Eritrea: Funding crisis as food situation becomes critical

NAIROBI, 11 March (IRIN) - Food shortages in Eritrea have now become critical and humanitarian efforts are facing a severe funding crisis, the UN has warned.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said only two percent of some US $163 million appealed for to ease the situation - caused by drought and the aftermath of war - had been received. It was likely that aid reserves would run out by the end of this month, it said.

About 2.3 million people, out of a population of 3.29 million, are now considered vulnerable. Of those, an estimated 1.4 million are directly affected by the drought currently gripping the country. Coping mechanisms are at an all-time low.

"At a time when the country is moving away from humanitarian relief towards rehabilitation and recovery, it is again faced with another year of severe drought following the failure of seasonal rains," OCHA noted.

"The drought has led to widespread crop failures and water shortages," it said. "In addition, Eritrea suffers the continuing effects of war and generalised poverty, including the need to ensure a safe environment for the return of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs), expellees and returning refugees and their reintegration in many parts of the country.

"The urgency of demobilisation, demining, and territorial demarcation to consolidate peace and stability remains as strong as ever," it added.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Eritrea, Simon Nhongo, was due to arrive in New York on Tuesday for meetings with key donors in a bid to increase support for the UN appeal.

Eritrea is recovering from the aftermath of a bitter two-year border war with its neighbour Ethiopia. In addition to rehabilitation and reconstruction, it also has to cope with the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees, mostly from Sudan, after the UN ended refugee status for Eritreans.


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