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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Ethiopia a 'Man-made Disaster'

News24.com -- A government study made public on Thursday has condemned a much-heralded $200m a year aid programme aimed at ending perennial hunger in Ethiopia for failing to meet its targets and causing "a man-made disaster".

In January, Ethiopia started a programme to get five million people who annually face severe food shortages out of dependency on emergency food aid. It is funded and much heralded by donors including Britain, the European Commission, the United States and the World Bank.

Inadequate implementation

As of the end of May, only 11% of cash and 44% of food had reached people in need, said the study by the government's emergency nutrition co-ordination unit.

"The inadequate implementation of the productive safety net programme is resulting in a man-made disaster in many areas of the country," the study said.

The study said in one region of the country where the programme is being implemented some 700 000 "poorest of the poor" have been excluded and do not get any kind of aid at all.

Mulugeta Debalkew, an official of the agriculture ministry charged with implementing the programme, played down the study, but acknowledged there had been some delays.

"There are minor problems, but the government and donor community are devising certain strategies to cope with the delays," he said.

Ethiopians are "chronically hungry"

Mulugeta said some of the delays were caused by the fact the programme was new and local officials were not handing out food or cash to families.

Irrespective of how good harvests are in Ethiopia, about five million people, who the United Nations describes as chronically hungry, live in the country's northern highlands.

Under the programme they are given food or cash in return for doing public works like building roads and in this way they are expected to have consistent food or money they can live and plan on instead of waiting for emergency food aid that is usually limited.

The emergency nutrition co-ordination unit's study was presented to government officials and aid organisations on Tuesday.

On the same day, the European Union said it would augment its funding for the program by $72m over two years.

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