Ethiopia faces deteriorating food security, UN warns

17 October 2008

Drought-hit Ethiopians are facing a worsening food situation as the cost of maize soars nearly three-fold in some areas of the Horn of Africa country compared to last year, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) cautioned today.

Migration by people from rural to urban areas in search of food is increasing, it noted, and aid agencies have identified critical malnutrition. A rapid assessment team said it found grave water and pasture shortages in some areas.

Due to reduced rations resulting from breaks in the pipeline have led to reduced rations, whose distribution began in July and will continue until December, OCHA said that it anticipates increased malnutrition and a rise in child labour and begging.

The Office also warned that without adequate October-December rains, food insecurity will continue will into next year.

Earlier this week, OCHA appealed for more than $265 million to fund relief operations in Ethiopia for the next three months to meet the widening scale of the crisis, with some 6.4 million people now estimated to need urgent assistance.

It reported that a recent joint assessment by Ethiopian authorities and the international humanitarian community found that an extra 1.8 million people have been hit hard by the crisis since the last assessment in June.

The biggest increase has been in the country’s south-east, known as the Somali region, where the number of people requiring emergency food aid has almost doubled to 1.9 million since June.