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The BBC's Jon Leyne
"This was an African echo of the 1st World War"
 real 56k

Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 18:22 GMT
Aid sought for Eritrean recovery
Two Eritrean men
Eritreans now have a chance to rebuild their lives
By Alex Last in Asmara

Eritrea has appealed to the international community to help the country meet its humanitarian needs.

The vast majority of the $223m appeal is for food aid.

In a recent survey around half of Eritrea's population was identified as needing assistance due to the effects of war and regional drought.

The appeal comes at a time when Ethiopian and Eritrean troops are pulling back from their disputed border in order to create a temporary security zone.

For the Eritreans the pull back means that they can return to their farmland and begin work improving the country's food security situation.

Fertile land

Ethiopian tank
The Ethiopian withdrawal increases the amount of farmland available to Eritrea
Last year, huge swathes of Eritrean territory, which included the best farmland, were occupied by Ethiopian forces.

The occupation displaced over one million people.

Largely as a result, Eritrean food production fell by 75% and the country only survived because of a swift response from the international community.

There are still several hundred thousand Eritreans, mostly women and children, who live in displacement camps and are waiting to go home.

Opportunity

Now, with the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Eritrean territory their chance to return is approaching.

The timing is crucial as the planting season is due in the next few months.

The resettlement of people in the buffer zone will be a major humanitarian challenge.

Most Eritrean civilians lost everything when they fled their homes, some villages have been destroyed and many looted.

Once they have returned people will also face the threat of landmines.

Even though there is peace, repairing the damage wrought by years of war and drought will take Eritrea many years.

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See also:

18 Feb 01 | Africa
Eritrea's pull-back begins
23 Dec 00 | Africa
Eritrean prisoners' joyful return
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Eritrea
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