Short: Ethiopian war is hampering aid

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The Independent Online

Britain is considering how it can step up aid to famine-stricken Ethiopia, International Development Secretary Clare Short said today.

Ms Short said £2.4 million of UK food aid was already being distributed to the worst hit regions.

But she also urged an end to Ethiopia's continuing war with Eritrea, as a vital step in securing the country's long-term future.

"The situation in Ethiopia is very serious. Many Ethiopians are particularly dependent on food aid in most years," said Ms Short in a statement released at Westminster.

"Rain failures over the past few years have left many Ethiopians highly vulnerable.

"The failure of the last three years' rains is the root cause of Ethiopia's current crisis, but there is little doubt that the continuing conflict with Eritrea is hampering the response to the relief effort and valuable resources are being diverted to perpetuating the conflict."

She urged all sides to "intensify their efforts" to bring the conflict to an end "so that all efforts can be focused on providing relief and on the longer-term struggle against deep-seated poverty in Ethiopia".

Ms Short said a Government assessment team had recently returned from the area.

"We have already responded to requests for assistance, providing some £2.4 million of food aid, which will be distributed to some of the worst affected regions.

"We are currently considering how we can further contribute to the international relief response and will be making decisions on this in the coming days," she added.