Only 1% of Ethiopian food aid getting through

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The Independent Online

A meagre 1 per cent of the food promised by the international community for the famine-hit regions of Ethiopia has actually arrived, according to the government in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Of the 800,000 tons which the Ethiopians requested from the international community in January, the donors of the industrialised world have pledged to give 450,000. Yet so far only 5,000 tons has arrived, said Ephrem Mehret-ab, a spokesman at the Ethiopian embassy in London yesterday.

The amount of food aid which has been landed at the port in the neighbouring republic of Djibouti for transfer to Ethiopia was described yesterday as "measly" by Sir Bob Geldof, who led the Live Aid effort which raised hundreds of millions of pounds for sub-Saharan Africa during the last big famine in 1984-85.

Writing in The Independent today, Sir Bob describes the delayed response by the developed world as "inexcusable". He dismisses suggestions that it is caused by corruption or by the conflict between land-locked Ethiopia and its neighbour Eritrea whose ports are the obvious route for food aid.

"All these are lame excuses to disguise the incompetence and lack of political will of the Western world," Sir Bob writes. Early warning systems in Ethiopia enabled Addis Ababa to warn as long ago as November that crisis was threatening to turn to disaster. "Nothing happened ... and so far a measly 5,000 tons are all that has arrived in a country where the television cameras are now showing rows of new victims in yet another ghastly parade of children with swollen bellies and stick limbs."

Sir Bob singles out the "notoriously slow and inefficient" emergency operation of the European Union with its "endless need to consult with its various donor constituencies".