ADDIS ABABA, 22 January (IRIN) -
Ethiopia is facing major shortages of high calorie blended food which often
provides a lifeline for children weakened through hunger by recurrent droughts.
Both the UN's World Food Programme and the Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (EUE) have expressed concern about low levels of supplementary foods in the country.
Their warnings come after the Ethiopian government appealed for cereals and supplementary foods for some 11 million people facing severe food shortages in the country.
"Supplementary food is an important component of any emergency intervention," a WFP spokesman told IRIN on Wednesday. "If you want to see the nutritional status of people improve, you have to have supplementary food otherwise they will just stay living on the edge."
The government has estimated it needs some 124,000 mt of blended food to tackle the emergency this year.
Although the international community has been forthcoming with cereals and cash, hard decisions have to be taken on what to spend the limited resources.
Aid agencies hope that by reacting quickly to potential famines by distributing cereals, they can prevent the need for using supplementary or blended foods.
In Ethiopia, cereals can be distributed faster because they can be borrowed from the government's emergency food reserves. Supplementary food must be imported or made in factories - a process that can take many weeks.
"If the contributions can be confirmed and mobilised quickly, the cereal requirements would be largely covered until June," the EUE said in its weekly relief bulletin.
"However, the situation for supplementary food for especially vulnerable groups is less encouraging, with only around half of the requirements for fortified blended food met for January-March," it added.
Meanwhile, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged 262,000 mt of food aid for Ethiopia.
"President Bush is deeply concerned about the current situation in Ethiopia," said USAID head Andrew Natsios in a statement. "This pledge signifies a commitment to working to alleviate further suffering."
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