Page last updated at 17:16 GMT, Monday, 9 June 2008 18:16 UK

Agencies fear prices and drought

Ethiopian women and children
Crop failures and droughts are putting Ethiopians at risk

Aid agencies and non-governmental organisations are becoming increasingly concerned about a "perfect storm" hitting the developing world as droughts coincide with rising food prices.

The increasing cost of staple foods is a global issue, sparking riots in countries like Egypt, Haiti and the Philippines. And for the world's poorest countries, the situation is being compounded by a lack of rain and crop failures.


Unicef has said that as many as 3.4 million Ethiopians will need food aid over the next three months, with about six million children at risk of malnutrition.

The organisation adds that 126,000 children are in need of urgent care to stave off severe malnutrition.

The national safety net programme in Ethiopia delivers aid to eight million people a year, but Unicef says that does not apply to all drought-affected areas of the country.

Unicef says $50m (25m) is needed to meet the emergency needs of children in Ethiopia.

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Oxfam says as many as 4.5 million people are at risk of immediate food shortages with the failure of seasonal rains and the onset of drought in Ethiopia.

The organisation says pastoral communities have also seen the price of food triple, while some areas have lost all their livestock.

Oxfam is transporting emergency water supplies to affected areas, as well as working to improve sources of drinking water to tackle a long-term lack of rain.

More than 50,000 vulnerable people are being supported by the charity, which is providing food and help with earning a living.

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The Word Food Programme (WFP) says there is an immediate need for $147m in aid to buy cereals, pulses, blended food and oil in Ethiopia.

The WFP is assisting drought-affected communities facing food shortages through what it calls its "safety net programme" - chiefly by targeting women and children who are suffering from acute malnutrition.

The organisation reports that while there was limited rain at the beginning of April, it was not enough to rescue short-cycle crops which were already damaged.

The WFP believes about three million people will need assistance in the coming months because of the continuing drought, which it is blaming on climate change.

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Save the Children says the global rise in food prices will lead to a growing number of families in developing countries being unable to buy a diet that meets their minimum nutritional requirements.

Under-nutrition, the charity says, is the "underlying cause of 3.5 million deaths per year among children under five years of age".

The rise in food prices will mean people either eating less, or eating cheaper foods that fills them up and eases their hunger.

But switching to cheaper foods, Save the Children warns, will mean people fail to get the correct nutrients and vitamins and become more prone to illness and disease.

It is calling for action to tackle the immediate impact on the poor of rising food prices.

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