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Call for innovation, new ideas on eve of appeal

[Ethiopia] Italian Ambassador Guido La Tella

International aid organizations and the Ethiopian government need to "rethink" food aid and find new ways to tackle recurrent droughts, Italian Ambassador Guido La Tella urged on Friday.

The ambassador spoke out on the eve of the launch of the Ethiopian Government relief appeal which will spell out the full scale of the crisis and number of people in need in the country. "There is no doubt that we all, that is the Ethiopian government and the international community together, have to do some rethinking about the food security policy," he said.

"We need to find new ways. We need to see how is it possible that a country relatively rich in water like Ethiopia depends almost completely on rain fed agriculture." According to the ambassador just one per cent of agriculture comes from irrigation while the rest is dependent on the country’s often erratic rains. The Italian government’s development arm also argued that agricultural inputs are vital for improving food security in Ethiopia but that debt can drive farmers away.

The appeal announcement on Saturday by the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission follows harvest assessments around the country. According to crop experts the main season harvest – the Meher – could be down by as much as 15 percent.

The ambassador also said that Italy had just pledged Euros 3 million (approx. US $3 million) to combat the drought. Half the money will go to vulnerable groups like women and children and the rest will be used to support the UN’s World Food Programme.

Italy also expects to provide around Euros 45 million (approx. $45 million) in development aid next year – a doubling of its aid to the Horn of Africa country. The ambassador also said that Italy would wipe out $350 million in debt to Ethiopia under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HPIC) initiative. The ambassador added that Italy would be providing massive financial support for the leather and textiles industry in Ethiopia. Money will also be going to urban areas like the capital Addis Ababa to improve services.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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