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UN agencies cut food rations for refugees in Dadaab

01 November 2013, 08:06

Nairobi - The World Food Program (WFP) and UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Thursday that they have been forced to slash food rations for more than half a million refugees in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps due to lack of resources.

WFP's Country Director for Kenya Ronald Sibanda warned that they will be forced again to make further cuts if no additional resources become available, as food stocks will be nearly exhausted by January.

"We hope this will be a temporary measure as we appeal to donors to come to the assistance of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who rely on WFP to meet their daily food needs," Sibanda said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

He said the reduced rations which will begin on Nov. 1 will allow food distributions to continue for the 535,000 camp-based refugees through the end of the year.

"We have done everything possible to avoid this, but it has become necessary to reduce ration sizes by 20 percent in November and December in order to stretch our existing food stocks to last through the end of the year," Sibanda added.

Kenya hosts an estimated 650,000 refugees from the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region, being among the countries hosting the largest refugee population in the world. Dadaab and Kakuma currently house more than 550,000 refugees.

According to the UN, significant numbers of people from Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia have also sought asylum in Kakuma this year. The population increase in Kakuma is worrying as Kakuma had been previously considered for the relocation and decongestion of Dadaab refugee camp that is currently holding more than 470,000 individuals - three times its original capacity.

The UN food agency has been providing food assistance, consisting of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil and salt, to thousands of refugees from across the region since the camps in Dadaab and Kakuma were established more than 20 years ago.

Sibanda said the U.S. government is due to contribute 20 million dollars from the beginning of March 2014, but WFP will require an additional 20 million for January and February to cover a gap in critical food and nutrition assistance to refugees, the majority of whom have no other source of food.

Sibanda lauded donors who have generously supported WFP's refugee operations in Kenya, noting that the agency has taken major strides to improve the efficiency of its assistance program and ensure that only eligible refugees receive food rations.

"While this has resulted in some reduction in the monthly food requirements, WFP needs about 10 million U.S. dollars every month to distribute more than 10,000 tonnes of food to refugees in the two camps in northern Kenya," he said.

UNHCR representative for Kenya Raouf Mazou said the agency believes that the international community recognized the importance of continuing this vital food lifeline for the refugees in Dadaab and Kakuma.

"We are concerned that a reduction in rations could have a negative impact on the health and nutrition of refugees who rely on the food assistance," Mazou said.

WFP's refugee operation in Kenya has faced severe funding challenges over the last year. According to WFP, the 20 percent cut in ration sizes means that refugees will not receive the World Health Organization's minimum recommended energy requirements of 2, 100 kilocalories per day and will instead get 1,680 kilocalories.

"WFP urges donors to respond to its urgent appeal as quickly as possible in order to meet the nutritional requirements of this vulnerable group," Sibanda said. 

- Xinhua


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