From: Anthony Mitchell, Associated Press
Published December 30, 2005 12:00 AM

More than a Million Face Extreme Food Shortages in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — More than a million Ethiopian cattle herders face extreme food shortages after the failure of rains that normally replenish water sources and sustain livestock through the dry season, a famine early warning group said.


Drought also has triggered food shortages in neighboring Kenya and Somalia, a country that has had no effective government since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1994.


Pre-famine conditions have already emerged in Ethiopia's eastern Somali region, including escalating malnutrition and reports of child deaths; tribal conflicts over scarce resources; early and widespread human and livestock migration; slaughtering of calves to save cows and rising sorghum prices, the main staple, the U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network said Thursday.


A preliminary assessment showed that more than a million people will face serious water, pasture and food shortages for the first half of 2006. The crisis will peak from January to March, according to the food security monitoring group.


The Somali region, which is the size of Britain, is one of the driest and least hospitable areas in Ethiopia. The area was hit by catastrophic famine in 2000 that killed an estimated 50,000 people. Most residents eke out a living as nomads.


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An initial estimate from the regional Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Administration indicates that Ethiopia needs more than US$40 million (euro33.57 million) to provide emergency water, fodder and health care to people and animals affected by the drought.


"Interventions to protect the animals on which the survival of pastoralist livelihoods is based are critical, especially given the successive losses experienced by pastoralists in the region over the last 10 years," according to the group's emergency warning report. "Saving the breeding stock is essential to minimize the impact of the current crisis and to allow post-drought recovery, given the very high dependency on livestock in affected areas."


In anarchic Somalia, where about 2 million people need humanitarian aid, drought has affected its southern region, leading to increases in admissions of severely malnourished children to therapeutic feeding centers there.


Lack of water and pasture has hurt livestock production and value, resulting in deteriorating terms of trade between livestock and grains in the region.


"Cereal prices are abnormally high in some of the marginal agricultural areas like Hiran Region. Compared to a normal year, the prices of maize and sorghum in Beletweyn are 25 percent and 45 percent higher, respectively," according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network.


"The situation is equally bad in northeastern Kenya and parts of Ethiopia bordering southern Somalia, thereby limiting opportunities for cross border migration as a coping strategy," according to the group.


Urgent food aid, rehabilitation of boreholes and communal dams and water tanks for human and livestock consumption are needed to deal with the crisis.


Source: Associated Press


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