The World Health Organization says worsening malnutrition and the
threat of disease outbreaks are compounding Ethiopia's humanitarian
crisis. The WHO is launching a $25 million appeal to provide urgently
needed health assistance to tens of thousands of people at risk. Lisa
Schlein reports for VOA from WHO headquarters in Geneva.
World Health Organization reports more than 4.5 million people in
Ethiopia are in urgent need of emergency food relief. And, it says
that number is growing.
It warns of a looming health crisis,
made worse by the global food security crisis. It says the health
risks also are compounded by the impact of drought on agricultural
production and the country's weak health system.
The UN health
agency says annual rains during the coming months are expected to cause
large-scale flooding, increasing loss of crops and risk of disease.
Spokesman, Paul Garwood, says the international community must act
quickly to help millions of Ethiopians whose health is worsening every
day. As in all crises of this magnitude, he says children, women and
the elderly are most at risk.
"We are seeing that some 75,000
children, aged under five need therapeutic and supplementary nutrition
support in the country," said Garwood. "In just the past three months
alone, just as an example of the worsening food situation, we are
seeing the number of government food centers rising from 200 three
months ago to 605 today. That is just in three regions of the country,
the most severely affected regions of the country."
during the best of times, Ethiopians do not have a good health record.
Before this current crisis erupted, WHO says more than 60 percent of
the population was suffering from either acute or chronic
malnutrition. It warns malnutrition rates are likely to get even worse
as food becomes scarcer and hunger more plentiful.
says the lack of access to safe drinking water, shortages of drugs and
medical supplies will put vulnerable people at significant risk of
"The major diseases that we see concern
surrounding meningitis, measles and diarrhea, particularly acute watery
diarrhea," he said. "I am not aware of deaths as a result of these
three types of diseases. But, you know, these three types of diseases
are worsening in the country. So, of course, the fear, the potential
for death as a result of hunger, malnutrition and diseases is high."
UN agency's $25 million appeal will be used to help Ethiopia
reconstruct its health sector and provide for the nutritional and
health needs of its stricken population.
measures to strengthen disease and nutritional surveillance, to prevent
measles through immunization activities, to train health staff, improve
water and sanitation and provide urgently needed drugs and medical