Since the escalation of the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict to a major war in 1998, Eritrea has encountered ever growing humanitarian problems with further suffering and fresh displacement of people, all requiring urgent responses from the international community.
The ACT Appeal, AFER91 which was issued on 14 July 1999 for approximately US$ 3.5 million, to address some of the needs has received a mere cover of US$ 194,097 (5.6%) only, till date.
As shelter was among the most pressing needs, the ACT Appeal aimed at providing family tents, grass for roof thatching, blankets and sleeping mats.
As the need for shelter has grown more acute, the Eritrean Relief and Refugee Commission (ERREC) is in the final stage of the procurement procedure for family tents, which will soon be delivered in Massawa and any support is more than welcome.
Since the outbreak of fighting, certain areas of the country have been hit with recurring natural disasters, particularly drought, with the entire coastal regions adversely affected by two consecutive years of rainfall failure. Lack of sufficient rains in Anseba and northern Gash-Barka regions in 1999 has caused crops to fail which has exposed hundreds of thousands of people to hunger and food insecurity. Except for small localities which benefit from flood irrigation using the seasonal flow of streams from the adjacent highlands, the vast territory both in the North Red Sea and South Red Sea is dependent on traditional rain-fed cultivation and pastoralism.
The Government of Eritrea, via the Eritrean Relief and Refugee Commission (ERREC) seeks in their new appeal to assist the populations afflicted by the war and drought by making the following provisions: food & nutrition, shelter, water & sanitation, health, emergency education, agricultural inputs and logistical support.
Moreover, in light of the uncertainties surrounding a peaceful resolution of the conflict, a contingency plan for the potential displacement of people living close to the border areas has become necessary. A minimum of 70,000 people who are immediately at risk of being displaced in the event of escalation of the fighting are considered for food and shelter assistance.
In addition, the expulsion of ethnic Eritreans by Ethiopia remains a serious problem. In the past 20 months 67,000 ethnic Eritreans have been expelled. Considering the decreased number of expellees in 1999 compared with 1998, a contingency plan for a minimum of 20,000 expellees is included.
Shelter is acutely needed by 143,671 displaced and expellees who are settled in temporary camps. In some places, particularly in the Gash-Barka area where it is extremely hot for the greater part of the year, the aim is to provide people with local materials (grass/thatch and metal) to construct their own homes. In addition to the availability of the materials locally, they are better adapted to the weather conditions. However, in the highlands (Debub region) where the weather is colder and grass is scarce, tents are considered as the alternative.
We urge our members to bear in mind the less publicized but equally devastating catastrophes such as the situation in Eritrea, which also merit due consideration.
ACT Web Site address: http://www.act-intl.org
ACT is a worldwide network of churches and related agencies meeting human need through coordinated emergency response.
The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.