is working towards rectifying them, he said. In 2006 there will be a need for flexibility so that no one falls through the gaps. It is critical during this period of transition that all partners build capacities of local communities to achieve food and livelihood security, he added.

“Our common aim must be working towards self-reliance and not expect this to happen overnight,” Mr. Ahtisaari said.

Ethiopia 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.

In addition, a border war with Eritrea between 1998 and 2000 diverted much needed development monies into military activities.

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