Ethiopia, faced with a rapidly deteriorating food situation, is appealing for emergency shipments from donor countries to spare an estimated 7.3 million people suffering from drought and civil war.

The head of the Ethiopian Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, Yilma Kassaye, said Monday that his country needs 1.1 million tons of food this year, a sharp increase over previous estimates.Kassaye said in a telephone interview from Addis Ababa that the needs have increased because of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have gone to Ethiopia from neighboring Sudan and Somalia. In addition, he said, 300,000 Ethiopians who had been living in Somalia have returned to their homeland.

Somalis and Ethiopians have been fleeing Somalia because of civil strife there and the collapse of the economy. Some Sudanese have relocated in Ethiopia because the food crisis in the Sudan is even greater than in Ethiopia.

Willard Pearson, the U.S. Agency for International Development representative in Ethiopia, agreed that the new arrivals in Ethiopia, particularly the eastern part of the country, have made a bad situation worse.

"These people arrived in the most remote and harshest region of Ethiopia and are in very, very bad shape," Pearson said.

Other officials said Kassaye's estimates on the number of needy Ethiopians may be exaggerated but acknowledged the situation there is very bad because of drought and civil war.