Ethiopia: US government officials call for more aid

ADDIS ABABA, 20 February (IRIN) - The US government made an impassioned plea on Wednesday to boost aid for drought-stricken Ethiopians and save thousands of lives.
The call came from the US ambassador to the UN's Food and Agriculture agencies, Tony Hall, and his colleague from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Roger Winter, at the end of a visit to Ethiopia.

They said the international community had to speed up deliveries of desperately needed food before aid ran out. They also criticised the United Nations, calling for "stronger leadership" in tackling the crisis.

They reiterated USAID's commitment to cover a third of the entire needs of the crisis. So far, the US has pledged 508,000 mt tons of food worth US $233 million. The two officials announced a further US $19.4 million in food and non-food aid to the country.

According to the Ethiopian government, some 11 million people are facing severe food shortages in the country, while a further three million are on the brink.

Winter, who heads USAID's emergency response for Ethiopia in Washington, said that within the next five months some 32,000 people could die in four regions alone.

"Across the board, our judgement on what we have seen and heard and learned in the last few days is that we need stronger leadership on this from the UN," Winter told reporters.

"If that doesn't materialise I think that will contribute to a dramatically increased problem down the road," he warned.

However, he praised the role the UN's World Food Programme has played in the crisis, but stressed that the food agency needed help.

"The other donors across this world could do much better," Ambassador Hall added. "This is a major crisis, it's a major country. This is not the hunger season here. The hunger season, as I understand it comes between April and June."

He also called on the UN to send a special humanitarian envoy to deal with the crisis in the country.


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