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Emergency beneficiaries increase to 6.4 million

A woman holds her child while waiting at a clinic in Tunto, southern Ethiopia on July 18, 2008. According to MSF 11,800 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition have been admitted in the Oromiya and Southern Nations and Nationalities People's (SN Siegfried Modola/IRIN

More than six million people in Ethiopia now require emergency food assistance because of drought and rising food prices, according to the government, revising a June estimate of 4.6 million needy people. The official figure in April was 2.2 million.

"Based upon the findings of joint belg/gu [short seasonal rains] assessment accompanied by a series of discussions with the concerned regional governments, the number of emergency beneficiaries has been revised from 4.6 million to 6.4 million, out of which 76 percent are from Somali, Oromia and Southern regions," Mitiku Kassa, State Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, told donors and the media on 14 October.

"General food insecurity, prevalence of acute malnutrition, severe pasture and critical water shortages in the livestock sector and drought-induced diseases have exacerbated the emergency situation," Mitiku said.

The government and humanitarian partners have appealed for US$265.6 million for food supplies - $218 million for 270,245 metric tonnes of food and $7.8 million for a Targeted Supplementary Food Programme, under which fortified blended food and edible oil is supplied to moderately malnourished children, as well as pregnant and lactating women.

"Provision of supplementary food for children under five and pregnant or lactating women need not only be maintained but also expanded as cases of malnutrition are being reported from various regions, especially Tigray, Oromia, Afar and Southern," Mitiku said.

The appeal also includes just under $40 million for health, water and sanitation, as well as agriculture and livestock.

"The competition to secure these scarce resources has progressively become rather fierce," the state minister said. "We, as part of the global community, are feeling the impact of the global food constraints."

The Ethiopian government and its humanitarian partners appealed for US$325.2 million to address the food and non-food resource requirement in June 2008.

"The contribution has been substantial but less than what was expected definitely," said Fidele Sarassoro, UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator. "We estimated that around 60 to 65 percent of the requirement has been contributed."

Agreeing on the need of additional money, Oxfam on 10 October called on all donors to respond generously to the worsening crisis in Ethiopia.

"Compared with the funds going to shore up the global financial system, the aid needed to save lives in Ethiopia is a drop in the ocean," Oxfam's country director, Waleed Rauf said. "We need donors to demonstrate urgency when responding to acute hunger and underlying vulnerabilities in places like Ethiopia."

"The revised numbers of those needing emergency assistance is likely to be a conservative estimate and does not include the 7.2 million Ethiopians so chronically poor that they receive cash or food aid from the government every year through the Productive Safety Net Programme,” Rauf added. "Over 13.5 million Ethiopians are in need of aid in order to survive. The number of those suffering severe hunger and destitution has spiraled."

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