Eritrea: New warning of hardship as no further funds pledged

ASMARA, 21 March (IRIN) - A recent trip to Washington DC, New York and Ottawa by senior UN representatives and government officials, which ended earlier this week, yielded no new pledges from key donors for Eritrea's drought.
"We expect some results to come after we furnish those donors we met with the latest available information" of what is most urgently needed, Simon Nhongo, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Eritrea, said on Friday. Donor representatives asked aid agencies to provide them with a prioritised list of what was most urgently needed.

"But even this really doesn't amount to a lot, particularly when you consider it will take from four to six months for any pledges made to arrive here," he told a news briefing.

Nhongo said now the US-led war on Iraq had begun, aid agencies had serious concerns about the provision and delivery of food aid to Eritrea. As a large portion of the invasion of Iraq is being staged from the Red Sea, the cost of shipping food to Eritrea is likely to increase, perhaps dramatically, he said. This logistical difficulty could also very well lead to significant delays in the delivery of food aid.

If previous pledges do not arrive shortly, there is likely to be a suspension in the delivery of emergency relief beginning at the end of April, when the current stock of food aid will run out.

Given the current global crisis, it is all but inevitable that a number of Eritrea's 2.3 million drought affected and vulnerable populations "are going to have to fend for themselves", he warned.

"The situation is really quite desperate and dire," he stressed. "It is obvious that the situation is going to be quite difficult. The normal coping mechanisms are already almost completely exhausted."


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