WFP forced to cut food rations to refugees in Kenya

Published on 14 March 2006

As a result of insufficient funding, WFP has been forced to reduce food aid rations to some 230,000 Somali and Sudanese refugees living in two camps in remote areas in northeast Kenya.

As a result of insufficient funding, WFP has been forced to reduce food aid rations to some 230,000 Somali and Sudanese refugees living in two camps in remote areas in northeast Kenya.

We regret having to take this decision but hope that it is only a short-term measure as we continue to appeal to the international community to assist these forgotten refugees who depend on us for survival

Tesema Negash, WFP Kenya Country Director

The 20 percent ration cut comes as WFP also struggles to raise US$170 million for its operation to feed 3.5 million Kenyans affected by severe drought. (That operation currently faces a 75 percent shortfall.)

“Our lack of funding has given us little choice. Starting this week, the refugees will be receiving a food ration equivalent to 1,750 kilocalories per day, that’s a 20 percent decrease in their daily intake. This cut will enable us to extend the limited food currently available over the next few months,” said Tesema Negash, WFP Kenya Country Director.

Escalating needs

Without fresh pledges, WFP will run out of pulses this month, cereals and vegetable oil in May, and corn soya blend in June.

WFP Kenya requires US$5 million to provide adequate rations for refugees between now and July and an additional US$14 million until the end of the year.

“Given the escalation in needs across much of the Horn of Africa due to regional drought, donors are already stretched. If these ration cuts for refugees continue, we may see not only increasing insecurity within and around the camps as people clash over limited resources, but also rising malnutrition rates – which are already unacceptably high,” warned Negash.

Forgotten refugees

“We regret having to take this decision but hope that it is only a short-term measure as we continue to appeal to the international community to assist these forgotten refugees who depend on us for survival,” he said.

Despite varying degrees of progress being made on the political front in both Sudan and Somalia, large-scale repatriation of the refugees to their countries of origin has yet to occur.

Restricted to the confines of Dadaab and Kakuma camps, the refugees are not permitted to work and the isolated and harsh environment around the camps means there is little they can do to provide for themselves.

Chronic poverty and malnutrition are endemic.

Acute malnutrition

While the refugees regularly receive food assistance, global acute malnutrition rates are above the 15 percent emergency threshold, with 19.6 percent in Kakuma and 17.5 percent in Dadaab.

A recent WFP-UNHCR nutrition survey conducted in the camps found that poor hygiene and care practices, extreme environmental conditions, limited health infrastructure, and diseases were the main causes for the poor nutritional status.

In addition, refugees will at times sell or exchange a limited amount of the food rations they receive to obtain essential items like soap, firewood and other basic goods.

These ration cuts will not affect WFP’s school feeding or supplementary feeding programmes in the camps and special priority will be given to bolstering supplementary feeding.