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Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Aid makes impact in Ethiopia
Ethiopian family
Despite immense relief efforts, more help is needed
By BBC's Rageh Omaar in Gode, Ethiopia

Widespread starvation in the Horn of Africa has only just been staved off by a major international relief effort.

The international response to Ethiopia's emergency has made a real impact.

Fewer children are dying now than they were about five months ago.

But a severe drought continues to devastate the region and the United Nations is appealing for more funds.

I don't think anybody, in the United States or the UK finds it acceptable to see people die of starvation or of thirst if we can do something about it

UN's Catherine Bertini

Ethiopia which has been fighting a border war with Eritrea, is worst affected with nearly 10 million people suffering in the drought.

Rain failed again in April for the third year running, putting millions at risk of starvation.

'No respite from the drought'

So far the UN has sent $85m worth of aid and Britain $16m more.

UN special envoy, Catherini Bertini with an Ethiopian mother
Bertini believes many lives can be saved
But five months on from the emergency appeal, Ethiopia has still found no respite from the drought.

UN special envoy Catherine Bertini has been in Ethiopia to assess the situation.

The UN says 10 million people are still effected by the drought and nearly two million are children under five.

"I don't think anybody, in the United States or the UK finds it acceptable to see people die of starvation or of thirst if we can do something about it. In this case, we can, we have, and if we continue to do so, we will save many more millions of lives."

Barren landscape

Small rains have come intermittently, but not enough to make a difference.

Ethiopian woman
Many walk long distances in search of food and help
Displaced people already weakened by hunger, still have to walk for hours, every day across barren landscape to fetch water for their families.

One nomadic family in Gode had herds of sheep. But with pasture land devastated by three years of drought, all their animals died.

As people also began to die of hunger, they left their village in search of food and help.

It took the families six days to reach help. Food supplies from relief agencies, are now the only thing keeping them alive.

Olad Abdi Ahmed has lived in Gode all his life. But he says, " in 60 years, I've never witnessed such a devastating drought".

"I still can't find the words which capture the scale of our suffering and loss," Olad Abdi said.

Isolated communities

Children in this region continue to die from malnutrition and disease.

In this vast and remote region there are still isolated communities which have yet to be reached by international relief agencies.

Ethiopian child given therapeutic feeding
Many children suffer from malnutrition and disease
Instead, their mothers have to bring them to therapeutic feeding centres.

Even in the face of such harrowing scenes, the situation in the feeding centres has actually improved.

Acutely malnourished children are still being treated. But when we reported five months ago, these rooms were filled with over 200 children.

We witnessed some succumb to death. But as a result of relief efforts, hardly any children are dying here now.

Although emergency food supplies in the country are just about sufficient, Ethiopia's crisis is not over.

The international community must remain committed.

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See also:

13 Apr 00 | Africa
Red Cross begins Ethiopia airlift
13 Apr 00 | Africa
War blocks Ethiopia's lifeline
14 Apr 00 | Africa
Ethiopia: Is debt to blame?
12 Apr 00 | Africa
Urgent plea for famine aid
12 Apr 00 | Africa
Famine devastates Somali family
31 Mar 00 | Africa
Why is famine back again?
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