Food security at risk in Ethiopia’s Somali region, UN warns

31 December 2007

United Nations officials are increasingly concerned about food security in Ethiopia’s impoverished Somali region where conflict between Government forces and the Ogaden National Liberation Front has intensified this year.

The humanitarian situation in the region has been compounded by poor rains and the decreasing availability of pasture and water, while food prices are being pushed up by restrictions on the cross-border movement of goods, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA noted that there have been some reported cases of malnutrition, and it also expressed worries over a potential desert locust outbreak, especially as the dry season begins.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed more than 17,000 tons of food, while the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is working with the Government on a locust response plan.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has supported and trained five mobile health and nutrition teams, and also intends to restock ten major health facilities with emergency drug kits.

Earlier this month, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes noted that fears are growing that up to 4.5 million people could soon face famine-like conditions in the region.

“There are strong reasons to believe such a catastrophe could occur in the next few months if all the necessary action to avert it is not taken,” Mr. Holmes said, following a visit to the area. He added that insecurity and Government restrictions are making it difficult for aid workers to even reach those in need.

 

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