28 April 2006

Special Humanitarian Envoy Says Ethiopia Has Lessons to Share with Its Neighbours

ADDIS ABABA/ETHIOPIA/NEW YORK, 28 April (OCHA) -- The United Nations Special Humanitarian Envoy, Kjell Magne Bondevik, arrived in Ethiopia today as part of his eight-day mission to the five drought-affected countries of the Horn of Africa.

In Ethiopia, 1.7 million people are currently receiving food aid assistance due to the humanitarian crisis affecting the country's pastoral and agro-pastoral areas.  More than 280,000 children have been affected by the emergency, and alarming malnutrition levels continue to be reported.

"Ethiopia, like other countries in the Horn of Africa, is experiencing both drought and floods simultaneously.  However, I understand that these recent rains, while very much needed, have also increased the threat of disease and hampered access to the most needy", said Mr. Bondevik, while addressing the United Nations Country Team.

During his visit, Mr. Bondevik met Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and discussed ways to strengthen emergency management capacities and humanitarian relief, so that they support longer-term solutions to food and livelihood insecurity.

"Ethiopia is known for its disaster response systems and in many ways is moving more quickly than some of it neighbours to address food security issues.  Given the regional nature of this crisis in the Horn of Africa, it is important to look at what lessons and expertise it can pass on", noted Mr. Bondevik.

"We discussed how Ethiopia could become a stronger player in the regional arena and contribute to solving the common problems faced by its neighbours related to extreme vulnerability to drought and threats to livelihoods", he added.

The Special Humanitarian Envoy and his party also met the African Union's Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Rosebud Kurwijila, and the Director-General of the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Agency, Simon Mechale, discussing with the latter the positive donor response to Ethiopia's Humanitarian Appeal.

Ethiopia launched its own Humanitarian Appeal in January 2006 requesting $166 million.  To date, $59.6 million (36 per cent) has been received from the international community.

Tomorrow, Mr. Bondevik will travel to Kereyu Gada village, 190 kilometres east of the capital Addis Ababa, where he will meet pastoralist elders from the most drought-affected areas of the country.  This will be a unique opportunity for the Special Humanitarian Envoy to hear pastoralist leaders share their concerns on issues related to conflict, government policies and the impact of drought and humanitarian aid on their livelihoods.

For further information, please call:  Stephanie Bunker, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)-New York, tel: +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679; Kristen Knutson, OCHA-New York, tel: +1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570.

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