NAIROBI – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been forced to make new cuts in food rations for refugees in Kenya amid a severe funding shortage, as the agency is rapidly running out of resources to feed the 434,000 refugees living in Kenya’s Dadaab and Kakuma camps and in the new Kalobeyei settlement.
“We are appealing to donors to quickly come to the aid of the refugees, who rely on WFP food assistance for survival,” said Annalisa Conte, WFP’s Representative and Country Director for Kenya. “WFP immediately requires US$13.7 million to cover the food and cash needs for the refugees between December and April.”
WFP provides food assistance to refugees in Kenya as a combination of cash transfers and food distributions. Starting this month, to stretch food supplies further, WFP was forced to cut the food ration size to half of the refugees’ monthly entitlement. But even with this reduction, the food currently available will only last until the end of February unless WFP receives new funding quickly.
Refugees in Dadaab and Kakuma camps receive a monthly in-kind food basket (cereals, pulses, vegetable oil, and nutrient-enriched flour) and a cash transfer equivalent to a third of their minimum food requirement. The cash allows refugees to buy fresh food products from local markets.
Cash transfers have not yet been reduced, but the funding for cash-based assistance will be exhausted by the end of January if new resources do not become available.
If WFP is forced to discontinue cash transfers, it would have a particularly devastating effect on 7,500 refugees in the newly established Kalobeyei settlement, who receive almost all their food assistance in the form of cash and could thus be left with no food assistance whatsoever. Kalobeyei, 25 kilometers west of Kakuma, is a ‘model’ settlement intended to offer a more durable solution to hosting refugees.
“A generous and critically important US$22 million shipment of food from the United States is en route to Dadaab and Kakuma, and should be available for distribution by May, but we have a dangerous gap in funding until then,” warned Annalisa Conte. “Without an urgent response from other donors, we will completely run out of food for more than 400,000 people in Dadaab and Kakuma at the end of February.”
If donors respond immediately, WFP can quickly resume the much-needed food assistance by using its mobile phone-based system to disburse cash to refugees and by mobilising food commodities from regional stocks.
In addition to the general food ration and cash transfers, WFP provides specialized fortified foods to young children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, to stave off malnutrition. Primary school pupils receive porridge in school, which helps them concentrate on their classes and acts as an incentive to their families to send them to school. For the time being, WFP is able to maintain these critical safety nets for refugees.
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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.
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