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The BBC's Rageh Omaar in Denan
"All the time lives are being lost"
 real 28k

Ethiopian Ambassador, Dr Beyene Negewo
"People are dying. We must respond to that"
 real 28k

Monday, 3 April, 2000, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Disaster threatens in Ethiopia
People have left their land after three years without rain
People have been migrating to makeshift camps
By World Affairs correspondent Rageh Omaar

Severe drought is gripping many parts of Ethiopia, and the effect is already being felt in an emerging humanitarian crisis.

One of the hardest-hit areas is the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia.

International help is necessary at this time - quick international help

Ogaden health director Abdelahi Alihadji
In the village of Denan, local elders say that at least six children under five years of age are dying every day from severe malnutrition.

In their weakened condition, they are unable to withstand the onset of diseases like tuberculosis and measles, and there are no facilities for the children - no feeding-centres, doctors or medicines.

The region is home to more than a million people, most of them nomads, but it has not rained for three years and the pasture land for their livestock is now barren and dry.

Thousands are now migrating to towns and villages in a desperate search for water.

With the help of its international partners, the local agency, the Ogaden Welfare Society, is bringing some food and water into Denan for the 24,000 people living there in makeshift camps - but it is not enough.

The authorities are trying their best to cope, but Abdelahi Alihadji, the regional health director, says there is only so much they can do.

"We are trying to do something, but it's something beyond our capacity," he said.

"International help is necessary at this time - quick international help."
Food Aid
UN food appeal - 700,000 tonnes
Donors promise - 450,000 tonnes
Food delivered 5,000 tonnes
"They need food, they need shelter, they need drugs, they need water - something we cannot manage ourselves alone."

The Ethiopian Government has been warning for months now that up to 12m people across the country face severe food shortages.

There is only so much that an impoverished country like Ethiopia can do.

If a disaster is to be avoided, the international community will have to come to Ethiopia's help.

The next few months will be critical.

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See also:

05 Jan 00 | Africa
Is aid really helping?
21 Mar 00 | Africa
Rain failures threaten Horn
13 Sep 99 | Africa
World Bank aid blow for Horn
03 Sep 99 | Americas
Mounting famine threat in Ethiopia
13 Jul 99 | Americas
New aid appeal for Ethiopia
23 Jun 99 | Africa
Hunger fear for Horn of Africa
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