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Assistance for Ethiopia

May 13, 1988

Although I was impressed by many of the sentiments addressed by Tom Killion in his article "In War-Torn Eritrea, Rebels Gain on Ethiopian Regime Sustained by U.S. Aid" (Opinion, May 1), I am compelled to clarify a couple of misstatements.

When he states that "Americans must ask whether it really makes sense to continue to pour relief and economic development aid into the hands of Ethiopia's Marxist government," he and your readers should understand that the United States provides no economic development aid to Ethiopia. All U.S. assistance to Ethiopians is in the form of humanitarian aid to the famine and war-stricken civilian population and is distributed and monitored by authorized private voluntary organizations. It does not pass through the Ethiopian government.

The United States, in its relief efforts, has traditionally adhered to the policy, "A hungry child knows no politics." The implicit suggestion in the article that aid to the starving be halted because some food may fall into the hands of unintended recipients is to suggest that the innocent be punished thrice--by famine, by war, and by the flawed goals of a government.

As for Killion's report of cases of food clearly marked "Gift of the People of the United States of America" mixed among crates of Soviet ammunition in the Ethiopian military stores in Afabet, there are a number of reasons how this could occur. Among them is the theft by the military of supplies meant for needy civilians; or recycled containers bearing U.S. markings. THOMAS R. BLANK

Assistant Administrator

Bureau For External Affairs


Washington, D.C.

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