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ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (BNO NEWS)Ethiopia‘s rebel group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), on Thursday warned of a “severe drought” in the region, which could develop into famine, African Online News reported.

“The draught has now reached a stage where both people and animals are dying,” the ONLF said in a statement.

“The draught in the Ogaden is more lethal than in other regions in the Horn of Africa because the regime of Meles Zenawi is not only denying the people international help, but is effectively obstructing them from utilizing their own resources,” the rebels added.

The ONLF is fighting a low-scale war for independence in Ogaden – a south-eastern region termed the Somali Province by Ethiopian authorities. The rebels claim the government is withholding aid to actively use the hunger card in the fight.

They claim government troops have “occupied the few water wells in the region, preventing people and livestock from using the wells.” One of the most urgent needs was reported to be water.

International humanitarian agencies have not issued a special famine warning for the Ogaden, but the US-based Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS) in its latest Ethiopia update rates the entire Ogaden region as “highly food insecure,” which is far from a famine alert.

 Access to the Ogaden region is limited for international humanitarian agencies, which mostly rely on information provided by the Ethiopian government making their food security assessments. The government has not issued a particular alert for the Ogaden (or Somali) region.

The ONLF sent an “urgent appeal” to the international community and warned of a catastrophe similar to the country’s famine in 1984 if effective measures are not taken.

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