Refugees Face Hunger in East and Central Africa

Published on 03 March 2004

Nairobi - WFP has given a warning that it will have to cut basic food rations to refugees throughout eastern and central Africa unless immediate donations are received.


NAIROBI - The United Nations World Food Programme has given a warning that it will have to cut basic food rations to refugees throughout eastern and central Africa unless immediate donations are received.

WFP needs US$48.3 million to continue feeding some 600,000 refugees located in five main countries of settlement until December 2004. The cash crisis is particularly acute in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, the Republic of Congo and Chad.

"The international community has a responsibility towards refugees - their status is acknowledged and protected by international law," said WFP Regional Director for Eastern and Central Africa, Holdbrook Arthur. "A reduction in food aid will have a devastating impact on the lives, health and morale of refugees in the region. We will fail them if a lack of resources prevents us from feeding them."

The protracted crisis of refugees in the region means that most of them are almost totally dependent on food aid. Frequently confined to camps where arable land is scarce and employment opportunities limited, these people's plight is often forgotten. They have fled brutal conflicts and have virtually nothing to feed their families apart from food aid.

"Previous funding crises that forced WFP to reduce rations to levels below the nutritional standard have had a terrible impact on refugees' health. Malnutrition levels have increased and refugees have become more vulnerable to disease," said Arthur.

Ethiopia - WFP has this week announced a cut in food rations for refugees. The 126,000 affected people - mainly from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea - will receive only 70 percent of the food considered nutritionally adequate. WFP urgently requires US$10 million to avoid further cuts. Having received only 40 percent of the necessary funds, WFP will run out of food in May unless further donations are made.

Kenya - WFP is urgently appealing for US$14 million which would prevent cuts in rations provided to 223,000 refugees from nine countries - most of them from Sudan and Somalia. Many families rely entirely on WFP food. By law, refugees are not allowed to leave the camps and engage in any paid labour; the closed environment of the camps severely inhibits economic activities. Their chances of resettlement in other countries are extremely restricted. For the Somali refugees, there is no immediate plan for repatriation, given the continuing insecurity in their country. A plan has been developed for the repatriation of the Sudanese refugees, although it is not yet clear when this will be implemented.

Sudan - WFP is appealing for US$7 million to make up the shortfall to assist 95,300 Eritrean refugees in 20 camps in the eastern part of the country, living in highly impoverished conditions. The agency has resources for another month and a half, after which cereal stocks will be exhausted. Donor contributions are urgently needed to ensure food is available by April as well as to avoid ration cuts. Food assistance is vital for these people, as income sources are very limited. There is high competition with displaced people and host communities for wage labour, and few refugees have been allocated land. Some 40 to 65 percent of refugee households rely on relatives for support, borrowing from traders, sale of assets and begging to survive. Some 40 percent of families are headed by women. Their access to food and income is severely inhibited by socio-cultural factors. The political affiliation of some refugees as well as insecurity have hampered the repatriation process which began in 2002.

Republic of Congo - WFP is appealing for US$1.5 million to respond to UNHCR's request to provide food assistance to 6,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who are living in precarious conditions in the north of the country (Impfondo and Loukoulela). The appeal is also for 14,000 Congolese refugees returning home from Gabon and the DRC who require initial food assistance to settle.

Chad Following the launch of an emergency operation late last year, WFP recently revised the budget, due to increased numbers of Sudanese refugees settling in camps along the border. To cover the shortfall in providing food for 112,500 of the most vulnerable refugees and local inhabitants, US$14 million is urgently needed. A vital air service, for which WFP is requesting US$1.8 million to facilitate the operation in this remote area, has received very little funding so far.

While peace processes are underway in several refugee home countries, no repatriations are yet taking place. In the meantime, WFP remains responsible for their survival and well-being.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2003 WFP fed 104 million people in 81 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.

For more information please contact:

Wagdi Othman
Public Affairs Officer

WFP/Addis Ababa

Tel. +251-9-201976

Laura Melo
Public Affairs Officer


Tel. +254-2-622594

Brenda Barton
Deputy Director Communications


Tel. +39-06-65132602

Mob. +39-3472582217

Gregory Barrow

Tel. +44-7968-008474

Christiane Berthiaume

Tel. +41-22-9178564

Mob. +41-792857304

Trevor Rowe
WFP/New York

Tel. +1-212-9635196

Mob. +1-646-8241112

Jordan Dey

Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149

Mob. +1-202-4223383