Aid will reach Ethiopia's starving, insist charities

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The Independent Online

Aid agencies battling to prevent widespread famine in Ethiopia today reassured potential donors that all emergency supplies would reach those affected, rather than being diverted to country's war with Eritrea.

Aid agencies battling to prevent widespread famine in Ethiopia today reassured potential donors that all emergency supplies would reach those affected, rather than being diverted to country's war with Eritrea.

Development Secretary Clare Short confirmed yesterday that Government long-term aid to the drought-devastated east African nation had been reduced because of concerns the money would be "used to subsidise arms spending".

But aid agencies today sought to make clear the difference between this type of long-term government financial assistance, and the sort of emergency relief they are supplying.

Oxfam said there was no question that any of its relief operation - which was mainly being brought into Ethiopia in the form of food or health supplies - could be diverted.

Spokesman Charles Walker said: "We are concerned that people are clear the emergency aid we are talking about should carry on whether or not there is a war, and that it will reach the people in need.

"What we are saying is that it is late, but not too late, and it is vital we keep the pressure up with aid."

A spokeswoman for the British office of the UN children's agency Unicef reinforced the message, saying further resources for its work with malnourished children were vital.

She said: "We are regularly in contact with our office in Ethiopia, and they assure us there is no evidence of any resources being diverted to the war effort.

"All Unicef money definitely goes to the people in need."

Ms Short's announcement stressed that the reduction in the UK's long-term aid to Ethiopia had been balanced by a significant increase in emergency relief, which was provided "unconditionally to those who are suffering".

Hundreds of thousands of people are threatened by drought and famine in the east of Ethiopia, which has been involved in a bitter border conflict with Eritrea, its northern neighbour, since 1998.

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