Help "trickling in” for millions needing food aid

The Ethiopian government has started receiving food and non-food aid for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in the country's southern and south-eastern lowlands after an appeal in April, Agriculture Minister Mitiku Kassa told IRIN.



"Based on their interests, donors' reactions to our latest appeal varies; we have received cash for non-food requirements while food is being donated in kind for the food needs," Mitiku said. "We had carried over from 2010 so now we are doing an overall assessment on what the donors' response has been and to know where we stand after the latest response."



The Ethiopian government and aid agencies said at least two million people required urgent relief aid in the southern and south-eastern lowlands, which received poor rains due to the La Niña weather phenomenon.



"According to the revised resource requirements associated with the increasing needs identified, an estimated US$75,030,109 is required to respond to food and non-food needs during the months of April and May 2011," the Ministry of Agriculture said in a 12 April report.



The report said the total quantity required to address food requirements for April and May 2011 was 76,292MT, which is estimated to cost $53,404,677. “Considering the available resources valued at $8,521,800, the net requirement is $44,882,877.”



The La Niña-affected parts of the country include all the nine zones of the Somali region; Borana and parts of Bale, Guji, Arsi, East and West Hararghe zones of Oromia region; and South Omo, Konso and Derashe Special Woreda of Southern region, while there are increasing reports of drought effects from northern Afar.



Livestock prices falling



According to a special report published on 27 April by the Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team (EHCT), pasture and traditional water sources have been depleted in most of the affected areas.



"Animal body condition is declining rapidly, resulting in lower livestock prices at market even as the price of staple cereals is increasing," the EHCT report indicated.














Photo: Anthony Mitchell/IRIN
Pasture and traditional water sources have been depleted in most of the areas affected by the La Niña weather phenomenon

According to the EHCT, which comprises UN agencies, international and national NGOs and donors, the conflict in the Middle East and North Africa has resulted in lower demand for cattle exports from Ethiopia, while global food and fuel price increases have hiked the cost of buying and importing foodstuffs and other essential goods.



In its latest report of 6 April, Ethiopia's Central Statistical Agency said the annual inflation rate soared to 25 percent in March from 16.5 percent in February.



While non-food inflation rate reached 24.3 percent from 22 percent in the same period, food inflation showed the largest jump in more than two years, reaching 25.5 percent in March from 12.8 percent in February.



"With the end of the long gu/ganna rainy season in pastoral areas fast approaching at the end of April, a second consecutive season of very poor rains is increasingly likely," said the EHCT.



Emergency conditions are said to be likely to persist until the next rainy season, due in October.



According to Kristen Knutson, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the needs assessment for the coming season is scheduled to start in early May and run for 15 days.



However, the Ethiopian government says there are positive signs as the rains have started in some areas, despite the outlook for the southern and south-eastern lowlands.



"Almost all parts of Somali region and parts of Oromia region, for example, have received rains in recent days; this is a very positive sign as most of the food insecurity in such pastoralist areas comes from the shortage of water," said Akloweg Nigatu, information officer at the Agriculture Ministry.



Akloweg said vegetation should start flourishing after the rain, providing food for camels, which are a source of food for pastoralists.



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