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Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
"Donors, particularly the EU, need to be more forthcoming"
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The BBC's Alix Kroeger
"The UN say more than 12 million people face serious food crisis"
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Friday, 31 March, 2000, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
Ethiopian leader demands more aid
Dead cattle in Ethiopia
Livestock in the famine area has been devastated
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has complained that the international response to the famine threatening eight million people in his country has been too slow.

He said in particular that European countries could have done more.

Mr Meles told the BBC that he feared a repeat of the widespread starvation of the mid-1980s.

In some areas, children are dying at the rate of five of a day because of diseases caused by malnutrition.

Women and children courtesy Rodney Roscona
Many are too weak to seek help (Picture: Rodney Rascona)
Ethiopia is the worst-affected of the seven East African countries where the third drought-induced crop failure in three years has left more than 12 million people in need of food aid.

The World Food Programme (WFP) plans to distribute 371,050 tonnes of food this year to just over 6 million people in the region at a cost of $205m.

The United States also committed itself to sending more than 400,000 tonnes of food aid to Ethiopia, while Japan agreed to donate $7.3m for the purchase of agricultural chemicals and farming machinery.

"Other donors, in particular the EU and countries in Europe, need to be a bit more forthcoming than they have been so far," Mr Meles said.

Aid and War

Correspondents say international donors may have been slow to respond to the call for relief in part because of fears that the supplies would be diverted to Ethiopia's war effort against Eritrea.

Mr Meles told the BBC his country had given assurances that this would not happen.

Meles Zenawi
Meles Zenawi: Europe must do more
Only about half of an existing UN inter-agency appeal for Ethiopia of $190m for the year 2000 has been met so far.

There has been no response so far to an appeal for $43m for Eritrea.

The UN says that while drought is the primary cause of the food crisis, conflict and insecurity have exacerbated the humanitarian situation in the region.

Ethiopia and Eritrea have been fighting a border war for nearly two years, and prolonged mediation efforts have achieved few concrete results.

Relief agency warnings

Relief workers say scores of children are already dying from illnesses stemming from malnutrition amid reports of widescale livestock losses.

Baby, photo courtesy of Rodney Rascona
Ethiopia accounts for 80% of the required aid
Catherine Bertini, head of the UN's World Food Programme, will head for Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Eritrea the week after next to assess the magnitude of the problem.

She will try to raise awareness about the situation and press governments to give aid workers secure access to the needy.

Aid workers say that in many southern areas the drought is so severe that not only had crops failed, but people had been left with so little water they could not even cook emergency food rations.


As in the mid-1980s when nearly a million people died, Ethiopia is most at risk, but six other countries in the region have also lost food stocks to the drought, fighting and continued instability from refugee flows.

If some neighbouring countries were included, the figure could rise to 15 to 16 million, the UN said.

The affected countries are the four mentioned above, plus Somalia, Uganda and Sudan.

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See also:

31 Mar 00 | Africa
Why is famine back again?
21 Mar 00 | Africa
Rain failures threaten Horn
31 Mar 00 | Africa
Is aid really helping?
13 Sep 99 | Africa
World Bank aid blow for Horn
13 Jul 99 | Americas
New aid appeal for Ethiopia
23 Jun 99 | Africa
Hunger fear for Horn of Africa
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