Warning of looming food crisis in Ethiopia, UN agency seeks donor support for aid effort
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today urged action to prevent a massive humanitarian crisis looming over Ethiopia, where the number of people in need of food aid is expected to rise from 6 million to as many as 14 million people by next year.
Even under the best-case projections – assuming adequate rainfall – some 10 million Ethiopians will need outside assistance to survive, according to WFP’s Georgia Shaver. “These figures are staggering and the international community should be prepared to face the worst-case scenario which will require between 1 to 2 million tons of food aid,” she said.
“If donors respond quickly, we can help avoid immense human suffering in Ethiopia,” she added.
The country’s food crisis stems largely from widespread drought, which has caused numerous livestock deaths, with remaining animals only just surviving. Drought and erratic rainfall have combined to leave many pastoralists and farmers with a shortage of livestock products and a lack of maize and sorghum – the staple foods for most rural Ethiopians, accounting for over 40 per cent of domestic cereal production.
Ms. Shaver said that while WFP has been distributing food in affected areas to contain the crisis, “if we don't get more pledges quickly, aid agencies’ relief stocks will run out before December and the situation will deteriorate rapidly.”
Besides food required until the end of the year, WFP is also seeking funding as soon as possible to cover needs for the first quarter of 2003, estimated at $150 million to $200 million.
So far this year, the agency has used its contributions totaling $130 million to feed approximately 3 million Ethiopians each month. Basic food rations consist of cereals, and the most vulnerable groups – children under five, pregnant and nursing mothers, the sick and the elderly – receive supplementary rations of enriched blended foods.