Thursday, June 09, 2005

60 percent of Eritreans need food aid

June 9, 2005 report via AFP:

About 2.3 million Eritreans, or almost 60 percent of the population, need food aid as a result of drought and conflict with neighbouring Ethiopia, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said Thursday.

"Five years of severe drought in Eritrea, coupled with the ongoing border dispute with Ethiopia, have exhausted the coping mechanisms of vulnerable farming families throughout the country, contributing to widespread poverty and food insecurity," the Rome-based FAO said in a statement.

"To reduce dependency on emergency food assistance and improve the ability of rural populations to adapt to recurrent drought conditions, agricultural inputs such as seeds, farming tools, animal feed and veterinary support are also needed."

Last year's meagre harvest has already been exhausted and the hunger season, which arrived two months early in March, is expected to continue until the next harvest in November, the statement said.

Many households could be forced to consume their limited stocks of seed and sell or eat their breeding animals.

Although Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a peace agreement in December 2000, tensions remain over their still-disputed border, the FAO says.

With large numbers of men doing compulsory national and military service requirements, there is a shortage of skilled manpower.

The FAO said it was currently procuring seeds for the June planting season for distribution to 27,000 poor, drought-affected families in the main crop production regions of Gash Barka, Debub and Anseba.

"But importing seeds only solves the problem for a year or two," said Marco Falcone, FAO emergency coordinator for Eritrea.

"Promoting local production of quality seeds is the only way out of the current situation, particularly given the rather fragile agro-ecology of Eritrea, the non-availability on the international market of adapted varieties and the current poor quality of local seeds."



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