Eritrea president dismisses food crisis fears despite drought
by Staff Writers
Nairobi (AFP) Jan 23, 2016
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Saturday dismissed fears the Horn of African nation faces a food crisis, despite sweeping drought across the wider region leaving millions in need of aid.
Floods and failed rains caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon have sparked a dramatic rise in the number of people going hungry in east Africa.
But authoritarian and isolated Eritrea has long rejected UN food aid in favour of a policy of self reliance, and Isaias said he was not worried.
"In view of the harvest shortfall that has affected the whole Horn of Africa region, President Isaias stated that the country will not face any crisis in spite of reduced agricultural output," the information ministry said, after he was interviewed by state-run media.
Isaias praised the government's "judicious policy and approaches of bolstering its strategic food reserves."
In November, the UN warned that Eritrea was among the countries at risk, like all the other nations in the wider region.
"The current El Nino pattern, being the strongest ever recorded, has caused severe drought in the Horn of Africa nation, resulting in crop reduction by 50 to 90 percent; even failure in some regions," the United Nations said earlier this month.
In Ethiopia, over 10 million people need food aid, it added.
In Eritrea, few if any major foreign aid agencies are allowed operate, while the UN has limited access across the country, and most assessments are dependent on government reports.
Thousands of Eritreans flee the county each month, saying they are escaping conscription and rampant rights abuses.
Refugees from the repressive Red Sea state make up the third-largest number of people risking the dangerous journey to Europe after Syrians and Afghans, running a gauntlet of ruthless people smugglers to make the treacherous Mediterranean crossing.
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