GENEVA - With refugee numbers in Kenya failing to decline despite steps toward peace in Somalia and Sudan, the United Nations World Food Programme today appealed for US$6.7 million to feed nearly a quarter of a million refugees in two northern Kenya camps until the end of 2005.
WFP warned that maize, pulses, corn-soya blend and oil for rations would run out by October unless funding is received urgently for 11,720 metric tons of food. By November, wheat and salt would also be exhausted, leaving the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps with no food to distribute.
Despite an agreement in January to end a 21-year war in south Sudan, the number of southern Sudanese in Kakuma is still rising. Citing inter-clan violence and limited resources such as food, shelter, schools, health facilities and employment opportunities, nearly 5,000 additional refugees have arrived in the camp since January, bringing the total population of Kakuma to more than 91,000.
"The expectation was these numbers would begin dropping off once the peace agreement was signed," said WFP Kenya Country Director Tesema Negash. "But the lack of schools, health facilities, food and basic infrastructure - plus uncertainty over the peace deal - has stopped people from returning to their homeland in significant numbers."
"These people are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they return home, they will face the incredible challenge of finding food and water. Yet by staying here in Kenya, they face another uncertainty -- whether they will eat or not," Negash added.
Like those in Kakuma, nearly 140,000 Somali refugees in Dadaab camp in eastern Kenya have shown no signs of moving home, despite the creation eight months ago of an interim Somali government that this month took the first steps to establish itself in the Somali town of Jowhar.
Kenyan law confines refugees to camps in the northern and eastern parts of Kenya where chronic poverty is endemic. The isolated and harsh environment around the camps means that they are highly unlikely to find jobs or any other means of feeding themselves.
"While the international community often responds to new upheavals and natural disasters, long-standing refugee situations, where hundreds of thousands of people depend on food and other aid, are often overlooked and are last in the line for international assistance," added Negash.
From November 2004 until March 2005, refugee rations were reduced because of a shortage of wheat. In May and June this year, rations were also cut because flood-damaged roads delayed deliveries. In the most severe case, rations in Dadaab were cut in May from the recommended 2,166 kilocalories to only 1,660 kilocalories or 77 percent of the ration.
WFP's current operation to assist Kenyan refugees is scheduled to end in September. A new two-year relief and recovery operation valued at US$65 million will run from October 2005 through September 2007. In addition to general food distributions, WFP will continue to provide assistance in the camps through selective feeding programmes and school-feeding, as well as supporting communities living around the camps through food-for-work activities.
The following donors have contributed a total of 27,722 MT of mixed commodities in 2005 to WFP Kenya's refugee operation: USA (US$ 9,374,920) Japan (US$ 359,552) and Sweden (US$3,210,410).
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