By Fred Eckhard
Spokesman for the Secretary-General
UN Headquarters, New York
This Friday, the World Food Programme (WFP) will launch a nine-month emergency operation at a cost of $136.8 million dollars for food and non-food items, as well as logistics, to feed 2.3 million of the most vulnerable victims of drought and crop failure in Ethiopia. The emergency operation is part of the overall UN country team appeal for $190.7 million, issued on January 28. The number of vulnerable has dramatically increased since last year when WFP distributed food to 1.2 million people.
A recent WFP and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) food and crop assessment indicated that there are 7.8 million people in need of food aid.
For the past two decades there has been a shortage of food in Ethiopia, caused largely by unfavorable weather conditions. Food insecurity remains chronic, due to limited availability and access by the majority of the population.
"It is the hope that by acting now we can prevent a human catastrophe from developing in the near future," the Spokesman said.
Ethiopia is one of the world's poorest countries, ranking 172nd out of 174 in the 1999 United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index. It also has one of the highest levels of stunting among children, due to lack of adequate nutrition, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).