Thousands of Ethiopians in Afar State are facing critical food, water and health gaps almost a month after a volcano erupted in neighbouring Eritrea's Nabro region, officials say.
The volcano started erupting on 12 June, spewing ash over hundreds of kilometres, affecting food and water sources as well as air travel in some parts. The eruption occurred after a series of earthquakes among them one with a magnitude of 5.7, Eritrea's Information Ministry reported in a communiqué.
According to a report from Ethiopia's Afar Disaster Prevention and Food Security Programs Coordination Office: "The adverse impacts of the volcanic ash increased reports of livestock mortality, migration, critical water shortage, human health problems and rising malnutrition among the worst volcanic affected woredas [districts]: Bidu, Afdera, Erebti, Elidar, Teru and Kori.
"In Bidu woreda, [the] deaths of 31 persons were reported as a result of the volcano ash."
At least 68.6 million birr (about US $4 million) is required to respond to the emergency needs, according to an appeal made by the Afar government, which said 48,000 people were affected in the Bidu, Afdera, Erebti and Teru woredas.
In total 167,153 people, including those from the Elidar and Kori woredas, required monitoring, according to an emergency assessment team deployed there in mid-June.
However, Ethiopia's federal government said it did not endorse the Afar regional government appeal and was assessing the situation.
"We have looked at the [appeal] document and I [would] like to make it clear that it is not a national document and that we have not endorsed it," Aklog Nigatu, a spokesman at the Agriculture Ministry’s disaster management agency, told IRIN.
Aklog added that the ministry had no record of casualties, adding that it was still too early to say how many people had been affected and needed help.
Mohammed Amin, a nutritionist in Afar, told IRIN: "The dispatched team [of experts] went deep into the affected areas, up to 10km from [where] the volcano erupted; food there is [contaminated] by the volcanic ash."
He said residents had been advised not to eat locally produced food in case of contamination.
The effects of the eruption had increased the vulnerability of the affected population in the predominantly pastoral region, said the appeal.
|The effects of the eruption increased the vulnerability of the affected population in the predominantly pastoral region|
Amid fears that one of Ethiopia’s largest salt mines in the Afdera area had been contaminated by the volcanic ash, Aklog said: "Experts, including [those] from the Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute, are going to examine if the salt production in Afdera is contaminated with toxic materials so its consumption and exportation can be halted."
On 5 July, the Eritrean ministry of information reported that Eritrean nationals displaced due to the volcanic eruption and earthquake were in good health.
Michael Gebrehiwet, head of a ministerial team comprising health, labour and human welfare staff members, said no communicable disease had been recorded in the new settlement site of those displaced.
Regarding the impact of the continued emission of dust and smoke, Michael said this did not pose a serious health concern, with itching having been reported among some of those affected.
Mihreteab Fisehaye, the director-general of social security in Eritrea's Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare, said "concerted action" was being undertaken to help those displaced.
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