Eritrea bars three foreign aid groups


Mar 23, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Eritrea has ordered three foreign non-governmental aid groups to suspend their activities despite hunger threatening two-thirds of the population of the Horn of Africa nation.

The ministry of labor and human welfare told Irish aid group Concern, US Mercy Corps and British Accord that they had not “met the requirements laid down for an operational permit”.

The letters didn’t specify what requirements the groups had failed to meet.

The letters read, the ministry “kindly officially informs you that the registration certificate is recalled and requests the termination of your activities”.

Last month, the government also ordered six Italian aid groups to stop their operations in the country.

In recent months, Asmara had been stressing the dangers of dependency on foreign aid and instituted policies intended to cultivate self-reliance.

In September, it stopped most free distribution of food aid, and called for “food for work” programmes to be put in place.

Diplomats said that owing to the halt, there were some 100 000 tons of food aid stocked in warehouses, some of which had started rotting.

According to the United Nations, two-thirds of Eritrea’s 3.5 million population needed food aid in 2005 and while there were no figures yet for 2006, most of Eritrea’s neighbours were suffering from a scorching drought that threatened millions with starvation.

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