Eritrea: Inadequate aid disrupting humanitarian programmes

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

ASMARA, 15 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - Poor donor response to the UN humanitarian appeal for Eritrea has forced some UN agencies to slow down their activities and others to stop aid programmes, a senior official of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Monday.

"Some activities that would have been implemented are still at an early stage or have been stopped," Damien Gugliermina, the humanitarian affairs officer for OCHA, said in Asmara, the Eritrean capital.

He said as of June, US $42 million dollars, representing about 27 percent of total requirements, had been received. This has affected the operations of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Eritrea. Its representative, Charlotte Gardiner, said her agency had been unable to carry out planned activities to strengthen women's access to emergency obstetric care in the shortest possible time.

"Since we did not get extra funding, we cannot make the extra effort to assist Eritrea," she said.

In November 2004, the UN launched its humanitarian appeal 2005 for Eritrea asking donors for $157 million, of which $114 million was intended for food aid.

"If we don't have this money now, if we don't have the commitment of donors now, then the relief aid will arrive too late," Gugliermina said.

The meagre harvest of 2004 had been exhausted, he said, and the hunger season was fast approaching.

Eritrea is one of the world's most food aid-dependent countries, with about two-thirds of its 3.6 million people surviving on food handouts. The UN Children's Fund classifies Eritrea as one of the five least-funded recurring emergency countries in Africa.

In May, a senior Eritrean official said one million Eritreans would go hungry in 2005 if the country failed to get more food aid. However, Gugliermina said, food aid was not the only humanitarian need affected by the shortfall.

"The health and reproductive health programmes of WHO [UN World Health Organization] and UNFPA have been affected, and OCHA coordination also has a big shortage of funds," he said.

On 8 June, US President George Bush pledged $674 million while British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised $300 million for emergency needs in Africa.

"We don't know whether this money will be dedicated to the humanitarian appeal, but we are hoping that it will," Gugliermina said. "What we really need is seeing the money fast."


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