Potential crisis in Ethiopias Somali region can be averted says UN relief

28 November 2007Wrapping up his first official visit to Ethiopia, the United Nations humanitarian chief today called for prompt action to avert a serious crisis in the country’s Somali region, where fighting has left hundreds of thousands of people in need of life-saving assistance. The situation in the Somali region featured prominently in discussions between UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes and senior Ethiopian officials, including the Prime Minister, his Deputy and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the capital, Addis Ababa. Humanitarian conditions have worsened in the region in the past several months due to fighting between the Ethiopian National Defence Forces and the Ogaden National Liberation Front. Mr. Holmes, who visited the strife-torn region yesterday, shared his observations about the humanitarian situation there and expressed concerns of the aid community on the ground. He also discussed ways in which the UN could support the Government in its efforts to provide relief to affected populations. The UN has dispatched more than 7,300 metric tonnes of food to the five military zones in the region, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Preparations are also being finalized to deploy 15 mobile health teams, including 10 in the area of conflict.“There are grounds for concern regarding the potential for a very serious humanitarian crisis,” Mr. Holmes said. “But we can avert this if we take all the necessary actions, working alongside the Government.”While in Addis Ababa, Mr. Holmes also met with representatives of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), including the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Azouz Ennifar, with whom he discussed issues relating to the Ethiopia-Eritrea border situation.In addition, the Emergency Relief Coordinator held talks with the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Said Djint.

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