IRIN News Briefs [19990615]

IRIN News Briefs [19990615]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs, 15 June

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Renewed heavy fighting

Fighting between Ethiopian and Eritrean forces continued on Tuesday for the sixth day in a renewed phase of what both parties have described as "heavy fighting" on the Mereb-Setit front near the contested border region of Badme. Eritrea claimed in a statement received by IRIN on Tuesday that about 18,000 enemy soldiers had been killed, wounded or captured since Thursday, and that it had also destroyed five Ethiopian tanks, two MiG-23 fighter jets and one MI-35 helicopter gunship. Ethiopian press spokeswoman Selome Taddesse denied the loss of the two jets and claimed that a total of 8,200 Eritreans had been killed, wounded or captured. Less intensive fighting was also reported on a second front at Bure.

ERITREA: "Urgent appeal" launched for war displaced

The Eritrean Relief and Refugee Commission (ERREC) on Tuesday claimed that "58,000 Eritreans have been expelled from Ethiopia while 250,000 Eritreans have been internally displaced, becoming entirely dependent on emergency relief assistance" as a result of the conflict. A commission statement bemoaned the "low response" by external agencies to Eritrea's need for food, shelter, health supplies and facilities, and said "much of the response to the emergency relief needs was covered from government sources, borrowing and diversion of funds from other programmes."

The government, disappointed with this response, has suggested extending the appeal beyond those donors present in Asmara, according to humanitarian sources. ERREC has also issued an additional "urgent appeal" for US$ 3.1 million to cover "short-term expenses" in relation to receiving and settling deportees.

ETHIOPIA: Fear of serious army worm infestation recedes slightly

Though army worms were reported to have infested large swathes of cropland and pasture last month, especially in the Somali region, the fear of a serious infestation countrywide seems to have "quietened down somewhat", a UN emergencies unit spokesman in Addis Ababa told IRIN. The outbreak in the Somali region, which gave rise to fears of a spread through the Rift Valley and into Tigray, was brought under control by urgent government action and heavy rains which drowned the worms. The regions of Welo and Tigray were still in particular danger - with farmers planting crops that will be sprouting in the coming weeks - and the situation would be closely monitored as the peak season for army worms at the end of June and start of July approached, he added.

Hardship causing abnormal migration to urban areas

Migration to lowland in search of wage labour - a typical coping mechanism in 'the hungry season' before harvest time - has been abnormally high recently in many areas of Ethiopia visited by humanitarian assessment missions, with 13,000 people out-migrating in South Tigray and North Welo alone, and reports from several urban areas of an increasing number of destitute people, according to a UNDP situation report received by IRIN on Tuesday. With food distribution underway, people were expected to return to those areas, but a grave situation was feared in Hararghe where large number of destitute people have been moving to urban areas in search of relief assistance, the report warned.

Though forecasts suggested a normal to better than normal rainy season (kiremt) to come, poor belg rains failed to adequately replenish pastures and water supplies for livestock in lowland and agro-pastoral areas such as West and East Hararghe, and East Shewa, the report said. The low rainfall also delayed planting for this year's meher season, which means the opportunity to plant high-yielding crops has passed and farmers will be forced to plant short-cycle, low-yielding crops. With 43 percent of rural, crop-based households estimated to be food insecure even in relatively good years, the UNDP report suggested that prospects were already for a poor harvest and increased need for food relief.

SOMALIA: Multiple factors threaten food security in the south

The food security situation in southern Somalia looks increasingly precarious as a result of erratic rainfall, poor livestock conditions, continuing conflict and the cumulative effect of recurring emergencies, according to a report from the inter-agency Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU), received by IRIN on Tuesday. "The combination of ... early signals with the possible trends of livestock and trade suggests that the conditions exist for a food crisis to materialise over the coming months", the report stated.

While the population in the southern regions has shown limited signs of food insecurity so far - probably as a result of food and non-food aid to vulnerable populations since December - "food security crises are increasingly likely to occur" in the context of a shrinking capacity of people to cope, particularly among the poor sections of rainfed farmers, agro-pastoralists and pastoralists, the report said. While the effects of conflict on crop production and population shifts are unpredictable, the "latest security risks suggest the current vulnerability projection may soon be revised downwards", the FSAU stated.

Kismayo reported calm after falling to SNF

The southern port of Kismayo was reported calm on Monday after its seizure from the Somali Democratic Movement (SDM) of Mohamed Said Hirsi ('General Morgan') by the Somali National Front (SNF), with whom Hussein Aideed is allied, media sources said. At least 26 people were killed and another 45 wounded in Friday's fighting, with civilians accounting for most of the dead and wounded, the sources said.

Tribal elders were busy discouraging looting and revenge killings by SNF fighters, who suffered heavy losses in earlier unsuccessful attempts to take Kismayu, Reuters reported on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Somali media reported violent clashes in Galkaio, northeastern Somalia, between supporters of the Hawiye clan of Hussein Aideed and those of Abdullahi Yusuf, leader of the self-declared state of 'Puntland', who were protesting the seizure of Kismayo.

RRA captures Bur Acaba on drive to Qoroley

The Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA) has captured the town of Bur Acaba, 95 miles north west of Mogadishu, in what appeared to be a drive southeast from Baidoa to Qoroley where rebels of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) have set up base, AP news agency reported on Monday. The agency quoted RRA spokesman, Ali Aden Qalinleh, as saying that its next mission would be "the liberation of Digil and Mirifle territories" lying between the Juba and Shabelle rivers. The area includes Qoroley and the port of Merka.

Human rights office attacked in Mogadishu

A human rights organisation in the Singani district of North Mogadishu came under attack from an unidentified group of armed men on Sunday night and was then the scene of heavy fighting as armed militiamen from the headquarters of Ali Mahdi Mohamed, whose forces control the district, drove off the attackers with the help of local civilians. Co-chair of the Dr Ismail Jumale Human Rights Centre, Hassan Shireh Sheikh, said it had the records of almost all serious human rights violations during the civil war and had been the subject of serious intimidation in the past few months, the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, reported on Monday.


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Item: irin-english-1034

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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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