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Ethiopia: Long-Term Emergency Food Warning

Ethiopia: Long-term emergency food warning

World Vision is urging people not to forget the famine in Ethiopia, after a food security watchdog warned that nine million people will need food assistance next year and 17 million people may need it by 2007.

The US government's Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS) warned that declining rainfall levels and a spiralling population are fuelling chronic food shortages.

World Vision New Zealand CEO Helen Green says most people in Ethiopia are subsistence farmers and are dependent on rain.

"Luckily this year Ethiopia is predicting a good harvest after one of the worst droughts in its history left 13 million people facing starvation last year.

"But we cannot get complacent, because FEWS is warning there will still be millions of people without food this year and the situation is only going to get worse," she says.

Ethiopia's short rainy season, known as 'belg', began in November this year, rather than the usual December/January. The rainfall has boosted crop production, predicted to be 60 percent more than last year.

However, critics are warning without price stabilisation, a bumper crop could spark a collapse in grain prices and leave already-impoverished rural farmers bankrupt.

"Although it is good news that the rains have begun, there are also parts of eastern Ethiopia where rains have failed once again. So unfortunately, we still have a food crisis in Ethiopia," Mrs Green says.

New Zealanders have contributed over $11,500 to World Vision in the last few months to help fund a supplementary feeding programme in drought-stricken Afar, in north east Ethiopia, which in addition to treating babies and pregnant women, extends to reach school age children, thereby encouraging school attendance.

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