Ethiopia: UN official appeals for food aid to help 6 million affected by drought

Ethiopia: UN official appeals for food aid to help 6 million affected by drought

With more than 6 million Ethiopians in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, a senior United Nations relief official today issued a strong appeal for food aid on behalf of drought-affected people.

"The early warning signs of a large-scale humanitarian crisis are already visible…It is obvious to anyone that there has been a massive crop failure," the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kenzo Oshima, said in Addis Ababa, where he was continuing his two-week tour of Africa. Accompanying him on this leg of the mission are senior officials from the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the European Commission and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Mr. Oshima, speaking at the launch of a joint UN-Government appeal for 2003, said the best available assessments suggest that more than 10 million people will need relief help next year. "These are indeed dreadful prospects, provoking memories of the terrible visions that were broadcast to the world from the Horn of Africa in the early 1980s," he said.

The Relief Coordinator stressed that swift action must be taken to minimize the drought's impact and to provide those in need with enough food, water, medicines and other essentials to weather the difficult times. There must also be a broad, multi-sectoral response to the crisis, he added, as well as an emphasis on the greater goals of development and long-term food security for the people of Ethiopia.

"Two years ago, famine was averted in the Horn of Africa thanks to fast and early action, effective response and good coordination," he said. "Nevertheless, overall success was muted by unfortunate suffering and death. We must learn from such past experiences and strive to do better."

Mr. Oshima is scheduled to conclude his mission to Ethiopia tomorrow and then fly to Asmara, Eritrea, to get a first-hand look at the effects of drought in that country.

Meanwhile over the weekend in the Sudan, the government lifted a flight ban over the southern part of the country, enabling the resumption of aid activities on the ground in those areas. Last week during his trip to Khartoum, Mr. Oshima held talks with Sudanese authorities in an effort to get them to lift the flight restrictions.

The UN's Operation Lifeline Sudan noted, however, the continued use of other restrictions, and called for all parties to recognize the principle of unhindered access to those in need.