Report forsees continuous famine trend in parts of Ethiopia

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Ethiopia’s famine appears set to continue into 2009 following a failed harvest this year, further worsened by the recent flooding of key agriculturally-productive regions and rising prices for cereals, UN aid agencies said.

United Nations agencies operating in vast parts of Ethiopia, said Wednesday several regions, including the Oromiya region, Eastern and Southern Tigray region to the North of the country and the Amhara region in central Ethiopia had experienced poor harvests.

It is estimated that up to 25,429 people in those regions, especially those severely affected by the flooding, are in dire need of food aid. The aid agencies said up to 360 tonnes of food aid had been delivered to the affected regions for emergency assistance.

The UN agencies, including the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit (ENCU), said latest humanitarian interventions in Ethiopia still required more financing.

According to estimates, some parts of the country are facing severe famine and cases of malnutrition are rising. At least 2,103 children have been reported severely malnourished across the five regions affected by the famine and the latest humanitarian crisis on the ground.

Although the aid agencies said government interventions in the past few months helped to restore some level of stability in the affected regions, the famine was likely to continue.

The information released by the United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), said the government-supported food distribution in the region helped to stabilise the cost of grain and other cereals, but the prices still remained high.

“Food security indicators such as livestock body condition and production are improving in the pastoral and agro-pastoral areas. Nevertheless, recovery of drought-affected households in these areas including Oromiya and Somali regions, Afar and South Omo will take time as most drought-affected households lost significant proportion of their livestock during the height of the drought in 2008,” according to WFP.

In crop growing areas such as East and West Hararghe, parts of Bale zones in Oromiya Region, eastern and southern Tigray, Wag Humra North/South Wello and North Shewa zones in Amhara Region, food insecurity continued to deteriorate due to crop failure.

“The heavy unseasonal rains in parts of the country in October and November have damaged crops and led to pre-harvest losses, -according to preliminary information from the field,- which will further affect households’ recovery from current acute food insecurity,” UNOCHA said.

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