Gov't, aid agencies seek $166 m for emergency assistance

The Ethiopian government, the United Nations and other humanitarian aid agencies have appealed for US $166 million in emergency food and non-food assistance to the Horn of African nation.

Some $111 million is for health and nutrition, water and sanitation, and agriculture. "This is the largest non-food appeal since the drought emergency of 2003 in Ethiopia," said Bjorn Ljungqvist, the UN's acting humanitarian coordinator.

"Already we have an emerging crisis in the pastoral regions of Ethiopia, with about 1.7 million people facing food insecurity and requiring assistance. $10 million is needed immediately to respond to this drought-related emergency in non-food," he added.

The most critical areas were Afder, Liben and parts of Gode zones in Somali Region and southeastern parts of Oromiya Region. The government Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission said the food security situation in these areas is "already worrisome" with some 1.5 million people in need of emergency assistance.

"In addition to this, there are about 638,000 people who are in dire need of water across the region," the commission added.

In total, some 2.6 million people in Ethiopia are in need of emergency food assistance.

The threat of avian influenza, Ljungqvist said, also required preparedness to rapidly detect any possible introduction of the virus and to minimise its spread. Malaria, measles and meningitis were other diseases that required preventative interventions.

"It is anticipated that the government's Productive Safety Net Programme, which addresses the chronically food insecure populations, will be significantly expanded in 2006, which means the number of people to be assisted through the emergency food system has been significantly reduced compared to previous years," he added in a statement.

According to the UN, the overall food security outlook for 2006 was positive in most crop-growing areas of Ethiopia due to an overall good performance of rains.