Eritrea: Humanitarian Update 12 Dec

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 12 Dec 2003
The Special Report on the FAO/WFP CROP and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Eritrea was published on November 28. Cereal production for 2003 has been estimated at around 106 000 tonnes, almost twice the amount of last year's 54 530 tonnes. This amounts to only 57 percent of the average of the past 11 years and 51 percent of the forecast made in August 2003 which was 207 000 tonnes. Cereal import requirements for 2004 have been estimated at 478 000 tonnes, of which an estimated 30 000 tonnes of this amount may be imported commercially. The report is available on

On 1 December, in an event organized jointly by UNMEE, UN agencies and BIDHO in cooperation with the Hotel Intercontinental, 400 guests commemorated WORLD AIDS Day 2003 with a creative performance programme highlighting the issue of stigma and discrimination. Faytinga, the Eritrean musical star made a guest performance. After speeches by the Host Country Representative and Special Representative of the Secretary General, as well as testimonies from people living with HIV/AIDS, the evening culminated in a Candlelight Vigil.


The UNDAF Work plan on HIV/AIDS for 2004 has been drafted. Resources committed by UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP and WHO for 2004 amount to US$2,426,129. The current work plan includes 7 joint programs identified and developed by concerned UN agencies following a series of meetings on technical areas. The joint programs cover the following areas: (i) World AIDS Campaign 2004; (ii) Support to BIDHO; (iii) Support to youth-friendly services; (iv) Support to the EDF HIV/AIDS Program; (v) STI drugs efficacy; (vi) STI diagnosis and management; (vii) Support to vulnerable families and OVC.

The Red Cross Society of Eritrea sponsored an "Ambassadors of Hope" mission to Eritrea from 25 November to 2 December. The mission was composed of: Mr. Michael Angaga, Regional Coordinator of the Network of African People living with HIV/AIDS (NAP+), based in Nairobi, Kenya; Ms. Dorothy Odhiambo, Red Cross Regional Officer based in Nairobi, and Ms. Jane Mwinumbi from NAP+ Uganda. The main objective of the mission was to support and strengthen the activities of BIDHO. Michael Angaga was given an opportunity to speak during the World AIDS Day event held at the Hotel Intercontinental.


UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Swedish born international model Vendela Thommessen, paid a flying visit to Eritrea to visit the site for a new school in Derkonoq, Anseba region, being constructed as part of UNICEF's global initiative to promote Girls Education. She was accompanied by members of UNICEF's Norwegian national committee, which is funding UNICEF' Eritrea's Girls Education project. In addition, Italian Goodwill Ambassador, children's author Bianca Pitzorno, visited Eritrea to attend the inauguration ceremony of Fithi Elementary school in Barentu, constructed with support of the UNICEF committee in Italy.

In late November, UNICEF held an open day for donors and partners to enable further dialogue regarding the humanitarian situation and UNICEF's activities. Norway and the United Kingdom have donated over USD$1 million in November to support UNICEF and Ministry of Health efforts to rehabilitate malnourished children. The donations are expected to assist at least 20,000 children. Training has also been given to 40 doctors and senior nurses in three regions on management of severe malnutrition, ahead of the opening of new therapeutic feeding centers in these regions to increase programme coverage. Elsewhere, a two week training of trainers for anti-Female Genital Mutilation campaigning was held for University students, while Mine Risk Education (MRE) teams conducted sessions on the dangers of landmines for some 18,000 persons during November, particularly targeting children.


WFP together with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) have been implementing the first round of the newly established National Nutrition Surveillance System by commencing nutrition surveys in Zoba Debub and Zoba Gash Barka. Under this standardized system, the Zobas were divided according to socio-economic and environmental criteria. In total, 105 locations were visited in each Zoba by the joint survey teams. At every location at least 10 households were sampled and all children under the age of five were weighed and measured. This information will be processed and provide data on global and severe acute malnutrition. Adult women were also surveyed and interviewed to be able to establish the malnutrition rate among adults. The interviews consisted of questions relating to economic and nutritional habits and the ways households cope with food shortages. This provides information for the reasons behind malnutrition and the strategies used by these rural households to cope with food shortages as expressed in a Coping Strategy Index (CSI). The first preliminary results of the two surveys are expected mid December.

On Tuesday 9 December, the Italian Cooperation in Asmara officially handed over to the Eritrea Relief & Refugee Commission (ERREC), a contribution by the Italian Government of 3,797 metric tons of wheat grain valued at US$ 1,140,000. The donation will support the drought-affected people of Eritrea under the WFP-assisted Emergency Operation (EMOP No10261). For the last two years the Government of Italy has been supporting drought and war affected people in the country with a total of 15,386 metric tons of wheat worth US$ 4,232,242 in the framework of the WFP-assisted emergency operations.

