- Another season of poor rains prompts new warnings of a "looming hunger" and diseases in Ethiopia. An estimated 8.5 million Ethiopians, mostly from the central Oromiya region, will depend on food aid this year, humanitarian agencies say. Water shortages are also predicted.
The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today voiced deep concern over what it called "increasing malnutrition and disease" in the south-central Oromiya region of Ethiopia due to erratic and delayed rains there, warning that more crop seeds were urgently needed to avert a crisis.
Only 10 days ago, OCHA had warned that because of poor rains in the country, international aid was needed to feed a growing number of hungry, which this year was said to reach some 8.5 million people - one out of every eight Ethiopians.
A recent OCHA mission to Oromiya region predicted a poor harvest of the main food crops - maize and sorghum - and warned that what few seeds had been provided had come too late. The UN agency added that unless the delayed rains lasted through September, there would also be serious water shortages.
Earlier this month, UN aid coordinators opened an office in the Somali region of Ethiopia to provide assistance in the areas devastated by drought. There have been repreated drought alerts for this eastern Ethiopian province during the year.
Meanwhile, the European Union has donated euro 32 million for food aid for Ethiopia, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) office in Addis Ababa said today. The funds are sufficient to feed 3 million people during 10 weeks with some 118,890 tonnes of cereals and other food.
Ethiopian authorities - the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (OPPC) - have so far appealed for 880,000 tonnes of food aid to feed 7.2 million people during 2004. This however was before the bad harvest predictions in the Oromiya region had been made due to the poor rains. Authorities are expected to raise their estimates of food aid needing people to UN levels.
The poor rains in Oromiya and the drought in the Somali region come after several poor agricultural seasons in Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea. Tens of millions have depended on government or WFP food aid during the last year. Only in Ethiopia, the WFP has assisted more than 5.4 million people so far this year.
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