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ETHIOPIA: UN and government agree aid delivery to Somali region

NAIROBI, 19 October 2007 (IRIN) - In a bid to avert a humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia's Somali region, the government and the UN have agreed measures to ensure that food aid, medicines and other relief supplies reach vulnerable people in the area.

The UN and Ethiopia's Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Agency are to establish joint support centres in the most affected areas of the southeastern Somali region to facilitate the logistics of delivering relief food, medicine, veterinary services and livelihood support, according to a statement issued on 18 October by the office of the UN resident representative in Addis Ababa, the capital.

"The Ethiopian Government has assured the UN that humanitarian activities within Somali region will be unrestricted," said Fidele Sarassoro, UN Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Representative. "These developments are very good news for the people of the region. We applaud the excellent collaboration we have seen thus far."

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Ethiopian health ministry had already started distributing medicines to 10 health centres in the Somali region, and food aid deliveries were expected to start as soon as next week, Paul Hebert, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Ethiopia, told IRIN. A UN assessment mission was also due to travel to the region next week.

"We are finalising all plans by today [19 October]," said Hebert.

He said agreement followed a meeting between the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, John Holmes, and Ethiopia's Foreign Minister, Seyoum Mesfin, earlier in October, during which the minister assured Holmes that the government would facilitate the delivery of aid in the Somali region.

The UN had expressed concern over the humanitarian situation and human rights in the area, which could affect 1.8 million people.

In a report issued on 5 October, Hebert warned that a major crisis loomed in the Somali region unless livestock trade, commercial and humanitarian food distribution, urgent healthcare, and access by government service providers and humanitarian partners resumed. Hebert led a mission to the region between 30 August and 5 September.

Under the agreement between the UN and Ethiopian authorities, both parties would provide additional coordination and logistics support through offices to be set up in the town of Dire Dawa, the biggest city in the region.

The Ethiopian government had also indicated it was making efforts to work with the UN to ensure all relief food and other necessities going into the region were properly monitored to ensure aid reached those who most required assistance, according to the UN statement.

The Ethiopian government has also offered to re-establish an immediate commercial air link to Kebridehar and Shilabo, which would further facilitate joint government and UN operations.

International aid access to the remote and arid region bordering Somalia, where government troops are cracking down on the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front, has been limited, sometimes due to insecurity.

The Somali region is poor and largely pastoralist, and the food security of the population is highly sensitive to changes in rainfall and market prices for livestock and staple foods.



Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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