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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 May, 2003, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Geldof: Ethiopia aid 'pathetic'
Bob Geldof
Bob Geldof wants a "war on poverty"
Irish rock star Bob Geldof has criticised the European Union response to Ethiopia's food crisis as "pathetic".

The musician and campaigner was speaking in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa after meeting Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at the start of a five-day tour.

After three years of failed rains, some 14 million Ethiopians are relying on food aid and Mr Meles has warned that his country faces a famine worse than that of 1984.

Geldof's trip comes 20 years after his first visit to Ethiopia inspired Band Aid and Live Aid, raising millions of pounds for famine victims.

"The EU have been pathetic and appalling, and I thought we had dealt with that 20 years ago when the electorate of our countries said never again," Geldof said.

He said the US and UK had been generous, but called on the EU to "release whatever foods it can and get them here as a matter of urgency .... I can guarantee that everyone will not want to see the horror of what we saw in the 80s, and it will truly happen," he said.

'Utter catastrophe'

However, a spokesman for the World Food Programme in Ethiopia told the BBC that its emergency programme was fully provided for until almost the end of the year.

He said Europe had given 41% of all donations, compared to 46% from the United States and 4% from Japan.

Villagers in Dir Sakar in Ethiopia
An estimated 14 million Ethiopians face starvation

On Sunday, Ethiopia held its own version of the Live Aid concert which raised millions in 1985.

The Birr for a Compatriot show - the birr is the Ethiopian currency, worth about 12 US cents - was attended by the country's top musicians and raised more than $1m, organisers said.

But the BBC's Ishbel Matheson in Addis Ababa says this figure is just a drop in the ocean and international funds are needed if the hungry are to be helped.

Geldof is trying to raise international awareness of the Ethiopia food crisis ahead of next week's meeting of the world's seven richest countries and Russia, the G8, next week.

"The G8 meeting is next week and I think it is going to be somewhat characterised by political spite and backbiting over what has happened in Iraq," he said.

"But meanwhile, further south is another country which is facing an utter catastrophe this summer because it has failed to receive over two-thirds of the food requirements that have been promised."

'Skeletal'

He told BBC News there was an urgent need for anti-AIDS/HIV drugs, with many Ethiopian children orphaned because of the disease.

Writing off debts and abolishing trade tariffs would also help the country, he added.

BBC correspondent Andrew Harding visited an area three hours' drive south of Addis Ababa where hundreds of women were bringing their children to be weighed at a makeshift clinic.

He said, on that day, 12 youngsters were so severely malnourished they had to be taken straight to the nearest hospital.

Daniel Tadesse gets the concert under way
Thousands turned out for Ethiopia's 'Live Aid' concert

"The wards are already full of pitifully thin children," he said. "A five-year-old girl called Adanech retches painfully - her skeletal frame too weak to hold down a few sips of milk."

A doctor said that in the past three weeks he had dealt with 60 severely malnourished children - eight whom could not recover and died.

"My belief is that it is the beginning of the problem," he said.

Ethiopia is one of the five poorest countries in the world, with an estimated income of just $100-a-year per person.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Andrew Harding reports from Ethiopia
"Ethiopia is still one of the world's poorest counties"



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