Despite bumper harvest 22 million Ethiopians need emergency food aid – UN

Despite a bumper harvest and a sharp reduction in needs, 2.2 million Ethiopians will still require emergency food assistance this year, while a further 5 million suffering from chronic hunger will receive cash and food transfers under a new safety net programme, according to a joint United Nation report issued today.It estimated emergency food requirements for 2005 at 387,500 tons, compared with 965,000 tons last year when 7 million people needed the assistance.“For the first time in the history of food aid assistance in Ethiopia, there is a different response to the needs of acutely undernourished people as opposed to the chronically hungry,” said Georgia Shaver, Ethiopia Country Director for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which drew up the report together with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Ethiopia.Emergency food needs are defined as the requirements of those affected by acute or unpredictable disasters, which are mainly drought-induced, while the new Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) tackles longer-term food security needs, constituting a move away from the traditional way of managing chronic and predictable food needs.“Ideally, the PSNP will help families to create and maintain assets and decrease households’ vulnerability to shocks and crises in the future,” Ms. Shaver said.The report projected the harvest from the 2004 main season to be more than 24 per cent above the 2003 revised estimate of 11.49 million tons and 21 per cent above the average for the past five years.With the harvest coming onto the market, it said timely marketing and transport would be critical in 2005. “Local purchase of cereals for food assistance programmes is recommended as far as possible, so as to assist domestic markets and farmers,” Henri Josserand, Chief of FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System, said.The report voiced concern about pastoral areas in eastern and southern Ethiopia where prolonged drought has led to acute water and fodder shortages, while erratic and poorly distributed rains have also affected some central and northern areas which already have large numbers of vulnerable people and are now expected to face increased food insecurity.Agriculture is the main economic activity in Ethiopia, contributing to 45 per cent of the gross domestic product with 80 per cent of the population earning a living directly or indirectly from agricultural activities. read more