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WFP Warns of Serious Food Shortages Coming to Ethiopia - 2002-08-02

Officials at the World Food Program are warning of serious food shortages in Ethiopia because of months of exceptionally dry weather.

The World Food Program already provides food to two million people in Ethiopia, but WFP officials say they will need to feed an additional two million Ethiopians because of months of drought.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Bertiaume said little rain fell during the spring and that pattern is continuing this summer. "There are parts of the country especially in the north, east and south where the situation is bad," he said. "WFP has sent missions to evaluate the situation, and we came back with quite an appalling report, especially in the Afar region, which is in the northern part of the country."

Ms. Bertiaume said in the region of Afar, in northern Ethiopia, water resources and grazing lands are completely exhausted due to the poor rainfall. She said large numbers of livestock have died, while those that are still alive are being herded out of the area to save them for breeding. "They are taking the other animals to go find some food and water somewhere. So men are leaving," she said, "and women, children and the elderly are staying and their conditions are worsening. They don't have milk; they don't have meat that normally the animals would provide to them. So the situation is deteriorating. We have not seen yet acute cases of malnutrition, but we don't need to wait for that to react."

Ms. Bertiaume said the WFP is borrowing from other emergency food stocks to help the Ethiopians, but she said even these may not be sufficient to cover what the country needs.