UN agency warns 125 million Ethiopians face starvation as funding falls short

“As we enter Ethiopia’s lean season before the harvest, the number threatened by starvation has shot up from 11 million to 12.5 million and our best estimates are that it is still climbing,” WFP Executive Director James Morris told the agency’s Executive Board.Despite an early alert and a rapid response by the international community, there is still a substantial shortfall of some 230,000 tons of food aid towards 2003 operation requirements totalling 619,000 tons, WFP said.”We have not had enough support to give out a complete cereal ration in Ethiopia and we and our partners have been forced to reduce it from 15 kilogrammes a month to 12.5 kilogrammes,” Mr. Morris stated. “Currently we have commitments of about half of what we need for the new emergency operation. A threat of a pipeline break in September remains.”As a result, only the most vulnerable Ethiopians have so far received the full 15 kilograms of cereal ration required each month per person, WFP said warning that until food assistance is available to all in need, malnutrition rates will continue to rise. “I assure you cutting rations is an action we and our partners only take in desperation,” Mr. Morris said, reaffirming the agency’s commitment to provide the fuller cereal ration to all food aid recipients in the country with the support of international donors.Besides a food shortage, the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia is exacerbated by a lack of clean drinking water, widespread seed shortage, poor sanitation, nutrition and primary health care, according to WFP. read more