Ethiopia: Donors showing signs of fatigue - UNICEF

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ADDIS ABABA, 7 July (IRIN) - Donors are showing worrying signs of "compassion fatigue" in responding to the plight of Ethiopia's severely malnourished and dying children, the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, warned on Wednesday.

Bjorn Ljungqvist, UNICEF's Representative in Ethiopia, said in a statement that major donors were not stepping up fast enough to provide vital funding for a package of life-saving treatments and other interventions.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult to persuade people that this is a global scandal," Ljungqvist noted.

"A cloud of cynicism has settled over Africa; cynicism caused by everything from corruption to armed conflicts; cynicism felt by everyone from donors to the general public," he said, "but this cloud hides the fact that innocent children are dying unnecessarily. There are simple things that we can do, and must do, to save these children."

About 500,000 Ethiopian youngsters die every year from preventable diseases and malnourishment - more than the population of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, where the G8 Summit is being held.

"In total, seven million Ethiopian children suffer from some form of malnutrition every year, with serious consequences for their health and development," Ljungqvist commented.

After an additional surge in severe acute malnutrition cases, he added, up to 170,000 Ethiopian children would die from this condition alone by the end of the year, if treatment was not forthcoming.

Ljungqvist spoke out as UNICEF was preparing an urgent appeal to major donors, asking them to fill a US $42 million gap in funding.

"There is a growing idea that these are 'normal' levels of child deaths and malnutrition for Ethiopia; that this is the 'usual' situation. There is nothing 'normal' about 500,000 children dying every year."

UNICEF had appealed for about $54.7 million for Ethiopia's most vulnerable children during 2005: $15 million for water and sanitation work, $39.7 million for health and nutrition. Funding for emergency campaign was still almost US $42 million, or 76.6 percent short of what was needed.

Health and nutrition services, which require everything from antimalaria mosquito nets to measles shots to save lives, had received just over a quarter of the funds they needed.


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