Ethiopia: Food relief arrives in Gudis

ICRC convoys with urgently needed food were due to arrive Thursday in the village of Gudis, whose population has been hard hit by the drought that has devastated south-eastern Ethiopia.

A recent ICRC survey of the village, in the Imi district about 200 kilometres west of Gode, revealed alarmingly high rates of malnutrition, particularly among women, children and the elderly, with a correspondingly high death rate. Arranging rapid aid for Gudis was therefore high on the organization's list of priorities.

As the district is virtually inaccessible from Gode by land transport, the ICRC has set up an airlift from Nairobi to Dire Dawa, from where the food is being transported by road. Though the route is long, it is the only effective and speedy way to ensure that the food reaches those who need it. A separate airlift is already under way into Gode airport.

The relief operation, being operated jointly by the ICRC and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, aims to distribute food to a population of 188,000 people in four districts: Imi, Denan, Adaadle and Gode. In addition, surveys are being carried out in the district of Fik, an area also thought to be badly affected. The operation is planned to continue at least until late June. If the rains fail for the fifth season in a row, the risk is great that the area will suffer major famine. In that case, distributions might have to continue until the end of the year.

The first phase of the operation is intended to stabilize the situation, which is now critical, by providing the entire population of the districts concerned with regular food consisting of carefully balanced nutrients. This is an essential first step before therapeutic feeding centres are established because if sufficient food is not generally available, people treated at the centres and then released can find themselves relapsing into malnutrition and having to return for further treatment.

The relief provided by the ICRC and the Ethiopian Red Cross consists of pre-cooked high-protein food - an essential supplement to the wheat being delivered by the government's Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Commission.

Plans for seed distributions are also being drawn up, and the ICRC and the Ethiopian Red Cross are stockpiling shelter material and other emergency items that could quickly become necessary if the long-awaited rains do begin to fall.

Further information:
Helge Kvam, ICRC Gode, tel. ++873 761 845 835
Amanda Williamson, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 2678