Britain threatens to drop £130 million annual aid to Ethiopia
Sunday 19 October 2008 01:30.
By Tesfa-alem Tekle
October 18, 2008 (ADDIS ABABA) — After visiting in one of Ethiopia’s worst drought-hit areas of the Somali region a British minister on Friday accused Meles-led, Ethiopian government of hiding the scale of famine crises and warned that his country will hold back future aid commitment to the horn of Africa’s nation.
After visiting the Somali region and hearing the testimony of aid organizations as well as evidence of attempts by the authorities to hide the scale of the crisis, Minister for International Development, Douglas Alexander told the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi that that Britain would not guarantee future payments to the country.
The minister arrived Ethiopia on Thursday, initially with a proposal committing millions of funds to the nation.
“In light of our continued concerns, I said I was now not prepared to make a multi-annual commitment,” Alexander said.
"In the months ahead I will be discussing the funding position with Europe and the United States," he said. "I am not making a decision now because of the continuing issues I have seen here."
The official has visited hospitals, drought affected people, starving and malnourished children and mothers of the region.
An international health worker on a condition of anonymity uncovers that children had been taken away from hospital ahead of the minister’s arrival to avoid “embarrassing” press pictures of the nation.
"I come here every day and they are always here," the health worker said. "I don’t know where they are now," he told reporters
"They’ve hidden them," the health worker said adding "The Government doesn’t want to acknowledge this crisis because it’s bad for their image"
The British minister raised the incident later in his meeting with Zenawi. "If it’s true that they moved severely malnourished children, that is unconscionable," he said. Zenawi promised to investigate, calling the incident "despicable".
A number of aid agencies who operate in the region have complained that with mandatory government permission and military escorts it was impossible to conduct surveys to examine the scale of the crises.
Meanwhile the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in a new caution says that drought-hit Ethiopians are facing a worsening food situation as the cost of maize soars nearly three-fold.
Earlier this week, OCHA appealed for more than $265 million to fund relief operations in Ethiopia for the next three months to meet the widening scale of the crisis, with some 6.4 million people now estimated to need urgent assistance.
|Britain Reconsiders Aid Package for Ethiopia|
18 October 2008
Britain says it will review its aid package to Ethiopia after discovering malnourished children had been hidden from a visiting British official during a recent visit to the country.
|Okule Buli helps her five-year-old daughter Jamila sit up in her bed in the Intensive Care Unit of a medical center run by Medecins Sans Frontiers in Kuyera, Ethiopia, 02 Sep 2008 |
British officials say International Development Minister Douglas Alexander toured a hospital in Ethiopia's war-torn Somali region during a two-day visit to the country this week.
Alexander learned that many of the malnourished children he expected to find at the hospital had been removed before his arrival.
The minister told British media that he confronted Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and told him that it was unconscionable if severely malnourished children had been moved.
Alexander says he refused to make a commitment for future aid to the Ethiopia. Britain gives about $225 million in aid each year to Ethiopia, making it the largest recipient of British aid in Africa.
British officials say they believe the incident is a sign Ethiopia is downplaying the effects of a drought in the Somali region.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.