Humanitarian agencies say Ethiopia needs $600 million to cope with the crisis
* Ethiopia says has spent $280 mln to tackle crisis
* U.N. says 15 mln people may need food aid by early 2016
By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Ethiopia expects to open a tender to buy additional wheat after purchasing one million tonnes to tackle extreme food shortages due to drought, a senior official said on Wednesday.
Failed rains during the spring and summer have sparked food and water shortages in the Horn of Africa nation, which boasts one of the continent's highest growth rates but depends heavily on rain-fed farming.
The United Nations says 8 million people in the country of 96 million will need food aid but the number could rise to 15 million by early 2016, owing to shortages exacerbated by the effects of the El Nino weather pattern.
"In total, nearly a million metric tonnes have been purchased," government spokesman Getachew Reda told a news conference, adding around $280 million has so far been spent to tackle the crisis.
"A significant part of it is going to be used to address this challenge. An equally significant part will also be meant to address inflationary pressures that could result from some misguided moves in the market," Getachew said.
El Nino, marked by warming sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, causes extremes such as scorching weather in some regions of the globe and heavy rains and flooding in others.
Meteorologists expect El Nino to peak between October and January.
Humanitarian agencies say Ethiopia needs $600 million to cope with the crisis. The United Nations says 350,000 children are expected to require treatment for acute malnutrition in the country by the end of 2015.
"We are going to be okay for the next three or four months, at least from the reserves that we have," Getachew said, adding there had been no loss of life owing to the drought so far.
"We are ready for any eventuality. What that means ... is we will be out in a shopping spree (to buy wheat) once again."
(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; editing by Drazen Jorgic and David Evans)
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