Eritrea’s humanitarian crisis worsens as funding crisis looms, UN agency says

Eritrea’s humanitarian crisis worsens as funding crisis looms, UN agency says

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today expressed increasing concern that food supplies will be insufficient to care for almost 1 million Eritreans in the coming months as devastation wreaked by drought silently exhausts people’s ability to cope.

WFP said it has only received $9 million of food and cash contributions against last month’s $105 million request for aid, part of a UN system-wide humanitarian appeal for 2003. From previous relief operations, WFP has enough food aid stocks to last until March or April 2003, but unless firm donations are urgently made within the next few weeks, there will be a break in supply from April onwards.

“The prospect of thousands starving is a stark reality,” said Patrick Buckley, WFP Country Representative for Eritrea. “Ships carrying food aid from abroad take months to arrive – considering the magnitude of the crisis at hand, each day is critical.”

In Eritrea, over 2 million people – more than half the country’s population – are seriously affected by a succession of droughts over the last four years.

The breadbasket regions of Eritrea have experienced scarce and erratic rains, which have led to crop failure and livestock loss, according to WFP. In addition, the border conflict with Ethiopia, consequent population displacement and a shortage of agricultural inputs and labour have exacerbated the problem.