Ethiopia's Consuming Hunger

Drought Affecting 4 Million

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, SEPT. 9, 2002 ( Ethiopia is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster due to a months-long drought.

This African state launched another international appeal last week, calling for «urgent answers» and spelling out its need for food, water, humanitarian and health assistance, and medical and veterinary personnel.

Simon Machele, director of the Federal Commission for the Prevention of Disasters and for Emergency Situations, told Agence France-Presse that the problems «are so great in almost all the regions of the country that immediate answers are needed.»

During a conference of donors and nongovernmental organizations, Machele stressed that «within a short while the situation has evolved for the worse. We should be among the first countries to receive aid.»

Studies warned that 4 million people had serious food shortages in this East African country. Lack of rain in recent months has destroyed harvests.

The government was providing food but had failed to stock sufficient provisions to cover the 100,000 tons necessary to feed the people until year-end.

Catholic Relief Services, the humanitarian organization of the Church in the United States, also raised the alarm this summer and appealed for relief funds.

«The international community is very keen to help us avoid a humanitarian crisis,» Simon Machele said, pointing out that the United States has collected 45,000 tons in food aid.

He said the most affected areas are the Somali and Oromoia districts in the east, the Tigray in the north, and some southern areas.

The government fears a food deficit of «not less than 103,583 tons for the period September-December,» Machele added.

«In a very short while, the situation has evolved in the worst direction,» he stressed.

At the start of the year, Ethiopia needed 557,204 tons of food aid and $18.2 million for some 5.2 million people, but since July, agents have reviewed the official data as the crisis worsened.

«If you look at Ethiopia, the current magnitude is being underestimated in relation to other parts of Africa,» Machele said. He reckoned the current crisis is worse than the one in 2000.

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