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Monday, 24 April, 2000, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Hunger threatens Ethiopia's north
War refugees in Tigray
The presence of refugees compounds the problem
By the BBC's Martin Plaut

The drought which is afflicting countries across the Horn of Africa is spreading to new areas of Ethiopia.

The United Nations has released a report indicating that areas of northern Ethiopia are now at risk, although still not as badly hit as the south of the country.

The short rains have all but failed in the northern highlands, and around one third of the population is now reliant on of food from the international community to survive.

Communities across a vast swathe of the highlands of northern Ethiopia are "teetering on the edge", in the words of Jim Borton, of the UN Emergency Unit in Addis Ababa.

One in three are now reliant on food distribution, and it is a race against time to keep them fed.

The UN's objective is to provide them with food aid, so that they remain in their own villages.

More aid promised

The area has suffered from prolonged drought for a number of years.

Although it is not as severely afflicted as southern and eastern Ethiopia, it is giving rise to increasing concern.

The few showers that have fallen have come too late to provide a harvest, although they are still useful for pasture.

But the news is not all bleak. International pledges of aid now stand at 700,000 tonnes - a very significant increase from just a month ago, when they stood at only 400,000 tonnes.

The tragedy is that the port of Djibouti which is now struggling to cope with the flow of food, was seriously underutilised at the start of the year.

Once again, it is television pictures of the starving that have mobilised the international community.

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See also:

21 Mar 00 | Africa
Rain failures threaten Horn
01 Apr 00 | Africa
Why is famine back again?
04 Apr 00 | Africa
EU famine relief for Africa
04 Apr 00 | Africa
Ethiopia: 'Too little too late'
05 Apr 00 | Africa
UN to distribute Ethiopia aid
14 Apr 00 | Africa
Africa Media Watch
18 Apr 00 | Africa
Long wait for food aid
07 Apr 00 | Africa
Disasters: Why the world waits
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