Eritrea appeals for aid to ward off famine

GENEVA, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Eritrea, which is being racked by drought, warned donor countries on Wednesday it could run out of food by April without more aid.
Drought was already affecting some three quarters of the East African country's 3.3 million people and the situation was worsening, Minister of Labour and Human Welfare Askalu Menkorious said.

"It is the worst drought that we have faced," she told journalists, adding that this time both of the country's main crop-producing areas were affected.

Menkorious was in Geneva for a meeting with donors to discuss aid needs for 2003 for the Horn of Africa countries -- Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.

Eritrea has asked for $163.4 million, including 477,000 tonnes of food. But the donor response ahead of the meeting had been $1.7 million or just over one percent of the amount needed.

She said that while no specific promises were made at the meeting, she was hopeful it would quicken the flow of aid.

"I do not think that they were really aware of the seriousness of the situation, but they are now," she said.

Food stocks in the country, which is still recovering from a long border war with Ethiopia, stood at around 55,000 tonnes, which, together with some supplies already en route, would last until April, Menkorious added.

"But from April, there is zero," said Mamadou Mbaye, World Food Programme representative for Eritrea.

Even if the rains came in May and June, the crucial time for the 2003 harvest, Mbaye said the country would still need help because a good crop this year would not be enough to feed people and rebuild food reserves.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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