Ethiopia: 'Many children will surely die'

Posted in Africa | 06-May-05 | Source: Mail & Guardian Online

An Ethiopian malnourished child is checked by a doctor in Yirba, in the district of Boricha Woreda, Ethiopia.
As many as 300 000 Ethiopian children will die from malnutrition this year if donors do not come forward with food aid and funds, a Uanited Nations official said.

The UN children's agency urgently needs $13-million in the next 60 days to feed about 170 000 of those who are now close to starving to death, said Bjorn Ljungqvist, the agency's head in Ethiopia.

He said "300 000 children are dying every year from poor nutrition or nutrition-related" causes in Ethiopia.

"That's one tsunami every year. Ethiopia is being hit by a tsunami disaster every year," Ljungqvist said on Wednesday.

Drought as well as delays in distributing food and cash to Ethiopia's impoverished have contributed to growing malnutrition, said Simon Mechale, head of the government's emergency arm.

A UN report in October also cited the government's failure to deal with population growth, slow economic growth and environmental degradation as causes of the food crisis.

In a new appeal for humanitarian aid, Simon said the Horn of Africa nation needs $50-million in addition to the $272-million it asked for late last year.

Donors so far have provided only $102-million. The money is to be used for two programmes -- one to provide emergency food aid to about 3,8-million people, and the other to help 5,2-million people become less dependent on aid.

"The cry for help has a familiar ring," said Georgia Shaver, head of the World Food Program in Ethiopia.

"The situation is not good, and I don't think we should underestimate it. Many children will surely die if action is not taken."

Separately, Ethiopia is struggling to deal with the devastation from floods that hit eastern Ethiopia on April 23. Heavy rains were continuing to hamper relief efforts, said Remedan Haji Ahmed, head of the government's emergency response in the area.

On Wednesday, the death toll from the floods rose to 154, he said.

"There are still large areas that are cut off and now we are getting outbreaks of diseases like malaria and diarrhea," Haji said.

The floods began when the Wabe Shebelle river burst its banks in the Somali region, which usually suffers severe droughts and little rainfall. - Sapa-AP