Eritrea Threatened by Famine

ASMARA, Eritrea, JAN. 31, 2003 ( The East African nation of Eritrea is on the brink of catastrophe, threatened by famine.

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The situation is such that Bishop Abune Menghesteab Tesfamariam of Asmara, the capital, has made an urgent appeal for help for 1.4 million Eritreans, the majority elderly people, women and children.

«We are very concerned about our brothers,» he said in statements reported by Misna. «We pray for you to be their and our voice. Even a little part of the Western budget would be enough to save millions of people.»

Erratic rains are threatening to bring famine to the populations of Keren, Assab and Barentu. Catholic missions are swamped with aid requests.

«To confront this situation, 601,200 tons of grain are necessary for 2003; the people at risk are estimated at around 2.5 million,» Bishop Tesfamariam said.

The food shortage is blamed on last year’s erratic weather. Scarce rains from March to June, followed by heavy rains from June to September, hurt the crops. The 2002 harvest was the lowest since 1993, while cattle were reduced 20% from a year earlier.

The nation of 4.4 million has been able to produce only 40% of the food it needs. The rest is imported and donated by aid agencies.

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