WFP: Ethiopia’s Emergency Food Reserve Near Zero

Posted August 5th, 2011 at 12:20 am (UTC-5)
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The head of World Food Program in Ethiopia says the country's emergency food stocks are almost gone, the latest trouble caused by the drought in the Horn of Africa.

Abdou Dieng told reporters Thursday that despite incoming aid, Ethiopia faces a critical shortfall in emergency food supplies. He says a reserve set up by the government is almost empty.

Dieng says the WFP is monitoring reports out of neighboring Eritrea suggesting food shortages there as well. The reports are hard to verify, and Eritrea's autocratic government has denied the drought is affecting supplies.

Also Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it hopes to more than double its Somalia budget so it can feed more than one million people hit by famine in areas controlled by militant group al-Shabab.

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger called for an additional $86 million, which he says would bring the Red Cross Somalia budget to $155 million and make it by far the group's largest ongoing humanitarian operation.

Namibia has also come to the aid of famine victims with a $500,000 donation toward relief efforts.

Information Minister Joel Kapaanda told VOA's English to Africa the government's donation was Namibia's way of showing solidarity and compassion for the famine victims.

Kapaanda is hopeful the contribution from the small southern African country might spark more contributions from other African Union member states.

Meantime, the African Union has postponed a donor conference for the drought from August 9 to August 25.

The Associated Press quotes a senior AU policy adviser saying the later date would allow heads of state to attend the conference, to be held in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

The United Nations says drought has left more than 12 million people across the Horn of Africa in need of food aid. The U.N. has appealed for $1.4 billion to help the victims.

On Wednesday, the U.N. declared a famine in three more regions of southern Somalia. It said famine conditions will likely spread to more areas and could last until December.

A U.S. aid official has estimated that drought and famine have killed 29,000 Somali children under the age of five in the past 90 days.

At a hearing in Washington Wednesday, U.S. officials and private experts accused the militant group al-Shabab of preventing people from fleeing the famine-stricken areas.