Eritrea: Gov't imports grain, Isayas says aid should not be ''political tool''

NAIROBI, 17 February (IRIN) - Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki has said the government is diverting funds for food purchases to help combat the effects of drought, but condemned those who were using humanitarian assistance as a "political tool".
In a recent speech to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Massawa port, he thanked international agencies which were "sincerely and generously rendering their relief aid".

"Nevertheless, I would like to mention in passing that it is sad to witness that there are those who are using humanitarian assistance as a political tool in continuation of their futile pressures, and are, towards that end, causing delays in the delivery of food relief," he said, according to the ruling party's Shaebia website.

"We are at a time when we have to combat a natural crisis and other hostilities, whether they are immediate short-term or long-term," he said. "Thus it is imperative that we understand our challenges objectively and redouble our efforts, and not relax our resolve."

Meanwhile, the Eritrean government announced it was importing 80,000 mt of grain to help offset the effects of drought. The head of the Eritrean Relief and Refugee Commission (ERREC), Hiwot Zemikael, said 60,000 mt had already arrived in the country and the remaining 20,000 mt would follow soon.

According to Eritrean radio, she hailed contributions by Eritreans inside and outside the country, but urged wealthy Eritreans to increase their donations.

Over two million Eritreans - about two-thirds of the population - are at risk of severe food shortages because of the drought. The government, which has appealed for some 476,000 mt of emergency relief food, has called for a greater contribution from the international community.


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