The World Food Program?s Emergency Response Unit is stepping up measures to hasten the delivery of food-aid to millions of people in Ethiopia. The W-F-P is calling on all food donors to not only confirm donations for the rest of the year, but to start thinking about 2003. The appeal comes as Ethiopia experiences yet another drought.

Six-point-three-million people are in need of food-aid in Ethiopia due to inadequate rainfall over the year. The rains arrived late this year which meant crops that farmers normally grow for the long season failed, and they had to replant. Farmers have had to sow shorter duration crops such as barley and a local crop called teff. However, these are lower yielding crops and not sufficient to meet the large demand for food.

Paul Turnbull heads the World Food Program?s Emergency Response Unit. He explains his organization?s efforts to tackle the impending famine.

he says, "The relief operations have been stepped up. The donors have been made aware of the additional needs and we are getting some promising indications from donors, especially to cover the needs until the end of the year. However, we are very concerned about getting food in place early for 2003."

Mr. Turnbull says food shortages are often more pronounced during the first part of the year. He says this is so because food pledges are usually not confirmed. Mr. Turnbull says the Emergency Response Unit is taking measures to avoid a recurrence by giving donors contingency planning figures for 2003.

he says, "We haven?t actually fully covered the needs for 2002 yet. But, we do have some indications from donors that a good chunk of the 2002 needs will be covered by the pledges they are likely to confirm in the next few weeks."

Mr. Turnbull says the pledges include wheat, maize, sorghum and fortified blended foods for pregnant women, lactating mothers, children under five, and the elderly. The food will be distributed to a number of areas of the country.

he says, "The hot spots that we?ve got for the moment are in the Afar Region, parts of the Oromia Region especially East & West Harergie. Parts of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region in the South of the country. There are also some hot spots blowing up in Amhara Zone and Mahara Region and in Tigray."

Mr. Turnbull says there are basically three scenarios that would determine the food requirements. In the best case scenario, which would be feeding about 6.8 million people, the requirement would be over eight-hundred-thousand tons of cereal. In the middle case scenario, feeding 10 million people would require 1.3 tons of cereal. In the worst case scenario, feeding 14 million people would require 1.9 million tons of cereal. For now, the W-F-P says Ethiopia is experiencing a best case scenario. The U-S Agency for International Development has pledged an additional 100,000 metric tons of wheat, according to a recent press release.