Eritrea Lashes out at BBC over Hunger Report

Martin Plaut's latest anti-Eritrea campaign

By TesfaNews,

The Eritrean embassy in London has issued a press statement protesting Martin Plaut’s latest blackmailing report on the BBC World Service programme that said “up to two in three Eritreans going hungry.”  His accusations, however, have no substance except that it is designed to maintain the failed effort of creating a hunger stricken image of Eritrea.

The following is the full content of the official Press Statement.

Press Statement:
BBC’s Distorted Reporting on Hunger and the Real Facts in Eritrea

BBC World Service in its programme presented by Martin Plaut on 4 September 2011 has shamelessly reported that “up to two in three Eritreans are going hungry”. As a continuation of the recurrent cycles of drought seen in the Horn of Africa in the last six decades and the luck of pragmatic policies, it is true that drought and famine have again become the main agenda in the region this year. The Government of Eritrea, however, again states that the situation in Eritrea is different and the following aspects are worth mentioning:-

  1. Food security has been taken as a priority of priorities in Eritrea and extensive investment has been done towards this end with promising successes so far.  By implementing the strategy of self-reliance, it has revealed the viable way to shift away from food aid dependency and a foundation for the long term goal of food security has already been established.
  2. It was thus not a miracle that Eritrea achieved a bumper harvest in 2010 as a result of the concerted effort done in transforming the agriculture sector and the promotion of food security. The effort has been redoubled in 2011 and as the rains in most parts are so far ample, a promising harvest is also expected this year and the result will be seen in the near future.
  3. There is no hunger in Eritrea and food prices and prices of grain in particular have gone down significantly in the last 10 months. But there is no complacency here as food security goes beyond the fulfillment of the demands of just few years. The long-term strategic goal and effort to promote food security continues to be a major issue of sustainability but will definitely require time, space and organization. However, the pragmatic policies and practices have certainly so far shown that “it can be done” and there is already the political will and commitment to go along that path.
  4. It is also essential to note that food security has successfully been integrated into the social sector strategy of the nation and is seen in relation to poverty elimination. Among the other human security issues, health security has become a remarkable achievement in the society.

The accusations labeled by the BBC thus negate the reality in the country and misjudge the commitments, deeds and responsibilities of the Government in promoting human security. Inoccasions of extreme emergencies that are beyond the realms and capabilities of the people and Government, Eritrea’s responsibility to alter the international community and seek the support and cooperation of friends and partners is on the record. It is thus legitimate to remind the BBC of the following hard facts:-

  1. Its reporting of 25 July, 2002 under the title “Eritrea issues drought warning”, in which it quoted the Eritrean Government Statement as “Eritrea hereby alerts the international community to a looming humanitarian crisis and appeals for an urgent response”
  2. The above drought warning was almost ten years ago and a time when the country was affected by the sequences of 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia on top of the continues failure of harvest between 1999 and 2004. To put facts straight, BBC could be reminded that Eritrea’s total harvest in 2002 was almost the lowest in the history of the country and was only about 30% in comparison to the total bumper harvest in 2010.
  3. The claim uttered that there is an increasing trend of acute malnutrition in children under-five in many areas is also far from reality. Eritrea is one of the few countries which registered success in promoting child and maternal health, child immunization, reduction of mortality rates and the promotion of equitable health services in particular to the rural and periphery areas.

The baseless and unsubstantiated report has clearly shown that the intention is a blackmail campaign in maintenance of the failed effort of ruining the image of Eritrea. The identification of unreliable sources in the report is a testimony to the above fact. BBC’s contention that it’s been difficult to verify the Eritrean government’s claims has by now become a pattern of behavior demonstrated in every aspect of Eritrea’s real development.  In terms of truth, there is nothing more unverifiable as using unverifiable sources to always mislead the general public.

Embassy of the State of Eritrea
London, UK
09 September 2011

Source: The original press release letters: [Page 1 and Page 2]

Drought in Eritrea: Hunger Despite Government Denials

By Martin Plaut,
Africa editor, BBC World Service
04 September 2011

The drought and famine that is devastating the Horn of Africa is affecting more than 12 million people. Yet one country in the region, Eritrea, says it has escaped the crisis, reaping a bumper harvest earlier this year.

But evidence is now mounting that the real situation in the secretive country may be rather different, with up to two in three Eritreans going hungry.

In the last decade Eritrea has become one of the world’s most closed nations with no free press and no opposition. So it has been difficult to verify the Eritrean government’s claims that the population has the food it needs. But it has now been possible to piece together an alternative picture from a variety of sources.

There is an increasing trend of acute malnutrition in children under five in many areas. Satellite imagery from weather monitoring group the Famine Early Warning System shows below average rainfall from June to September.

This is the main rainy season for Eritrea and comes after years of severe drought in consecutive years.

The human impact is to be found in northern Ethiopia. Emaciated Eritreans are crossing the heavily militarised border at the rate of 900 a month, according to journalists in the region. They tell tales of crops that have failed and homes without food.

The American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, recently described Eritrea as a black hole in terms of independent information.

The Eritrean people “most likely are suffering the very same food shortages that we’re seeing throughout the region (and) are being left to starve because there is not access, there’s a clear-cut denial of access by the government of Eritrea of food and other humanitarian support for its people,” Ms Rice said.

Most UN agencies have been refused access to Eritrea and most aid agencies have been expelled.

Even accredited ambassadors have the greatest difficulty in moving freely about the country, to assess the seriousness of the situation. (Source)