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More Than 12 Million People Remain At Risk In Ethiopia - 2003-06-05


The World Food Program says donor nations have been very generous with their food aid to Ethiopia, but says much more needs to be pledged to help millions of hungry or malnourished people.

Wagdi Othman is a spokesman for the World Food Program in Ethiopia. From Addis Ababa, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the food needs in the country. He says, “Overall in the country, we have twelve-point-five million people needing food aid. That’s out of a population of about sixty-five million for the whole of Ethiopia. That’s a lot.” Drought is the main cause of the problem.

The WFP spokesman says, “We have some serious pockets of malnutrition in some parts of Ethiopia, especially in the south of the country where we’re seeing a lot of children coming to feeding centers in a very, very desperate state.” Mr. Othman describes the response by the international community as “fantastic.” He says they donated food when the WFP first issued warnings last July and were able to stem the immediate problem.

But he says despite donor generosity, problems arise due to the “rhythm of arrival” of the food. He says, “Humanitarian agencies and the government had to reduce food rations from fifteen kilos to twelve-point-five kilos per person per month.” He says that has created problems in areas where people rely entirely on food aid. Mr. Othman says it can take three to six months from the time food is pledged by donors to the time it arrives in Ethiopia and is distributed. He says many people have nothing in stock.

The WFP spokesman says he’s seen no evidence that food has been diverted from Ethiopia to Iraq. In fact, he says, it’s the opposite. The United States, he says, has sent wheat flour earmarked for Iraq to Ethiopia. The next big food harvest is scheduled for November or December.

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