Beneficiaries of food aid in Ethiopia could face tougher times unless supplies that are stuck in Djibouti port arrive quickly in the country, sources said.
Officials blamed congestion at Djibouti port, land-locked Ethiopia's main access to the sea, but insisted the situation was improving.
"It was a problem during October and December," Mitku Kassa, Ethiopia's Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, said. "Through negotiation and discussions with the officials, especially Dubai Port World, which manages the port, and STDV, the port agency, the [situation] is improving."
DP World said in a statement the problem was beyond its control.
“We have increased our port capabilities with the recent opening of DP World-managed Doraleh Container Terminal (DCT), enabling Djibouti Port to free up more quay space for food aid deliveries, but the sticking point remains the serious shortage of available trucks to move the goods continuously from the port and across the border to where it is needed – a problem recognised by local authorities and the aid agencies,” the statement said.
“DP World is committed to doing everything within its power to assist with the timely movement of aid to those who desperately need it, but even if we increased the volume we move from ship to shore, as long as inland transportation blockages continue, the food aid will still end up stored for a time on land,” it added.
A recent joint assessment by the Ethiopian government and its humanitarian partners found that 4.9 million people would require humanitarian assistance over the next six months. The government and donors have appealed for US$389.3 million worth of food to alleviate the situation.
"A large quantity of WFP's [UN World Food Programme] food is at the port," Paulette Jones, WFP spokeswoman in Addis Ababa, said. "These [food] commodities are needed urgently to assist beneficiaries who are still suffering from the impact of the drought, high food prices and [low] global food stocks."
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), January food allocations have been affected by limited resources.
Only the worst-affected areas would receive full cereal and blended food rations, based on the agreement reached by a prioritisation committee. Other beneficiaries would receive full pulse and vegetable oil rations reduced by two-thirds.
WFP said it was exploring the options of using Port Sudan and Berebera in Somaliland - which would also make it easier to deliver food to the Somali region of Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned that livestock owned by southern pastoralist families have reduced drastically over the past two decades after animals died from diseases induced by climate change and severe drought.
In a report prepared by Ethiopian and Dutch researchers, published on 26 February, the IFRC said average livestock numbers owned by households had declined from 10 to three oxen, 35 to seven cows, and 33 to six goats in Borena zone of Oromiya region.
"For families entirely dependent on their animals for income and as a food source, losses on this scale would be disastrous," it noted.
As animals died, people became dependent on aid while dry seasons triggered local "resource conflicts" over water and pasture, the study found. "About a quarter of all households in Borena and Guji zones suffered from cattle-raiding related to conflict in the period 2004–2008," IFRC said.
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: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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