UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency and the World Food Program (WFP) today appealed for $ 266 million to end cuts in food rations for more than 3 million refugees in Africa from the east. Funding shortages have forced cuts of up to 60 percent. Agencies warned of growing risks, including increased malnutrition and anemia, stunted children and a myriad of protection risks.
The impact of the lack of funding on refugee families is compounded by COVID-19 lockdowns and measures to contain the spread of the pandemic, which had already reduced the availability of food in refugee camp markets and dashed the hope of many refugees to help support their families through casual work and small businesses.
“The pandemic has been devastating for everyone, but even more so for the refugees.” said Clementine Nkweta-Salami, director of UNHCR’s regional office for the East, Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes. “Unless more funds are made available, thousands of refugees, including children, will not have enough to eat.”
“Protection concerns are increasing. Food rations or cash cuts lead to negative coping strategies to meet their basic food needs – such as skipping or cutting down on meals, taking out high-interest loans, selling assets, child labor, and increasing violence domesticated. There is often a desperation and a feeling of not having an alternative, ”she said.
“We need to start meeting the food and nutritional needs of refugees in the region now,” said Michael Dunford, WFP Regional Director for East Africa. “The immediate priority for all of us must be to restore assistance to at least a minimum level for refugees, many of whom have lost the lifeline of remittances due to the global impact of COVID-19.”
“We have never experienced such a terrible funding situation for refugees. We have a shortfall of $ 266 million for the next six months for the minimum needs of the refugees. We are deeply concerned that if the cuts continue, they will face a very difficult decision: stay in camps where food and nutrition security is deteriorating or consider risking re-entry when it is not safe.
In the 11 countries covered by the UNHCR Office for East and Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes, 72 percent of the 4.7 million refugees face food cuts in addition to funding gaps already for UNHCR non-food assistance and support.
Nearly 140,000 refugees and asylum seekers live in Rwanda, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. WFP supports 138,000 refugees in camps and 12,500 children in the host community who attend the same schools as the refugees and receive school meals. The 60% reduction is unprecedented and will only worsen food insecurity.
WFP primarily supports refugees in Rwanda through cash transfers, so relatively limited additional funding could reverse the cuts. WFP needs $ 11 million to provide refugees in Rwanda with full rations in cash or food until August.
In Kenya, WFP reduced the food rations of 417,000 refugees by 40%. WFP needs $ 61 million to provide comprehensive food and nutrition assistance to refugees from March to August. In Tanzania, WFP rations for 280,000 refugees are reduced by 32 percent of the minimum number of calories required. WFP needs $ 17 million for refugees in Tanzania until August.
Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, and in February WFP reduced food aid to 1.27 million refugees by 40 percent of the basic survival ration. US $ 77 million is needed until August to provide full rations. In South Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti, WFP needs $ 82 million to provide full assistance through August to nearly one million refugees.
Only refugees in Burundi and Sudan receive full rations. They need a total of US $ 18 million until August.
The United Nations World Food Program is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize winner. We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food aid to pave the way for peace , stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.