- Eritrea, a favourite among donors ten years ago, is by now not even receiving aid to prevent a large-scale famine affecting more than two-thirds of the population. The government's systematic human rights violations have caused most traditional donors to shy away from even providing humanitarian aid.
Most Eritreans are still faced with the aftermath of a severe drought and desperately dependent on food and development aid. More than two-thirds of the people have recently been facing famine and recovery is slow.
After its 1998-2000 border conflict with Ethiopia, Eritrea's problems were aggravated by the severe drought of 2002, which led to an almost total failure of that year's harvest and resulted in acute shortages of drinking water and fodder. With inadequate rainfall since, the majority of the population still is "exposed to the risk of famine," according to the UN humanitarian office, OCHA.
The UN agency is running several relief assistance programmes in Eritrea to limit this exposure to famine. These programmes now have to be "trimmed or shut down because of slow donor response to appeals for help," OCHA today informed. More than 70 percent of the UN appeal for US$ 157 million is intended for food assistance for the country, but only about US$ 82 million has been pledged so far.
Appeals for anything but emergency food aid for famine victims are getting more and more impossible to materialise, aid organisations note. Eritrea has become a non-option for almost all potential donors. Very few Western countries still operate development aid programmes in Eritrea. No major new projects are planned.
This strongly contrasts the situation shortly after Eritrea's independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Donor nations were impressed by the seemingly progressive and popular government and a collective will to reconstruct the country. Eritrea was to avoid the traps of other African countries and develop into a sound economy and an enlightened democracy. The country became the donors' favourite, with "everybody" operating development programmes in Eritrea.
Since that, Eritrea engaged in an expensive border war against Ethiopia, which nobody outside the region understood the meaning of. Then, President Issayas Afewerki backed down on the promise of democratisation and has taken absolute powers. The free press, opposition voices, government critics and religious minorities were simply put to jail.
During the last few years, all major donors and even the African Union (AU) have protested the systematic human rights violations in Eritrea. The AU, UN and even the US State Department are met with threatening answers from the Eritrean Foreign Ministry. Foreign media, such as afrol News, are receiving threatening notes each time they report critically on Eritrea. Even the UN has been called names despite its efforts to provide humanitarian aid and facilitate an Ethiopian-Eritrean peace.
As Eritrea slips deeper into isolation, its citizens get even more exposed to famine. Eritrean and UN calls for donations to avoid further famines are received by the same foreign Ministries that are told not to interfere in Eritrea's internal affairs, i.e. human rights violations. The majority of Eritrean citizens are further victimised.
The only aid of scale received by Eritreans currently is the significant transactions made by the large Eritrean Diaspora. Although the government's banks are confiscating their part of these transactions, they have proven the most effective way to help Eritreans in trouble. Not everyone has a family member abroad, however.
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afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.