WFP seeks funds to feed one million Eritreans

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Wednesday expressed grave concern over the fate of one million Eritreans still in need of food aid nearly a year after their country's border conflict with Ethiopia ended.
WFP said in statement it has, therefore, launched a multi-million dollar appeal to provide emergency relief food to these Eritreans still struggling to meet their basic food needs.
The Agency is asking for 44 million US dollars to fund over 102,000 tons of food, enough to feed the war victims from May 2001 to February 2002.
This is an increase of 300,000 people compared to the number WFP fed last year.
The border conflict, which erupted in May 1998 forced hundreds of thousands of families to flee their homes and land, to seek refuge in camps or with host communities.
Many of the people are said to be farmers from Eritrea's richest agricultural areas in the regions of Gash Barka and Debub, known as the bread basket of the country, generating 70 percent of the national food production.
"This country is agriculturally crippled," said Patrick Buckley, Country Director for WFP.
He warned that "if people are not back in their villages at the latest in one month's time, they will not be able to take advantage of the rains to start cultivating and planting.
" The WFP said the planned return of the internally displaced persons had been hampered by several factors, including a delay in the creation of the Temporary Security Zone that covers a large part of the agriculturally productive area, and risks associated with movement and cultivation in heavily mined areas.
The combined effect of drought and war on Eritrea's agricultural production has also pushed the price of increasingly scarce basic foodstuffs beyond the means of most families.
"Over the next few months, our first priority is to ensure that families continue to have enough to eat," Buckley said.
"We've also got to think of the future, moving away from emergency assistance to supporting families while they get back on their feet.
This will take months, if not years," he added.
Apart from providing aid to the war-affected areas, WFP said it "continues its efforts to feed additional 740,000 people affected by the prolonged drought in the northern highlands and the Red Sea regions.
" According to the statement, from January to December 2000, 94,000 metric tons of WFP food reached drought and war-affected Eritreans in Gash Barka, Debub, Northern Red Sea and Anseba regions.

23 may 2001 16:18:00

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