Fears that Eritrea may be hiding its famine victims from the world

 

Concerns are mounting of a possible hidden famine in Eritrea while international aid agencies scramble to fill a "black hole" in information coming out of the isolated Horn of Africa nation.

The UN, Red Cross and other organisations have appealed to the Eritrean government to conduct a joint-assessment as the impact of the drought crisis continues to worsen in neighbouring Somalia and Ethiopia.

Eritrea has so far denied any shortages and accused the international community of crying "crocodile tears" over famine victims in other countries. Ethiopia, where 4.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, as well as 228,000 refugees, claims that more than half the population in Eritrea needs food aid. This has been strongly denied by Eritrea, where presidential adviser Yemane Ghebreab said: "There [are] no food shortages in Eritrea at the present time. Last year, we had a bumper harvest."

In its crisis map of the region the UN has listed Eritrea as "stressed" but officials admit they have almost no information on the situation on the ground. The former Italian colony, once feted for its heroic struggle for independence, has evolved into an international pariah that was this week accused by the UN of planning a bombing campaign against regional rival Ethiopia and has previously been charged with funding Somali militants the Shabab.

The government of long-time leader Isias Afwerki promotes an official creed of self-reliance and regularly insists there is no hunger in Eritrea. The country is almost alone in Africa in refusing foreign aid and has given no detailed information to the UN or the World Food Programme which ceased operations there six years ago. "There's a black hole in information there," said a senior aid official who asked not be identified. "But I'm sure that they're not escaping the effects of this crisis."

Officials at the Red Cross office in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, confirmed that there had been a problem with rains and that they were "waiting for information from the government". According to UN estimates there are now 11.6 million people affected by the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Two area of Somalia have been categorised as famine zones and some 2.2 million people have not yet been reached with aid because of ongoing conflict. Washington's lead official on Africa, Johnnie Carson, has voiced concern over what he calls a "closed and increasingly reclusive country" and appealed for more information.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...