Jun 20, 2008 11:00 PM
Ethiopia accused some aid agencies of exaggerating the impact of a drought afflicting the country to raise money under false pretences.
   
Deputy Prime Minister Adisu Legesse said in a statement that some 4.6 million people and around 75,000 children needed help because of the failure of April-March rains.
   
“But this does not mean there is famine … These humanitarian organisations are showing pictures of emaciated babies on television, telling the world six million children are malnourished and that there will be a calamity unless they receive funds,” he said.
   
“While we appreciate assistance whenever it is needed, we reject being used as publicity to raise funds under false pretences,” said Adisu, who is also Ethiopia’s minister of agriculture and rural development.
   
Adisu did not name the aid agencies in question.
   
Ethiopia, sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populous nation, needs $325 million ($NZ425 million) to provide 400,000 tonnes of food, especially in the south and southeast regions bordering Somalia and Kenya, according to the United Nations.
   
The dire conditions have revived grim memories of the country’s 1984-1985 famine, which killed more than one million.
   
About 85% of Ethiopia’s 81 million people still rely on subsistence agriculture.
   
“The government has imported new technologies to help boost the agricultural output of farmers. They are being provided with fertilisers and selected seeds, as well as other inputs, to help them produce more,” Adisu said.
   
“As we have said earlier, we are committed to boost the country’s annual crop production from the current 16 million tonnes to 30 million tonnes in the shortest possible time.”
   
Adugna Jabessa, Ethiopia’s state minister for water resources, said the government was working with an Israeli company to develop an irrigation system that will cover 274,000 hectares of farmland.
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