- Down-playing and confusing figures on Ethiopia's food crisis could worsen situation further, aid agencies have warned.
United Nations gives a figure of more than 8 million people in need of food, while official figures only point at about half.
Reports further show that there is also a confusion caused about by competing figures for aid money needed in Ethiopia food crisis, with country's appeal largely said to be falling short.
While Oxfarm estimates that about $500 million is needed to meet crisis in Ethiopia, UN has said that already $772 million has been pledged.
Last week Oxfarm said it was particularly concerned about situation for pastoralist communities in Afar and Somali regions. It noted that in northern areas, recent minor rains season was patchy and many people would remain dependent on aid until March next year when the next rains are expected. Further south, NGO said if October/November rains are poor, people there would have to hold out until next July.
Numbers in need of help in Somali region were also said to have doubled to nearly two million people since June, with those in need also said to be facing huge problems "due to loss of their livestock with an average loss of 60 percent of cattle, 50 percent of goats and 40 percent of camels."
In July, UN's World Food Programme (WFP) had to reduce monthly cereal rations from 15kgs a person to 10kgs. WFP also said it had only received one third of funds it needs and has an immediate shortfall of 229,587 tonnes food for the next six months. The UN agency fears the impact of this will include increased malnutrition. The cut in food rations is also put in connection with rising world food prices; by March 2008, inflation of food prices in Ethiopia had reached 46.9 percent.
Critics also slap Ethiopian authorities of too much pride in handling crisis situation, with figures also taking too long to be released. For instance, reports show that Ethiopian government in its April appeal said 2.18 million people were in need of food, the number which increased to 4.6 million in June appeal and latest assessment is only expected to put figure at 6.4 million, which agencies still say puts crisis way below real situation.
However, in past, Ethiopian authorities have expressed their discontent and suspicions on way some agencies work, which they felt blows crisis situation out of proportion.
According to UN, millions of Ethiopians need emergency assistance and immediate food relief, following severe floods that hit Ethiopia last year, destroying most of the food crops and successive drought has worsened the situation. The Horn of Africa country has a history of the world's worst drought that killed a million Ethiopians in October 1984.
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