Ethiopia Aid Agencies Back Call for Aid for 2 Million People Facing Hunger

A group of aid organizations in Ethiopia backed the government’s request for $75 million to help feed 2 million people facing hunger in the arid south and southeast of the country.

The crisis has been caused by a seven-month drought that is likely to persist until October, the Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team, or EHCT, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday in Addis Ababa, the capital. The lack of rainfall has been caused by La Nina, a weather phenomenon in which the surface of the Pacific Ocean cools and reduces moisture in the atmosphere.

In addition to the 2 million people in the Somali, Oromia and Southern regions of Ethiopia, 1 million people in the rest of the Horn of Africa nation require urgent help, said the EHCT, which includes representatives of United Nations agencies, international and domestic non-governmental organizations and donors. The figure for the south and south east will be updated in early May, it said.

“Additional funds will be needed in the second half of the year,” Kristen Knutson, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in a phone interview from Addis Ababa. “We will have a better idea of further requirements once they have the results of the assessment.”

About 3 million of Ethiopia’s 80 million people are in need of emergency food assistance, the government said on April 12. Another 7.8 million people receive food or cash under an aid program, World Food Programme spokesman Susannah Nicol said in a phone interview yesterday from Addis Ababa.

The government issued an appeal on April 12 for funds needed in April and May. Recent rains in the region raised government hopes that the problem may be easing, said Akloweg Nigatu, information officer at the Agriculture Ministry’s disaster management agency.

“If there is rain there will be a lot of grazing land,” Akloweg said.

In addition to the drought, farmers have had to contend with high food and fuel prices exacerbated by a drop in demand for cattle because of political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, ECHT said.

To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa via Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson in Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

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