Ethiopian children at greatest food risks – aid group

26 September 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) — Millions of children in the Horn of Africa’s region especially in Ethiopia are at greatest risks unless they are assisted with emergency humanitarian aid through the year, Save the children warned this week.

Some 20 million people will need emergency humanitarian assistance through the end of this year in the region. In comparison, last year – when drought, high food prices, and conflict were also at issue – only 14 million needed such assistance in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda, said the group.

In its latest report, the humanitarian organization on Thursday said that food aid to Ethiopia is falling well-short, mainly due increased needs and some 3 million children in the Horn of Africa’s nation could be facing severe malnutrition, disease and death.

“We’ve not seen a food crisis of this magnitude and severity in many years, and it is children who will suffer the most if the world fails to respond quickly,” said Ned Olney, Save the Children’s vice president for Global Humanitarian Response.

Cases of acute watery diarrhea are on the rise in Ethiopia, with 1,354 new cases and three deaths reported in just one week this month. Meanwhile, food aid is lagging behind greatly increased needs. The United Nations’ World Food Program estimates a current shortfall of $400 million worth of food needed to reach hungry families in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian government estimates that 6.2 million people — half of them children — will need emergency food aid in the next few months.

These needs are beyond those of the 8.2 million people in Ethiopia already receiving food aid through the Productive Safety Net Program run by the government together with Save the Children and other humanitarian agencies. That program distributes food in exchange for community participation in public works, such as road, water well, and school construction and rehabilitation.

In response to the current crisis, Save the Children plans to distribute food to 800,000 people in some of Ethiopia’s hardest hit areas, and is expanding emergency health and nutrition programs. These programs include therapeutic feeding centers for severely malnourished children and supplementary feeding programs for severely and moderately malnourished children.

(ST)

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