- The bahri rains, which normally fall between November and February in parts of Eritrea are performing poorly, negatively affecting crops and pastures. Eritrea has struggled with its worst-ever drought during the last year.
According to the latest Eritrea report from the US agency Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS), Eritrea's drought affected farmers cannot expect relief from the upcoming agricultural season. The bahri rains reportedly have failed in the country's main agricultural districts.
- If the rainfall performance continues to be poor, crop and pasture performance in the northern Red Sea Zone, particularly in the eastern escarpments will be adversely affected, FEWS concluded. Conditions for livestock were however somewhat improved by the sparse rains.
Nonetheless, increased and continuous rain was said to be needed to ensure sufficient fodder for livestock in this mainly pastoral country. "Access to water is becoming a serious issue in most areas of the Debub region," the World Food Programme (WFP) reports from Eritrea. "Local dams are drying up and grazing land for livestock is becoming increasingly scarce."
Further, locust outbreaks have been reported in some areas of Northern Red Sea Zone. "Unless immediate action is taken, over 5000 hectares could be damaged," FEWS warned today. The Asmara Ministry of Agriculture is now preparing to treat locust affected areas by using aircraft to spray appropriate pesticides. Spraying started the last week of January.
According to the Eritrean Relief and Refugee Commission (ERREC), food aid has been delivered to the country almost as foreseen in the government's food pledge. Humanitarian agencies therefore have been able to organise the planned distributions.
The last estimations indicate that around 417,000 metric tons of food aid will be required by Eritrea in 2004. Of this, 219,651 tons is emergency food aid needed for around 1.4 million people. The government of Eritrea and the UN officially have appealed for US$ 97.8 million to meet these food needs and US$ 49.4 million to cover non-food requirements.
WFP in its latest Eritrea update also complained about the increasing difficulties arising from the new regulation limiting travel that has been placed on all UN agencies, embassies and international organisations based in Eritrea.
- The new regulation has raised serious concern among UN agencies, WFP says, "as it greatly hinders their operations and monitoring of humanitarian activities, increases concerns about staff security, and raises issues with respect to UN agreements with Eritrea." A UN team was now negotiating with the Asmara government in order to try to find an acceptable solution to the situation.
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