In Kenya, Refugees Happy To Get Dates Despite Ration Cuts

With the support of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, The World Food Programme (WFP) has provided 212 metric tons of dates to the refugees in Dadaab, Kenya.

Dates are bitter sweet as ration cuts occur

Dates are traditionally used for breaking the fast during Ramadhan. The fruit is considered beneficial for its high levels of natural sugars and, therefore, appropriate for the fast-breaking meal.

“I can tell that the food ration has been reduced just by looking at the bag. I normally get about twice this amount,” said Halima Aden Gure, a 29-year-old mother of six.

Halima is one of the 350,000 refugees living inside the expansive Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya. She fled here at the height of the drought and famine that ravaged parts of Somalia four years ago. It is her turn to collect the family’s share of food. The portions are measured per the size of the family and are given out twice a month.

In mid-June, WFP reduced the overall size of the ration by a third due to a shortage of funds. The reduction impacts the cereal in the food basket – on this day wheat flour.

Even when the ration is full, Halima said that it is never enough. “I have six children and my husband does not have a job. I have to borrow from my relatives. It will be harder now that we are receiving smaller portions.”

Dates for Ramadhan

This is the second food distribution cycle in the month of June, and it coincides with the start of Ramadhan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims. “Even though I received less flour than usual, I’m excited that I have received two packets of dates. I was hoping for the dates, since it is the beginning of Ramadhan,” said Halima with a smile. “We got dates last year as well, so it is now becoming a tradition.”

Halima is delighted that she has two packets of dates, each weighing two kg though at the same time she wondered if they will last her for the full Ramadhan period. “I will stretch the two packets for as long as I can, and for the rest of the days, I will cook porridge,” she explained.

With the support of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, WFP has given 212 metric tons of dates to the refugees in Dadaab - this is in addition to the US$10 million that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia donated to WFP earlier this year. These dates provided a family of six with a two-kilo pack while the largest family – that of 16 – received five packets. This is in addition to the US$10 million that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia donated to WFP earlier this year.

Risk of prolonged cuts

Louise Sowe is the head of WFP’s office in Dadaab. “In the immediate term, we expect the refugees to absorb the food reduction by drawing on the pre-existing coping methods, for instance skipping one meal a day. However, we are concerned that if this ration cut is prolonged or deepened, these survival tactics will become overstretched and then we will begin to see a decline in their nutritional status.”  

Many refugees, especially the larger families, depend on each other to fill the food gaps. Halima’s priority is to feed the younger children first. “Three of my children are in primary school, and luckily, they eat porridge in school,” said Halima. “It is common for us to eat together as neighbours.”

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Story by Martin Karimi, WFP Kenya