Thousands of people in Ethiopia "face imminent death" unless the United States and other donors increase relief assistance to the famine-stricken country, Rep. Howard E. Wolpe (D-Mich.), the chairman of the House subcommittee on Africa, warned yesterday.
He issued a statement through his office here after leading a congressional mission to the east African nation and hearing reports from officials and foreign aid workers.
"All those we spoke with," Wolpe said, "agreed that the top priorities are transport assistance, including spare parts, tires, rough terrain-type trucks, trailers and airlifts, and at least 50,000 metric tons of additional food to be delivered between September and November."
U.N. officials have estimated that 50 to 100 children are dying daily in Ethiopia and that 3 million people are affected by food shortages caused by drought and prolonged civil war.
Wolpe, who has previously criticized the U.S. response to the famine, said "thousands of inhabitants of drought-stricken Ethiopia face imminent death unless there is an immediate increase in the American and international relief assistance to Ethiopia."
The U.S. Agency for International Development is providing $8.4 million in assistance to Ethiopia in fiscal year 1983, but critics have charged that the Reagan administration is reluctant to send aid because of the regime's close ties to the Soviet Union. Administration officials, however, deny this.
AID officials and relief agencies agree that Ethiopia's main problem is transportation difficulties caused by the destruction of bridges and a lack of trucks.
Wolpe's statement noted that the country's terrain and transport problems have limited the reach of international relief efforts so far. He added, "At least 1 million famine stricken Ethiopians who potentially could be assisted have not yet received any help. Thus only half of those who are considered accessible are currently receiving aid."
AID last month asked the U.N. Disaster Relief Organization to oversee emergency aid to Ethiopia.