November 11, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) –Ethiopia’s refugee agency has launched an urgent appeal for food aid to assist hundreds of thousands of refugees particularly South Sudanese refugees.
- A South Sudanese refugee with her child on one of the buses that moved volunteers from the flood-prone Leitchuor and Nip Nip refugee camps in western Ethiopia (Photo courtesy of the UNHCR)
Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), a local implementing partner of UNHCR has called for supplies of food for over 730,000 refugees from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan who are being sheltered at different camps in Ethiopia.
ARRA Director-General Ayalew Awoke Wednesday told reporters that the refugees mainly those from South Sudan, are in a critical state as the national refugee agency has run short of supplies of food for the refugees.
“The 730,000 refugees from South Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia will soon face chaos as the food aid in stock will be totally consumed by the end of December,” Awoke warned.
He had therefore issued a desperate call to international aid agencies to take swift action to deliver essential food aid.
Ethiopia has been working with various aid agencies to provide the necessary assistance to the refugees from neighbouring countries, he said.
“Some 90 per cent of the refugees sheltered in the camps are women and children,” Ayalew further said .
“Talks are under way with aid agencies,” he disclosed in statements to the official Ethiopian news agency.
However, according to Ayalew, even if the ARRA received a positive response from the agencies, it would take about two months for the food to finally reach to the needy which amplified the problem.
The appeal comes as Ethiopia battles to feed some 8.2 million of its nationals starving after El Nino weather phenomenon and drought, worst in over a decade hit the Horn of Africa’s nation and other countries in the region.
The United Nations is warning that Ethiopians who will need food aid by 2016 could nearly double unless help arrives in time.
Ethiopia’s government has mobilized $33 million in emergency aid.
The UN recently said it needs $230 million by the end of the year; however the Ethiopia’s government says it needs an additional $596 million in international assistance to avert a potential famine.
Ethiopia from 1983 to 1985 has experienced a significant famine which has cost the lives of more than 400,000 people and the government assures a magnitude of famine like then won’t happen.
Ethiopian officials say a long-running food security programme (Productive Safety Net Program) is protecting the poorest from starvation and the country hopes it will ultimately control the crises without any drought-imposed disaster.
Meanwhile the US Agency for International Development (USAID) on Tuesday announced it is providing nearly $97 million in additional food aid to assist populations in Ethiopia who currently are severely impacted by the El Nino weather phenomenon.
The American government humanitarian agency said the additional aid is to support the millions of Ethiopians in need of immediate food aid as well as to refugees from Somalia, South Sudan and Eritrea.
“USAID is contributing $58 million to its partner Catholic Relief Services for 105,700 tons of U.S. food; providing $19 million to the UN World Food Program (WFP) for its drought relief operation, and $20 million for its refugee assistance,” it said.
The United States has also pre-positioned relief commodities in Ethiopia to meet anticipated increased needs from El Nino.
“USAID food assistance contributions have been early and robust, thanks to the early warning and careful tracking of the progression of El Niño in the Horn of Africa” it said.
The projected level of need for emergency aid in Ethiopia has seen a sharp rise from 2.9 million people in early 2015 to 4.5 million people in August and to 8.2 million people as of mid-October.
USAID warns Ethiopia could likely face both prolonged drought and intense flooding that will further deteriorate food security as El Nino progresses into 2016.
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