Ethiopia scores higher than expected in food security

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The number of Ethiopians who will require humanitarian assistance in the next six months has dropped, mainly due to recent food harvests, an official said.

“It is due to conducive Meher rains in western Ethiopia,” Mitku Kassa, State Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, has said. “There is also no increase in severely malnourished children – according to reports, about 34,000 children are acutely malnourished.”

A recent joint assessment by the government and its humanitarian partners found that 4.9 million Ethiopians would require humanitarian assistance in the next six months.

The findings, which summarise emergency food and non-food requirements in 2009, were announced in a 30 January report that builds on an earlier assessment in November and December 2008.

“Humanitarian challenges are anticipated to continue in 2009,” the report stated, noting that estimated beneficiaries fell by 1.5 million people. “An appeal launched in October had indicated 6.4 million [in need], up from 4.6 million earlier in 2008.”

“When the last assessment was done, there was a failure of Belg rains, especially in the central and western part of the Southern region,” the minister added.

However, the Meher rains had helped to boost production in these areas, leading to a cut in the number of expected beneficiaries.

The latest assessment indicated favourable food security prospects in the western crop-producing areas. People living in some areas of the eastern half of the country, however, could face food deficits and might require external assistance until the Belg harvest in June/July 2009.

“In these areas, the Meher production is below average due to the poor performance or total failure of the Belg (March to May) season that affected land preparation and the planting of long cycle Meher crops,” the report stated.

“Pastoralists and agro-pastoralists of the north-east, the south and the south-east are also expected to face notable food and income deficits in 2009.”

To avert this situation, the government and donors were appealing for US$454.3 million for food and non-food aid, of which $389.3 million was needed for 450,611MT of food.

Also needed was 30,327MT of food worth $26.2 million for the Targeted Supplementary Food Programme, which provides fortified blended food and edible oil to moderately malnourished children, malnourished pregnant and lactating women.

Plans are under way to conduct a Belg assessment in June 2009.

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