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Ethiopia: UN appeals for food contributions to avert crisis for 2 million people

Ethiopia: UN appeals for food contributions to avert crisis for 2 million people

Concerned that enduring drought conditions and dwindling crops have pushed nearly 2 million people in Ethiopia to the brink of starvation, the United Nations today urgently appealed for food contributions to avert a major humanitarian disaster.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), unless further contributions are received, relief food stocks are expected to run out in March or April for nearly 60 per cent of the population in the Tigray region.

With crop production down drastically across the region as a result of poor and erratic rainfall combined with reduced agricultural input use, OCHA made its call just as the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) started a major assistance operation, stepping up their relief effort to help 700,000 victims of the drought.

On another front, there may be signs of hope for thousands of Sudanese refugees stranded in Ethiopia’s sprawling Fugnido camp, where ethnic tensions have fuelled tribal clashes among residents for nearly a decade. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Ethiopian Government has identified a site the agency can move 24,500 refugees to for their own protection.

“The new site, Odier, in western Ethiopia, was chosen based on its accessibility, proximity to administrative and security establishments, and the tribal composition of local residents,” said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond today in Geneva. “Most important, [the site] was chosen with the consent of the refugees themselves, who want to move from the sprawling, insecure Fugnido camp.”

The Government has promised adequate security will be provided at the new site, and the UN Security Coordinator is now visiting the area to make sure the site is indeed safe for UNHCR and other aid agencies to serve it. “At present, the road leading to the site is a ‘no-go’ area for UN staff due to clan tensions in the region,” Mr. Redmond said.

If the Odier site is declared safe, the agency estimates it will cost some $1.8 million to turn it into a camp for 23,000 Nuers and Dinkas from Sudan. Those clans asked UNHCR to relocate them after a particularly violent clash with another tribe, the Anuaks, last November, when 42 refugees were killed and many more wounded. The clashes left 46 children without one or both parents.