Eritrea "facing famine'' - UNICEF appeals for help

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Geneva (dpa) - About 2.3 million people are facing famine in Eritrea, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in Geneva on Thursday.
The country's food reserves were running out and a possible war on Iraq would jeopardize the situation even more as it would impact on the already restricted trade routes to the country, according to the organization.

Christian Balslev-Olesen, the UNICEF-representative for Eritrea said UNICEF feared that Eritrea's food crisis could be forgotten in the case of a war against Iraq.

Food reserves were running out in April in Eritrea where two thirds of the population in all regions have been effected by the worst drought since 1992, he said.

About 300,000 children under the age of five years were most at risk from starvation and about one third of all children were suffering from malnutrition.

If war breaks out against Iraq access to the Red Sea would become more difficult if not impossible and this would substantially increase transport costs, he said.

Eritrea could only be reached via the ports of Assab or Asmara because the borders to Ethiopia and Sudan were closed for trade transports, he pointed out.

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