Despite good rains so far this year, Eritrea will need food aid through 2006 - UN

Despite good rains so far this year, Eritrea will need food aid through 2006 - UN

Just over half of this year’s $156 million appeal for Eritrea has been received or pledged and despite a good main rainy season so far after five years of drought, the Horn of Africa country will need food aid throughout 2006, according to a United Nations assessment of the situation up to the end of July.

“Despite hopeful trends, widespread and severe food insecurity persists in the country,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. “Cereal prices continue to rise and the prevalence of malnutrition remains unacceptably high in the majority of the country.”

At present, 1.2 million of the estimated 2.3 million needy people are receiving food aid, many of them at only 60 per cent of ration size. With the current level of distribution, available food stocks would last until October.

Despite the positive trends in rainfall, the National Food Information System (NFIS) estimates that it will take three to four consecutive good rainy seasons for true recovery in agriculture and livestock sectors as well as in groundwater, OCHA added.

“In view of this, it is very important to note that a good harvest will not automatically result in the restoration of food security in Eritrea,” OCHA said. Five years of drought and the lingering effects of the two-year border war with Ethiopia have stretched coping mechanisms of large groups of the population to extreme limit.

Considering the difficulty of access by truck to specific areas during the rainy season, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has been pre-positioning and pre-distributing food to some 229,000 drought- and war-affected beneficiaries.