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UN Relief Official Visits Ethiopia's Ogaden Region

Top UN relief official visits Ethiopia's volatile Ogaden region

The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator arrived in Ethiopia today to visit the strife-torn Ogaden region where over 640,000 people are in urgent need of food, water, medical supplies and other assistance.

"This was a valuable opportunity to get an impression for myself of the situation on the ground, and to see the work the UN team has already done to confront the serious humanitarian challenges in the region," said Mr. Holmes, who is also UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

Humanitarian conditions have worsened in the region in the past several months due to fighting between the Ethiopian National Defence Forces and the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the world body has dispatched more than 7,300 metric tonnes of food to the five military zones in the region. Preparations are also being finalized to deploy 15 mobile health teams including 10 in the area of conflict.

Mr. Holmes discussed how the UN can further help during meetings with local officials in the regional capital of Jijiga. He also discussed ways to improve the humanitarian situation in Ogaden with representatives of the UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the area.

From Jijiga, Mr. Holmes travelled to Kabridehar, where the UN recently established a field presence, and met with government officials, UN staff and NGO personnel to discuss the main needs in the area and how to address them, as well as the challenges that affect relief operations.

Mr. Holmes said he plans to raise the issues of access and freedom of commercial activity in his meetings with senior Ethiopian officials, including the Prime Minister, tomorrow in the country's capital, Addis Ababa.

He is also scheduled to meet the chief of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and heads of UN agencies before departing the country for Sudan, the next leg of his current three-nation tour which will also include a stop in Kenya for talks on massive displacement in neighbouring Somalia.


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