ADDIS ABABA - The future of three million Ethiopians in need of food aid is in jeopardy with malnutrition rates on the rise and funding for humanitarian operations in Ethiopia drying up, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.
WFP urgently requires US$33 million to continue to feed 1.5 million people for two and half months as part of the 2005 UN Humanitarian Appeal. As in previous years, WFP aims to cover around half of the country's emergency food needs this year, with the remainder met through contributions to the Ethiopian Government or non-governmental organisations. But they also have funding problems.
"The lack of funds is making it impossible for WFP and its partners to adequately meet the needs of hungry Ethiopians," said Georgia Shaver, WFP Representative and Country Director in Ethiopia.
"The situation is particularly worrisome in the northeast and east of the country, as well as in the south, where we are seeing higher levels of malnutrition and where water and food remain scarce," said Shaver.
The 2005 Appeal for Ethiopia, launched in December 2004 for US$271 million, remains seriously short of food and non-food items. Just 58 percent of the total US$212 million worth of food required in 2005, representing 250,000 metric tons, has been secured. For non-food items, such as health, nutrition, water, sanitation and agriculture inputs, less than 20 percent has been received.
"We are beginning to see families resorting to survival mechanisms in the worst-off areas of the country. In the south, which experienced drought and a failed harvest, up to 6,000 children have already dropped out of school, as their families send them in search of food or work," explained Shaver. "In addition, in one part of the Somali region, in the east of the country, severe malnutrition rates were already reported at 4.8 percent in January, with five out of 10,000 affected children dying on a daily basis."
Further stress has been placed on the population by the delayed start of a new government safety net programme designed to address the longer-term food needs of another five million people.
"The Humanitarian Appeal was designed to complement this government safety net programme, and inadequate funding will undoubtedly undermine the huge investment already made in this initiative designed to bring self-sufficiency to millions of food insecure people here," added Shaver.
WFP said that food commodities, particularly cereals and beans, could be bought on the local market if donors provided cash. The agency stressed the importance of contributions being secured urgently so food can be pre-positioned before the rainy season in July, August and September when many areas in the country are inaccessible. The requirements for the Appeal will be updated in the next few weeks and again in July following the "belg" and "gu" rains assessments which are likely to increase 2005 Appeal requirements by a minimum of 160,000 tons.
To avoid breaks in food deliveries in March and April, WFP Ethiopia has taken advantage of a new facility within the organisation that enabled it to withdraw 30,000 tons of food against forecast contributions. This withdrawal has ensured that overall emergency food requirements are so far met, but it must be repaid with future contributions.
In addition to food stocks carried over from 2004, WFP has received donations from the following countries: United States (US$73.5 million), Canada (US$10.5 million), Switzerland (US$0.8 million), Spain (US$0.8 million) and Japan (US$9,000).
WFP Global School Feeding Campaign As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.
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