WFP today warned that it will no longer be able to provide full food rations to more than 106,000 Bhutanese refugees living in camps in eastern Nepal from January 2007, unless there is an immediate infusion of funds from the international donor community.
The threat of over 100,000 refugees losing access to food could have serious implications on the overall security situation in the country
Richard Ragan, WFP Nepal
Since 1992, the donor community has always come through and provided critical assistance to the Bhutanese refugees, who began arriving in Nepal in 1991 after the introduction of strict citizenship laws in Bhutan.
But no funds at all have been forthcoming for the next two-year programme, which starts on 1 January 2007.
“Despite recent international media and donor attention on the Bhutanese refugee issue, it has not yet translated into the kind of financial support that WFP has received in previous years, putting the health and safety of the refugees at serious risk,” said Richard Ragan, WFP’s Country Representative in Nepal.
“As the international community lines up to support the peace process in Nepal, it is important that the donor community does not forget the needs of existing humanitarian crises like the Bhutanese refugees.”
Under their current status, refugees are restricted from engaging in economic activities outside the camps and from owning land – making humanitarian assistance, like the food aid provided by WFP, critical to fulfilling their basic needs.
“Lack of donor funds for this two-year, US$23.6 million dollar programme means we would not only have to cut food rations to the refugees, but at this critical time in Nepal’s history, the threat of over 100,000 refugees losing access to food could have serious implications on the overall security situation in the country and I appeal to the international community to respond quickly,” Ragan said.
Essential food aid
Since 1992, WFP has been providing essential food aid to the Bhutanese refugees at the request of the Government of Nepal and in close coordination with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
In addition to providing essential food items, WFP provides vitamin-fortified food to 3,000 pregnant and lactating women and young children.
WFP also supports income generating activities aimed at improving the livelihoods of refugees as well as vocational training programmes that assist refugees in becoming self-sufficient once durable solutions are found.