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More Than 7 Million Still Need Food Aid In Ethiopia - 2004-01-14

There’s mixed news about the food aid situation in Ethiopia. UN relief agencies say more than seven million people still require assistance to meet minimum food requirements. That’s about half as many as last year. But the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program say the improvement belies chronic problems in the country, despite an improved harvest during Ethiopia’s meher season (the main season for food production) in November and December.

Shukri Ahmed is an economist for the FAO. From Rome, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the food situation in Ethiopia. Dr. Ahmed says, “Above all the biggest problem in the country is productivity and that mainly relates in a country like Ethiopia is the dependence simply on rainfall. The country has rivers, it has water. It used to be called the water tower of Africa.” However, he says little has been done over the past 30 years to harvest those water supplies for food production.

Dr. Ahmed says, “Less than four percent of the irrigable land is at the moment used. This is amazing for a country that is depending on food assistance, who cannot feed it self for so long, to just use that little amount of irrigable land that is available is just the biggest problem.”

He says better infrastructure is needed and he says the Ethiopian government is moving in that direction. He says the government has a $4 billion dollar, five-year program to deal with the problem. But he says donor assistance would be needed. He says considering all the money spent on food aid over the past 30 years in Ethiopia, it would be beneficial to invest in a program to solve the problem once and for all.