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At Least 3 Million Ethiopians Now Need Food Aid

At least 3 million Ethiopians now need food aid - UN relief wing

19 May 2008 - Some 3.2 million people are now in urgent need of food aid in Ethiopia because of the continued drought in the African country, up from 2.2 million just one month ago, according to the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Humanitarian agencies in Ethiopia say they face a shortfall in food aid valued at $147 million.

"I am deeply concerned about the food security situation in Ethiopia, and the consequent increasing numbers of malnourished children, as a result of the current drought," UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said in a statement issued today.

"We will need a rapid scaling up of resources, especially food and nutritional supplies, to make increased life-saving aid a reality."

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) warns that as many as 6 million children under the age of five are at risk of acute malnutrition. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says it is in danger of running out of supplies of relief commodities such as blended food, which is a special supplement for children and other vulnerable groups.

The shortage of blended food is already impeding the ability of the Government and humanitarian agencies to provide help to people suffering from severe acute malnutrition and the nutritional disease kwashiorkor. There has been a rapid increase in such cases in recent weeks in Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region (SNNPR) and Oromiya Region.

UNICEF needs 1,800 metric tons of ready-to-use therapeutic food for the coming three months for Oromiya Region and SNNPR alone. It currently has only 6 metric tons in stock, and is to receive another 90 metric tons, which is expected to last just two weeks.

"The Government of Ethiopia, the UN, donors and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] are responding to the crisis, but the enormity of the problem means that more resources will be required to alleviate the suffering of those affected in the coming weeks and months," OCHA said.

Rising food prices in Ethiopia have also contributed to the deteriorating situation. The WFP estimates that the price of maize increased by 83 per cent, sorghum by 89 per cent and wheat by 54 per cent between September 2007 and February 2008.


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