- UN World Food Programme has appealed for US $222 million to avert a major food crisis in Ethiopia, where millions are struggling to cope due to severe drought and hiking food prices that struck East African country in recent months.
Ethiopia, which refuted reports by international media last month on the current food crisis as bogus and exaggerated, has over 4.6 million of its population in desperate need of food, made a call in mid-June for US $325 million from donors to redress food shortages.
Sonali Wickrema, who designs programmes in Ethiopia for WFP said food aid, its rather late for other children though she said is not too late for other many Ethiopian children who need food assistance until the next harvest.
Ms Wickrema said failure of the March-May rains had begun to cost lives in Ethiopia. She said WFP did not have an accurate death toll, but it had probably not yet reached the hundreds.
Ethiopian government said 75,000 children are already suffering from the most severe form of malnutrition as a result of poor harvest.
For a country like Ethiopia, which is the hardest hit in the horn of Africa, it has no home of speedy recovery as it has already exhausted its food reserves as the soaring food prices forced government to subsidise basic food commodities.
WFP country director, Mr Mohamed Diab, said donors had only agreed to provide half of the funding required, further urging them to give the rest without waiting for the emergency to become more acute.
"Given the fragile and critical nutritional situation in the country, if such resources don't come on time we will see the situation worsening beyond the current level," Mr Diab cautioned, saying food aid would take two to three months to arrive in the country.
"Due to dwindling stocks, WFP has already cut cereal rations for July by a third," he said.
WFP said cost of white maize has risen more than 150 percent on Ethiopian markets in the past year, and grain has become so scarce that prices for most domestically produced cereals are higher than imported supplies.
In addition to those suffering in Ethiopia where 5.7 million people were already on food aid but needed more, there are 2.6 million in need of assistance in Somalia, where drought has been compounded by conflict between the fragile government and its opponents, which is disrupting agriculture and trade.
However, experts say that a famine on the scale of the one that occurred in 1984-85 remains unlikely.
The UN has been providing solid assistance to help Ethiopia address its current challenge. The Horn of African country has a history of the world's worst famine that killed a million Ethiopians in October 1984.
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