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The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"So much need but only basic facilities"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
EU famine relief for Africa
Child in the Ogaden region
Children are dying each day in Ethiopia
The European Union is preparing an urgent delivery of food to parts of the Horn of Africa, where up to 16 million people are feared to be facing starvation.

But it says the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea makes the operation more difficult.

If we had peace and normal relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea, then the harbour of Massawa would also be available and the problem more manageable

Poul Nielsen, EU
EU Commissioner for Development Poul Nielsen said on Tuesday that the EU and other donors had plans to send about 800,000 tonnes of food aid to Ethiopia.

"Everybody is following this situation with very great concern," Mr Nielsen told a news conference at the Africa-Europe summit in Cairo.

"If we now can plan in a reasonably professional way actually to move 800,000 tonnes, that's a good start," he said.

Wartime difficulty

But he said the logistics were more difficult than supplying the food, since the closure of the Eritrean-Ethiopian border prevents the use of Ertirean ports.

Battle in the horn
"If we had peace and normal relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea, then the harbour of Massawa would also be available and the problem more manageable," Mr Nielsen said

According to the EU's current plans, aid will be sent through the port of Djibouti.

The United Nations warned on Monday that up to 16 million people in the Horn of Africa were threatened by starvation.

The Ogaden region of south-eastern Ethiopia is among the worst affected zones, with five young children dying every day in some communities.

The famine has been attributed to to poor rains, successive crop failures, and population displacement forced partly by armed conflicts in the region.

Slow response

Aid agencies have expressed disappointment that Western countries have been slow to respond to the crisis.

The planned EU donation follows a plea by Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin before the Cairo conference.
Children in Ogaden region, Ethiopia
South-eastern Ethiopia is among the worst affected regions
"We are asking for an immediate response in the way of food aid from the international community," Mr Seyoum told reporters on Saturday.

He said eight million people in Ethiopia alone are facing the threat of famine.

While most of these people are in the south-east, 400,000 people displaced by the war in the north are also at risk, Mr Seyoum said.

In the mid-1980s a famine aggravated by civil war in northern Ethiopia caused the deaths of some 800,000 people.

Among the first such disasters to receive widespread international television coverage, the famine of the 1980s prompted major fundraising and relief efforts from the developed world.

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See also:

04 Apr 00 | Africa
Ethiopia: 'Too little too late'
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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