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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 January, 2005, 09:01 GMT
Most Eritreans 'need food aid'
Marti Ahtisaari
Donors are getting used to helping Eritrea
Some two-thirds of the population of Eritrea will require varying degrees of food assistance this year, say United Nations food agencies.

The World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation say that 2.3m people need help, with some facing severe food shortages.

They say there is a shortfall of some 180,000 tonnes of food.

The shortages are the result of the 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia followed by successive droughts.

'No peace'

UN officials say last year's March-May rains failed to materialise, and the main June-September season began late and ended early.
Eritrean soldier
Many young Eritreans are in the army, not the fields
Last year, some donors suspected that the food shortages had been exaggerated but this was denied by the UN.

One theory for the continual food shortages is a lack of manpower to tend the fields - Eritrea's standing army amounts to about 10% of the total population.

Last year, Minister of Agriculture Arefaine Berhe says he felt the main problem is that "there is no lasting peace here and there is not the right environment for people to do their jobs".

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