Eritrea: Use harvest wisely, government urges

News and Press Release
Originally published
NAIROBI, 19 November 2008 (IRIN) - Eritreans should use the current harvest efficiently and share crop resources equitably because most parts of the country had received inadequate rains this year, the information ministry said.

"As a result of the climatic fluctuations in the greater part of the Horn of Africa, most parts of our country received inadequate rains in the summer of 2008," according to a statement on the government's information site.

"If a given people are unable to achieve food security and avoid dependence on others, they could never have political or economic freedom," the 14 November statement added.

In September, aid agencies warned that a combination of poor rains, lower food production and the knock-on effects of increased global prices would adversely affect vulnerable groups in Eritrea this year.

The pastoralist population in particular is expected to be hard-hit due to a lack of pasture for livestock, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a 22 September update.

"The ongoing Kremti rainy season looks particularly bad, with an estimate of 200,000 MT of cereal production, which represents nearly half of the 2007 production," OCHA added. The extent of the rains would determine ultimate production.

Eritrea, which normally meets 60 percent of its food requirements, needed significant imports to help meet its current food needs, the agencies added.

According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the ongoing border stalemate with Ethiopia, drought and crop failure, coupled with high food prices, could result in a further deterioration in the humanitarian situation.

An estimated 85,500 malnourished children, 300,000 pregnant and lactating women, the urban poor and the population living in drought-affected areas are particularly vulnerable, requiring close monitoring and assistance, UNICEF said in a mid-year review published on 17 November.

The estimated 22,300 internally displaced persons who were resettled or returned to their communities of origin in 2007-2008 had caused an additional burden on already stretched basic social services in the receiving communities.

The relocation of an estimated 20,000 people from the highland area to the lowland area in Gash Barka for agricultural purposes meant extra needs in the provision of basic social services.

To meet the malnutrition challenge, UNICEF, in partnership and close coordination with line ministries, local authorities and UN agencies, had expanded community-based therapeutic feeding centres from 39 sites in 2007 to 61 as at mid-2008.