10 million Ethiopians need food aid this year

Nearly 10 million Ethiopians will need relief aid this year to ease the impact of drought-induced food and water shortages, poverty and disease that grips the Horn of Africa nation, the U.N. said Monday. The U.N., Ethiopia's government and aid agencies need US$166 million (Ђ138 million) to provide emergency food, water, health care, sanitation and agriculture assistance in the country where 2.6 million people suffer from food shortages, a U.N. statement said. Another 7.2 million people also need food aid because they are too poor to feed themselves, up from 5 million Ethiopians last year, the statement said. Ethiopia is one of the world's poorest nations, with around half its estimated 77 million people living on less than US$1 (Ђ1) a day. Most people die before they reach their 50th birthday.

The increased needs come despite a third record food harvest in the country, where 80 percent of the population ekes out a living as subsistence farmers. "This is one of the worst-affected nations in the world in terms of the basic conditions that people live in," Bjorn Ljungqvist, the U.N.'s acting humanitarian coordinator, told The Associated Press.

Already, 1.7 million people are facing food shortages in southeastern Ethiopia, where seasonal rains have failed and malnutrition among children is increasing. He said US$10 million (Ђ8.3 million) was needed for that crisis alone. Ethiopia also is struggling to contain malaria, measles and meningitis, which has affected people weakened by hunger.

"The international donor community is urged to respond generously and proactively in addressing the needs of Ethiopia," Ljungqvist said. "It will be critical they respond in a timely manner, avoiding the human tragedies and adverse economic consequences that have all too often been associated with droughts in the past."

Drought has affected other East African nations as well. Preliminary assessments show those affected include an estimated 3.5 million in Kenya, 1.4 million in Somalia and 60,000 in Djibouti, reports the AP. N.U.