US donation stems cuts in refugee rations worldwide

Published on 01 September 2006

With several of its refugee operations threatened by severe funding difficulties earlier this year, WFP has welcomed a cash donation of US$11.5 million from the US government’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

With several of its refugee operations threatened by severe funding difficulties earlier this year, WFP has welcomed a cash donation of US$11.5 million from the US government’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

A refugee’s existence is hard, even in the best, well-organised camps. We should never forget that

James Morris, WFP Executive Director

“Thanks to this timely and generous US contribution, there will now be sufficient funding for nine refugee operations in Africa and a further three in Asia – until the end of this year,” said James Morris, WFP Executive Director.

“When refugees are on the move they attract more media – and therefore donor – attention,” Morris continued.

“Take Sudan: those fleeing in fear from Darfur, or trekking on foot back home in South Sudan make the headlines. But spare a thought for the Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees in Eastern Sudan, some of whom have been there for 30 years.”

Vulnerable beneficiaries

Refugees, whether long or short-term, are often among WFP’s most vulnerable beneficiaries – because their access to food and income is always extremely limited.

In Sudan, WFP is currently distributing food aid to 73,000 refugees in seven camps in Kassala state.

A further 12,000 receive food aid in camps in Sennar, Gedaref and Gezira states.

Most of the families in the camps are headed by women, whose ability to obtain food or employment is restricted by social and cultural traditions.

"Human wave"

A human wave of returnees followed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan in early 2005.

Last year, WFP provided a transit food package, plus three months’ worth of food commodities (upon arrival) to some 11,000 refugees involved in a UNHCR-organised return.

A further estimated 80,000 spontaneous returnees applied for and received food aid on reaching their destination.

In Kenya, where WFP feeds more than 230,000 refugees in two camps, Dadaab and Kakuma, the agency is bracing itself for an influx of refugees from Somalia.

Fleeing food insecurity

Some 18,000 people have fled insecurity across the border since January. The refugee population is mainly Somali (62 percent) and Sudanese (33 percent).

“Insufficient funding or competing emergencies – such as that in the Horn of Africa earlier this year – have forced us to reduce rations to refugees, which of course results in enormous stress,” said Morris.

“A lack of funding meant we had to cut rations in mid March by 20 percent of the minimum 2,100 kilocalories required per person per day. But new pledges allowed us to restore almost complete rations from mid May onwards.”

Similarly, in southern Chad, food rations have had to be cut to vulnerable new arrivals from the Central African Republic. WFP assists some 44,000 refugees in three camps.

Ensuring supplies

In the East, food distributions for August to 212,000 refugees from Darfur have been completed and pre-positioning for the rainy season is done.

Although distributions currently continue as normal, funding is still needed to ensure food supplies into 2007.

In western Tanzania, WFP feeds some 330,000 refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo who live in 12 camps; funding shortages have led to periodic ration cuts with WFP providing only two-thirds of the recommended daily intake.

In southern Africa, WFP has sufficient resources to assist refugees until the end of 2006 in Osire camp, in Namibia.

Most of the 6,000 refugees in Osire are from Angola, though some are from the DRC, and two thirds have been in Namibia for decades and no longer have ties with their home country.

New operation

A new two-year operation is planned to begin in January 2007.

In Zambia, WFP provides food aid to some 69,000 refugees – most of them Congolese – whose return home is uncertain following tension after the first round of presidential elections.

WFP aims to help repatriate about 12,000 Angolan refugees this year by providing food assistance for their journey home.

But in Angola itself, a critical lack of resources has obliged WFP to reduce food rations to around 30,000 returnees hoping to re-start their lives.

"A refugee’s existence is hard, even in the best, well-organised camps. We should never forget that,” said Morris.

“Providing food assistance is the least we can do to make refugees’ lives more tolerable, until they can realise their dream: to go back home.”