Delay in humanitarian response leads Eritrea into deeper crisis

News and Press Release
Originally published
Geneva, 17 February 2003 - Further delays in international humanitarian response to the drought situation in Eritrea could turn the current crisis into an appalling cycle of hunger and desperation warned the Lutheran World Federation/World Service (LWF/WS) in Eritrea - a member of the global alliance, Action by Churches Together (ACT) International.
An estimated US$153 million is needed to cover Eritrea's food-needs till the end of 2003, and it is feared that existing food reserves will run out within the next two months (March-April), reports the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Eritrea.

Musa Bungudu, who heads the OCHA office in Eritrea, cautioned that two-thirds of Eritrea's 4,12 million people face serious drought-induced food shortages, and 10, 000 children are severely malnourished.

Drought and malnutrition are not new to Eritrea, "but the looming crisis is even more destructive than the previous ones and neither the people nor government can cope on their own," said Fikreyesus Krsitos, deputy representative of LWF/WS-Eritrea programme.

In December 2002, LWF/WS together with other ACT International members in Eritrea - Dan Interchurch Aid, and Norwegian Church Aid - issued an ACT appeal (AFER 31) totalling US$7,217,300.

In the appeal, the ACT International members requested about 14,000 metric tonnes of food for 6 months to assist over 120,000 people in need of urgent food supplies, particularly in the Anesba, Debub, Gash Barka and Maekel regions. An additional 20,000 people will benefit from the provision of clean and adequate drinking water.

According to Kristos (LWF/WS Eritrea), the appeal has received very little response. "Only 9.5 percent of the total target has been received so far."

However, with the money received, LWF/WS has arranged for a shipment of 3,000 metric tonnes (MT) of wheat grain to be distributed in March and April. "We need more funding to cover the transport, storage and handling costs and also to bring in more food items," said Kristos.

For further information please contact:

ACT Communications Officers Callie Long (mobile/cell phone +41 79 358 3171)
Or ACT Press Officer Diana Mavunduse (mobile/cell phone + 41 79 681 1868).

ACT Web Site address:

ACT is a world-wide 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.