Jesuits warn of approaching famine in Ethiopia

 Fresh calls for help for Ethiopia have been issued this week by the Catholic agency, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). This is as the country faces another disaster perhaps on a scale worse than that seen in the 1980s. "Supplies have to arrive and not just be pledged" sais Stephen Power, Country Director for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Ethiopia. He said: "In the 1980's, delays led to many of the approximately one million deaths." JRS workers have observed that the food and water shortages in Ethiopia are causing internal displacement of people with pastoralists from Afar being seen miles from their area, looking for food for their animals. '"f we get mass population movements" said Stephen Power, "this means people will be displaced for the next planting. Result: no crops, no harvest and a huge tragedy. We have to act now and act effectively. A further danger is that the scarcity of food and water, is breeding the danger of violence. And, this time, a difference from the 1980s is that because of the high rate of HIV infection many of those with poor nutrition will die sooner." Some urgent needs listed by JRS include: Milk for children among the Bale displaced people. Contributions for food in Tigray, where people in need are already being put on waiting lists. Contributions for people on the street coming into the cities.Assistance for mother and child programme run by Sisters in Midagedu. Before Christmas, the Ethiopian government appealed for massive aid to help them cope with an impending disaster. They asked for 1.4 million tonnes of food and about $150 million for non-food assistance to help them reach out to the 11 million people who will be at risk of starvation during 2003. The Catholic Church has launched an appeal for $2.4 million through the Caritas network. "Far from progressing since the 1980's, the overwhelming poverty has spread," said Power. "The present government has acknowledged the situation, which is at least a step towards fighting this war on poverty in the next decades." JRS in Ethiopia is not involved in food distribution but it has offered to forward contributions to work of church and other communities. Source: JRS

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