NAIROBI – For the second time in just over six months, a shortage of funds is forcing the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to reduce the size of food rations temporarily for about half a million refugees living in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps in northern Kenya.
Starting on Monday, refugees in the camps – most of whom come from Somalia and South Sudan – will receive 30 percent less food than usual. WFP expects that the ration cut will need to continue at least through September unless new funds become available very quickly.
“We are very worried about how this cut may affect the people who rely on our assistance,” said Thomas Hansson, WFP’s Acting Country Director for Kenya. “But our food stocks are running out, and reducing the size of rations is the only way to stretch our supplies to last longer. We hope that this is only a temporary measure and we continue to appeal to the international community to assist.”
The 30-percent cut in general food rations for the refugees comes as WFP struggles to raise US$39.4 million to cover shortfalls through January next year, of which US$12.4 million is urgently required to avoid a critical food gap in August and September.
WFP distributes 9,300 metric tons of food for 500,000 refugees each month at a cost of US$9.6 million in the camps. Every two weeks, refugees collect a general food ration of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil, salt, and a nutrient-enriched flour made from soya and maize. Together, these provide 2,100 kilocalories per person per day, the recommended minimum energy intake.
Starting on 15 June, the refugees’ daily food ration will contain a smaller quantity of cereals, and will provide only 1,520 kilocalories per day, a 30 percent decrease in their daily intake.
WFP’s food stocks for refugees are dwindling, and although a substantial contribution of food is expected to arrive in time to meet part of the needs for October, it is possible that deeper cuts may be necessary in the coming months if no new resources arrive.
If there is an immediate response from donors, however, WFP would be able to buy food available in the region and quickly transport it to the camps to reduce the impact of the cuts on refugees.
In mid-November 2014, a shortage of funds meant that WFP was forced to cut the ration by half. The following month, new funding allowed WFP to reduce the size of the cut, and full rations were resumed from the start of this year.
The latest reduction in food rations is at a critical time when WFP is in the process of introducing electronic vouchers to replace part of the food rations. These give refugees access to a wider range of food available in local markets, and a choice of which foods to buy for their families.
In addition to twice-monthly general food distributions, WFP also provides specialized fortified foods to young children, and pregnant women and nursing mothers, to stave off malnutrition. Primary and pre-primary school students receive porridge in school, which helps them concentrate on their classes and acts as an incentive to their families to send them to school. So far, these are not expected to be affected by the cuts.
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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 75 countries.
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