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Ethiopia Requests Emergency Food Aid For 6.2M People

Ethiopian Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Mitiku Kassa on Thursday asked the international community for more than $121 million for emergency food aid for 6.2 million people, the Associated Press reports (10/22).

Kassa’s request for 159,410 tons of emergency aid comes after an especially weak rainy season, which is affecting more than 23 million people in seven East African countries, Reuters reports. “As a result, the number of people needing emergency assistance during the period October-December 2009 has increased to 6.2 million from 4.9 million at beginning of the year,” he said. The country has a total population of 83 million, according to the news service. Kassa also asked for “11 tons of fortified blended food for malnourished children and women worth $8.9 million, and $45 million in non-food needs,” Reuters writes.

Fidelle Sarassaro, a U.N. humanitarian coordinator, noted that “[a]ccess has been a challenge for the non-food sector,” and he “urged the Ethiopian government to ensure free access to aid workers to the war-torn eastern Somali region” (Tadesse, 10/22).

The BBC writes, “The failure of crops and the loss of pasture for livestock is sufficiently widespread in Ethiopia … Some aid officials believe that [the request for food aid for 6.2 million] could prove to be a conservative figure. And it is on top of the food aid to support more than seven million people under a scheme for those who are most chronically vulnerable to hunger during lean periods of the year” (Wooldridge, 10/22).

Oxfam Report Calls For New Strategy To Address Ethiopian Hunger

Also on Thursday, aid agency Oxfam released a report calling for a new approach to address hunger in Ethiopia, Reuters AlertNet reports. The report, which was launched to “coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Ethiopia famine,” says donors should focus efforts on “preparing communities to prevent and deal with disasters such as drought before they strike, rather than relying mainly on short-term emergency relief, such as imported food aid,” according to the news service (Zweynert, 10/22).

Hunger crises often provoke a “knee-jerk reaction,” which can prevent donors from “looking for sustainable means to break the cyclical nature of famine,” inthenews.co.uk reports. “Currently, 70 percent of humanitarian aid to Ethiopia comes from the United States. Oxfam says out of the billions of dollars of U.S. humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia since 1991, 94 percent has been in the form of food aid – almost all of it sourced from within the U.S. rather than purchased locally or regionally. Most U.S. food aid has conditions applied to transport and packaging, which can cost up to $2 of U.S. taxpayers’ money to deliver $1 of food aid,” inthenews.co.uk writes.

In a second BBC article, Penny Lawrence, Oxfam’s international director, said, “Drought does not need to mean hunger and destitution.” Lawrence, who just returned from Ethiopia, added, “If communities have irrigation for crops, grain stores, and wells to harvest rains then they can survive despite what the elements throw at them” (10/22).  

“Oxfam argued in its report that donors need to do more to back programmes that manage the risk of the disaster before it strikes, such as early warning systems, creating stragetically positioned stockpiles of food, medicine and other items, and irrigation programmes,” Reuters AlertNet reports (10/22).