US comes to Ethiopia’s rescue

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Drought-affected communities in Ethiopia will receive an additional food aid package of nearly US$ 60 million from the US through the UN World Food Programme, it was officially announced Thursday.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) said the relief contribution provided by America consisted of nearly 72,000 metric tonnes (MT) of food, including approximately 33,000 MT of sorghum, 33,000 MT of wheat, 5,000 MT of corn soya blend (CSB), and 1,000 MT of vegetable oil.

UN and non-governmental relief agencies operating in Ethiopia reported that increasing food insecurity and malnutrition in some areas of the country were posing a serious challenge to humanitarian response activities.

For instance, reports said the overall humanitarian situation in the south-eastern Somali Region had worsened due to progressive shortages of water and food.

The US is the largest donor of emergency food assistance to Ethiopia.

Since October 2007, the American people have provided more than 804,000 MT of food assistance to the disaster-prone East African country.

Given through USAID’s Office of Food for Peace, the assistance was valued at nearly US$ 627 million and it included more than US$ 324 million in emergency food commodities and more than US$ 302 million in contributions to the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), a multi-donor effort led by the Ethiopian government to a ddress chronic food insecurity.

Meanwhile, Assistant Administrator of the USAID’s Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, Michael Hess, and Jeff Borns, Director of the Office of Food for Peace, are currently visiting Ethiopia to meet with government officials and representatives from humanitarian organisations and analyse the effectiveness of the American humanitarian assistance in affected areas.

During their 15-19 September 2008 tour, Hess and Borns have travelled to Somali and Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples regions of Ethiopia to observe USA ID-funded programmes and meet with regional officials and USAID partners.

According to the Somali Regional Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureau, food and water shortages have reached critical levels in many areas of the region leading to increased rural-urban migration.

Affected areas include Korahe, Warder, Degehabur, Gode, Fik and parts of Liben and Afder zones.

Also, WFP reported that the region remained of particular concern due to erratic dispatches of food assistance.

Constant increase in food prices has compounded food insecurity while livestock mortality is escalating due to extreme shortages of water and pasture and drought-related diseases.

With concern growing about the likely exacerbation of drought conditions as the July-September rains in Jijiga and Shinile zones are nearing a failure, regional officials said priority responses should be immediate interventions in food, in come and livelihood protection support, animal feeds and water supply.

According to WFP, increasing needs of food assistance in Ethiopia remained the leading factor challenging timely and adequate response activities.

The agency currently faces a resource shortfall totalling 145,690 MT of relief food valued at US$ 118.9 million.

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