5 mln more Ethiopians need emergency food: UN

February 17, 2009

“In addition to the seven million that continue to be assisted, 4.9 million people need emergency food assistance,” said Elizabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The latest figure is based on an assessment conducted by UN agencies in November and December, which concluded that some 454.3 million dollars were needed to fund aid in Ethiopia during the first half of 2009.

Poor rainfall and harvests are hurting many in the east of the country, said Byrs.

“Concerns are high over continuing food insecurity in the coming months, in parts of the country,” she added.

Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country, with around 80 million inhabitants, and has been badly affected by droughts, civil conflict and rising food prices.

Despite the tough conditions, the country is hosting increasing numbers of asylum seekers crossing over from Somalia into eastern Ethiopia’s Somali Region.

Byrs said that about 10,000 asylum seekers had arrived this year, and 150 more people were crossing the border daily.

“In Somali Region, malnutrition and food insecurity will likely exacerbate during the coming dry season from January to mid April,” she said.