The leaders of a Red Cross delegation that this week toured areas of Ethiopia hit hardest by famine said today that there is enough food reaching the country to meet demand in December and January.
The conclusion of the Red Cross officials indicated that enough ships have been diverted to Ethiopia in the past week to avert a December shortfall that famine relief experts had feared would endanger hundreds of thousands in the country's feeding camps.
"I would not see that any camp should have insurmountable difficulties in meeting food needs over the next few weeks," said Hans-Juergen Schiller, who directs African relief operations of the League of Red Cross Societies.
Officials here said today there are nine ships waiting to unload food and equipment at Ethiopia's main port of Assab. Most of the food is trucked in convoys to a distribution depot at Dessie, in north-central Ethiopia.
Smaller emergency loads of food are flown from Assab to small airports near major feeding camps. Loads are being flown in transport planes from the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, East and West Germany and Italy. A load of Canadian wheat was photographed today at the airport here as it was loaded onto a Soviet Antonov plane to be flown to a feeding camp.
In new figures given the Red Cross at a briefing today, the Ethiopian government said 6.4 million people now are affected by the drought. Because of continued drought that has ravaged this year's fall harvest, the government said that 7.7 million will need food by the spring of next year.
The United Nations estimated last month that the Ethiopian famine has claimed 300,000 lives since last March. Schiller said today that about 200 persons are dying each day in Ethiopia's feeding camps.
Richard F. Schubert, the Washington-based president of the American Red Cross, said today that while "the current situation appears well in hand," the "best assessment is that things will get worse next year because of the bad fall harvest." Both Schubert and Schiller said one of their primary fears was that the people and governments around the world would become bored in coming months with the Ethiopian famine and stop sending food.
The International Red Cross in Geneva asked governments and the media "not to lose interest in the African famine," and asked members to give $66 million next year for drought victims in 14 African countries, The Associated Press reported.
Neither the government nor private relief organizations have estimates of the total number of Ethiopians now dependent on food relief. But the number of people being fed by the Ethiopian government, Catholic Relief Services and the Red Cross comes to about 4.8 million.
The government told the Red Cross officials today that 70,000 people have been moved in the past two weeks under its plan to resettle 1.5 million Ethiopians in the next 10 months from the drought-stricken north to southwestern Ethiopia.
Many of these people are loaded onto trucks and Soviet transport planes near major feeding centers. The government has said that all the people who have been resettled are volunteers.