An evaluation mission covering the WFP portfolio in Eritrea, consisting of its Emergency and protracted Relief and Recovery Operations over the last two years, was finalized at the end of November. A brief was given to members of the donor community and WFP's main partners. The final report will be presented to the WFP Executive Board in early 2004.


Two veterinary centres rehabilitated by FAO were handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture on 9 and 10 December. The centres in Adi Quala and Tsorona were badly damaged during the war. FAO earmarked 12 centres in total for rehabilitation to support the restoration of agriculture in Eritrea. When completed, each centre will serve at least 1000 people as well as contributing significantly to the improvement in animal health throughout the country. In Adi Quala and Tsorona the rehabilitation has led to new water systems, roofs, new freezers, furniture and a six month supply of consumables for veterinary work The projects have been supported by the Dutch, Swedish and US governments.


In collaboration with the UNFPA, the Ministry of Health is conducting an obstetric fistula needs assessment. Eritrea has no reliable data on the magnitude of the problem. Obstetric fistula, a hole that develops between the vagina and either the bladder or the rectum, occurs usually as a result of an obstructed labour. Where there is inadequate obstetric care, a woman may be in obstructed labour for 3 or 4 days without relief. The baby usually dies, and if the mother survives, her injured pelvic tissue disintegrates, creating a fistula. A number of concomitant factors are contributing to the occurrence of obstetric fistula: early marriage and childbearing; lack of skilled/timely assistance during pregnancy, labour and delivery; and harmful cultural practices related to marriage, reproduction and childbirth are some of these. Poor access to obstetric care and an absence of education and health education are other underlying causes. Fistulas may also result from ritual genital cutting and unsafe abortion attempts. The objective of the assessment is to find out the current state of the problem in terms of awareness and magnitude, and to explore the capacity of the health system to treat and manage obstetric fistula, which will help design future interventions such as the establishment of a centre to repair fistulas in Eritrea.

Further, a national needs assessment on adolescents' sexual and reproductive health, which includes a survey among students at junior and secondary schools, parents and policy-makers, is being carried out by the Ministry of Health and UNFPA. The first draft of the needs assessment is expected to be finalized early next year.


With financial support provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB), the Lutheran World Federation/Department for World Service-Eritrea Program (LWF/DWS-ER) is continuing its implementation of a relief response started in August. LWF aims to alleviate the negative impact of the drought in Anseba and Gash Barka regions. A supplementary feeding program supported by CIDA and CFGB targets children under 5 and pregnant and lactating women. A total of 4053 children under five are being assisted as well as 688 pregnant/lactating women. Some 150 ton of lentils and 90 ton of oil was distributed in September to complement the supplementary feeding. Beneficiaries are also receiving a blended food ration of 6kg/child/month and 4kg/woman/month for a six-month period. Water supply projects are also being implemented in Engerne and Areda villages in Gash Barka region, and in Amalayet, Adi Seidna, Adi Sembra and Kechech villages, Anseba region. The global church alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) and Diakonie Emergency Aid are supporting the project financially.


Two new incidents involving a mine and UXO have been reported by UNMEE MACC. The first incident involving a mine killed three boys aged between 13 and 14. It happened on 14 November in the area of the Mereb River Bridge, just south of Adi Quala (Sector Centre) in Ethiopia. The second incident occurred in the Adi Salem area (Sector Centre) on 28 November 2003, involving an UXO. Two farmers were farming in the area of the explosion but did not sustain any injuries. The MACC Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer is currently in the area carrying out a Preliminary Investigation Report on both incidents. On 9 December 2003, he met up with the relevant UN Military Observer Team Site in the area and was able to meet with the Administrator of Rama. The investigations are on going.


United Nations Volunteers in Eritrea celebrated International Volunteer Day (IVD) on the 5 December. This year, the focus was on community work in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare. Around 100 United Nations Volunteers serving with both UN Agencies and UNMEE coordinated activities aiming to involve the local population and promote volunteerism as a vehicle for change and development. The aim was to raise social awareness on international issues like the Millennium Development Goals and how local action should be geared towards their achievement. Volunteer activities included: maintenance work on two family homes in Barentu; upgrade of the road into the Orthopaedic Centre in Assab with the help of the Indian military construction and engineering equipment (a combined International Day for the Disabled and International Volunteer Day effort); and maintenance work at the Community Centre in Asmara. These activities will continue in 2004, making IVD according to UNV, a long-term commitment to making the world a better place.

Please contact: OCHA Eritrea Information Office. 291 1 151888

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit