USAID Announces Emergency Assistance to Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - The U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Assistant Administrator for Humanitarian Response, Hugh Parmer, announced at a press conference today that USAID would take several immediate measures to assist Ethiopians who are suffering from the effects of a long-term drought.

Parmer, who has spent the past four days in Ethiopia visiting areas hardest hit by the drought and meeting with government officials, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, announced that USAID would order an airlift of blended foods, therapeutic milk, and high-energy biscuits for special feeding programs for the most affected populations in southern and southeastern Ethiopia. In addition, USAID is contributing $600,000 to Save the Children/US working in Gode zone to provide supplementary food for moderate and severely malnourished children, as well as water for the general population in Gode.

"During my visit to Ethiopia, I was pleased to see that the Ethiopian government, the U.N. World Food Program, non-governmental organizations and the U.S. government have taken serious measures to prevent the current drought conditions from becoming a famine," Parmer said. "But unless the rest of the international community mobilizes immediately to respond to the U.N. and Ethiopia's requests for help, we are in danger of having a preventable food shortage turn into a widespread famine."

The U.S. is providing 400,000 metric tons of food aid to Ethiopia this year. The U.S. is the only international donor to offer a significant response to the U.N. World Food Program's most recent emergency drought appeal for Ethiopia - "Relief Food Assistance To Victims Of Natural Disaster."

Poor rainfall over the past three years has caused drought and crop failure across major portions of Ethiopia. The United Nations estimates that 8.1 million people are suffering from serious food shortages. If rain does not fall within the next two weeks, the current food crisis could develop into "famine-like" conditions in the worst-affected areas.

During his trip, Parmer visited Gode and Kelafo in southeastern Ethiopia, the area that is the hardest hit by the drought. He also traveled to North Wello (the epicenter of the 1984-85 famine), in the northern highlands, which suffered from a lack of rain in 1999. If the drought continues in the northern highlands and response is inadequate, populations in this area may again experience significant suffering from food shortages.

At the press conference, Parmer also announced that USAID would contribute further support to the Ethiopian government to aid in fighting forest fires in southern Ethiopia. These fires have already destroyed 70,000 hectares of forest and are in danger of engulfing 500,000 more.

Parmer has been USAID's assistant administrator for the Bureau for Humanitarian Response since 1998. His visit to Ethiopia is part of a two-week trip to the Horn of Africa to assess the current drought conditions. He will travel next to Kenya, then on to Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea. He will then travel to Brussels and Rome to discuss the drought situation with officials of the UN's World Food Program and the European Union.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is the United States Government agency responsible for development and humanitarian assistance across the world.

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Contact: Kim Walz or Gabrielle Bushman