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UN humanitarian chief begins three-nation Africa tour

UN humanitarian chief begins three-nation Africa tour

John Holmes
The top United Nations humanitarian official begins a nine-day mission to Africa today that will take him to Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya to meet with aid agencies and officials coping with emergencies affecting millions of people on the continent.

The first stop for Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes is Ethiopia, where he plans to visit the Ogaden region, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York.

Humanitarian conditions in that region have worsened in the past several months due to fighting between the Ethiopian National Defence Forces and the Ogaden National Liberation Front. The situation has resulted in the doubling of food prices, inadequate access to clean drinking water and shortages of medical supplies, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Mr. Holmes, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, will then travel to Sudan. Following a stop in Khartoum, he is scheduled to go to Nyala and El-Fasher in the strife-torn Darfur region, where he will meet people who have been affected by the conflict there.

In the past four years more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2.2 million others displaced from their homes because of the violence in Darfur, while an estimated 4 million now depend on humanitarian aid for survival.

Mr. Holmes will then wrap up his visit in Kenya with meetings with aid agencies and diplomats working on Somalia, which has been wracked by violence in recent months resulting in the displacement of 1 million people.