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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

'Donors Fail Ethiopia'

News 24 -- The United Nations children's agency on Wednesday bristled with anger over faltering donor interest in impoverished Ethiopia, where about half a million children died annually due to preventable diseases and malnutrition.

As leaders of the group of eight industrialised nations prepared to meet in Scotland for talks focused largely on aid to Africa, United Nations Children's Fund warned an additional 170 000 Ethiopian children could die by the end of the year if donors did not respond to an unmet appeal for millions of dollars in aid for the country.

Unicef's country representative in Ethiopia Bjorn Ljungqvist said: "It is becoming increasingly difficult to persuade people that this is a global scandal."

'Ethiopians severely malnourished'

He quoted in an unusually blunt statement that called the international apathy "scandalous".

He said: "Amid all the excitement of the Live 8 concerts and G8 meetings, donors are showing increasingly worrying signs of compassion fatigue over the plight of Ethiopians severely malnourished and dying children."

Ljungqvist said of about seven million Ethiopian children who annually suffered from some form of malnutrition, which took a huge toll on their health and development, about half a million die.

He said: "But there is a growing idea that these are 'normal' levels of child deaths and malnutrition for Ethiopia that this is the usual situation."

Unimaginable tragedy

Ljungqvist said: "There is nothing 'normal' about 500 000 children dying every year.

"It would be an unimaginable tragedy if this happened in any country in the developed world."

He noted that the figure was more than the entire population of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland which was hosting this week's G8 summit.

His comments came as Unicef renewed an appeal, made earlier this year, for donors to contribute about $42m or 76% of the $54.7m, identified as necessary to assist Ethiopian children.

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