"The percentage of people who will
be completely and utterly unable to feed themselves or cope with this crisis
is unprecedented," said Jack Norman, Catholic Relief Services Country
Representative for Eritrea when asked about the drought that continues
to ravage east Africa. Hopes that late rains would help salvage some crops
in the region were dashed this month and end of year harvests are expected
to be low meaning that food insecurity could last far into 2003.
Over 16 million people in Ethiopia and Eritrea are facing a potential famine due to prolonged drought and that number continues to grow every month. Current estimates show that in a worst-case scenario, total food aid needed in 2003 could be between 1.3 and 2 million tons of cereal in Ethiopia alone.
CRS is working closely with local and international partners to respond to the emergency.
Catholic Relief Services Responds
CRS' recent activities in response to the drought include:
- Securing emergency food aid that can
be quickly delivered to those in need. CRS is working in conjunction with
other organizations through the Joint Emergency Operation Plan to request
201,000 pounds of food aid for Ethiopia. Efforts are also underway in Eritrea
to secure food aid for beneficiaries in the southern Gash Barka region
of the country.
- Planning for the need and timing for seed distributions and the rehabilitation of wells and water points. Lack of water is a serious problem. In Eritrea, for example, the nearly 10 month dry spell has led to acute shortages in potable (drinkable) water and seasonal streams and springs are dry.
The agency will continue to monitor and assess the situation over the coming weeks and months.
Lack of rain over the last few months has led to massive crop failure and livestock deaths in both Ethiopia and Eritrea. There have already been scattered reports of deaths due to malnutrition in the West Hararghe Zone of Ethiopia. In Ertirea, the southern border, which is the only food producing region of the country, has been hardest hit by the drought.
CRS has been working in Ethiopia since 1958 and has been in the forefront of responding to the country's natural and man-made disasters. In response to the 1984-85 drought, CRS, in collaboration with the country's three main churches and the Lutheran World Federation, launched one of the biggest relief operations in the country.
From 1984 to 1996, CRS and its church partners distributed 1.5 million metric tons of food to more than nine million drought affected people. And in 2000-01, CRS played a key role in distributing over 150,000 metric tons of food aid and necessities to affected populations through its local partners.
During the last decade, CRS has supported partners to implement projects to improve agricultural production, reduce soil erosion and environmental degradation, improve community health, and increase the household income of target communities. CRS also supports institutions with HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs.
CRS/Ethiopia's office is located in Addis Ababa and has a total of three international and 104 national staff. CRS/Eritrea is headquartered in the capital Asmara with a small staff working in partnership with the Eritrean Catholic Secretariat and Government Ministries.
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