Eritrea: UN warns humanitarian crisis could turn into 'complete catastrophe'

Eritrea: UN warns humanitarian crisis could turn into 'complete catastrophe'

Simon Nhongo
With a critical shortfall in funding for war-torn Eritrea, a United Nations official warned today that the deteriorating humanitarian crisis could turn into a "complete catastrophe," particularly if the current drought worsens.

"We are appealing to the donor partners to increase their level of response to the humanitarian situation in Eritrea," the UN humanitarian coordinator for the country, Simon Nhongo, told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.

A $163 million UN appeal launched last November for food, water and health aid to assist 2.3 million Eritreans – roughly 70 per cent of the population – has stalled at a mere two per cent, Mr. Nhongo said, appealing for a more swift and increased response from the international community.

"My major concern is that delayed responses might turn out to be more costly if the situation deteriorates further by July 2003," he said, commenting on the latest pledges by donors that total only 25 per cent of the required food aid and only three per cent of non-food assistance.

Eritrea has been devastated by ongoing droughts at a time it is still suffering the impact of the border conflict with Ethiopia, said Mr. Nhongo, who arrived in New York yesterday to galvanize support from key donors.


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