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Wednesday, 12 July, 2000, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Half of Eritrea needs aid
Refugees on donkey cart
Hundreds of thousands of Eritreans fled the war
The United Nations is preparing to deal with a humanitarian crisis affecting half the population of Eritrea.

This was revealed by UN relief co-ordinator Carolyn McAskie, who has been on a fact-finding tour of the drought-stricken Horn of Africa.

In Ethiopia and Eritrea, the crisis has been exacerbated by the war between the two countries.

"In Eritrea the issue is how we get assistance to war-affected people who are a third of the population - add that to the drought-affected people and you have half the population affected," Ms McAskie told the BBC.

Abeba, an Ethiopian refugee
Communities are still displaced in northern Ethiopia
Ethiopian forces overran a large area of western Eritrea during May, displacing most of the population in the country's main food-producing area.

In northern Ethiopia, whole communities of peasant farmers remain displaced following fighting in the past two years.

Medicine needed

Ms McAskie told the BBC that relief efforts in Ethiopia were "doing quite well" in terms of food supply.

But she said the country needed more medical supplies, as well as help in developing water capability to counter the drought which afflicts the south of the country.

She said UN officials are negotiating with the Ethiopian Government to try to speed up the delivery of aid to needy communities, and to facilitate the work of relief agencies in the country.

Ms McAskie, who has also visited Kenya, said the effects of the drought there are spreading further and further south.

There are concerns that the drought might also extend into northern Tanzania.

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See also:

15 Jun 00 | Africa
UN highlights Horn crisis
17 Apr 00 | Africa
Famine threat across the Horn
31 Mar 00 | Africa
Is aid really helping?
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