Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Drought - Somalia (Siraro) MAY

Unicef has warned that six million Ethiopian children under the age of five may be at risk of malnutrition.

Ethiopian soldiers speak to women who are carrying their food ration during a relief distribution to displaced people in southern Mogadishu

The United Nations children's agency said a recent drought in the east African country has caused a food crisis and estimates 126,000 children are suffering from severe malnutrition.

But the government and aid agencies are struggling to find money to help, with international food prices rising sharply.

The UN World Food Programme estimates 3.4 million of Ethiopia's more than 80 million people will need food relief from July to September.

"The great tragedy is that Ethiopia had been making some impressive improvements before this drought," said Viviane Van Steirteghem, Unicef deputy representative in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia had been cited as an example to other African countries after reducing its infant mortality rate to 123 deaths from every 1,000 births from 166 in just five years.

In Siraro, a remote farming area 220 miles south of the capital Addis Ababa, Ayantu Tamon has lost a child to hunger every year for the last four.

She is hoping her severely malnourished and weakened three-year-old son Hirbu will not die this year. "I just hope God lets him live. I have only two children left."

He is one of 233 children who have been brought starving to the small Sisters of Mercy church in just the last three weeks.

Innovative schemes to reduce the impact of drought and train local people as health workers were also introduced and much praised internationally.

"It's a chain of unfortunate events that has led to this," says Lisetta Trebbi, Head of Relief the United Nation's World Food Programme in Ethiopia.

"We have drought - a really poor rainy season - and, of course, we have high food prices worldwide."

The global rise in food prices has hit the WFP hard.

The organisation now needs to raise £75 million to tackle Ethiopia's needs, but aid workers say the money is not coming in time, with donors concentrating on disaster-hit China and Myanmar. - Source

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