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. Six million children threatened by Ethiopia drought: UN

by Staff Writers
Addis Ababa (AFP) May 20, 2008
A severe drought in Ethiopia threatens up to six million children, the United Nations children's agency warned on Tuesday.

"Up to six million children under five years of age are living in impoverished, drought-prone districts and require continuation of urgent preventive health and nutrition interventions," UNICEF said in a statement.

The agency added that 126,000 children were already suffering from severe malnutrition and needed urgent therapeutic care.

In addition to some eight million people characterised as "food insecure" and supported by a government programme, aid agencies are warning that over 3.4 million people require food aid in several central and southern regions.

"Widespread drought, poor rainy seasons, heavy loss of livestock, limited food supply and soaring prices of food, fuel and fertilizer linked to the global food crisis are contributing to the troubled outlook of children in Ethiopia," the statement added.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said it was seeking 147 million dollars (94 million euros) to tackle a shortage of 183,000 metric tons of food to meet the country's needs.

The appeal includes 29 million dollars required to fill gaps in provisions of "blended food", a mix of soya and corn powder for malnourished children.

"The mechanisms and capacity to prevent and respond to the increase of severe acute malnutrition are in place but are under resourced," Bjorn Ljungqvist, UNICEF representative in Ethiopia, was quoted as saying.

UNICEF had recently hailed Ethiopia as "exemplary" for its efforts in curbing infant mortality rates.

"Ethiopia has some great gains in curbing child mortality, but they would be completely wiped out by events like this," Viviane Van Steirteghem, UNICEF's deputy representative, told AFP.

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Cleaner air to worsen droughts in Amazon: study
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