Aid agencies warn of "slow starvation"

Millions of children in drought-stricken Ethiopia are being “slowly starved” by the international community, leading charities warned on Monday.

“We are appalled by the lack of full rations to food aid beneficiaries in Ethiopia, which amount to slow starvation for those without other sources of food,” said a statement issued by Save the Children Alliance, Action Aid, CAFOD, and Christian Aid.

“For the international community to allow this to happen in the 21st century is unforgivable,” added the aid agencies which all work in Ethiopia.

The statement follows sharp criticism by the head of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), James Morris, who said donors were overlooking the crisis in Africa to deal with Iraq.

“How is it that we routinely accept a level of suffering and hopelessness in Africa that we would never accept in any other part of the world,” he said.

He stated that WFP was facing a cash shortfall of US $1 billion to meet the needs of 200 million Africans who are malnourished and 50 million who are severely affected by drought.

In Ethiopia rations to 11 million people in need of food aid have been cut by as much as a fifth, as the government tries to spread limited supplies across the impoverished country.

The government’s emergency arm – the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) – says it does not have enough food to meet the full needs.

The aid agencies warned that those most affected by low rations were children. “Inadequate nutrition for children not only affects their growth, it decreases their ability to attend school and makes them much more vulnerable to potentially deadly illnesses," the statement said.

“The government of Ethiopia policy is not at fault," it added, but it urged the government "not to be complacent about this issue and to press for the full food ration donation".