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Two million in Ethiopia facing food shortages brought on by drought, UN agency warns

Two million in Ethiopia facing food shortages brought on by drought, UN agency warns

Exceptionally dry weather in Ethiopia is leading to serious food shortages affecting millions of farmers and pastoralists, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

The dry weather has been due to the partial failure of the "Belg" rains that occur from February to May and a late start of the main "Meher" rains that fall from June to September, the UN agency said.

A monthly average of 2 million Ethiopians has already been identified as needing food aid for the second half of the year, but the poor shortage of rainfall means another 2 million will need also food assistance, according to WFP.

“A major step has to be taken to save the remaining breeding livestock from being lost,” said WFP Emergency Officer Paul Turnbull after returning from a fact-finding mission to the Afar Region. “More food aid should be provided to the population, which in some areas is already migrating, in search of food and water.”

Given the gravity of the situation countrywide, the Ethiopian Government has announced that it is providing 45,000 tons of food to its needy population. While existing emergency food aid stocks will be distributed to the most vulnerable people, they are not adequate to cover the current food needs.

Countrywide, there is an estimated shortfall of over 100,000 tons of food to the end of the year, WFP said. People targeted for relief assistance receive basic food rations consisting of cereals and pulses while the most vulnerable groups - children under five, pregnant and nursing mothers, the sick and the elderly - receive supplementary rations of enriched blended foods.

"WFP is appealing to the donor community to respond quickly with food aid donations to avert this serious situation from developing into widespread hunger and starvation," said Mr. Turnbull.