N'DJAMENA - The United Nations World Food Programme warned today that it would run out of food by the end of this month for 27,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) trapped in Chad, unless substantial contributions were made.
"These refugees represent the region's forgotten emergency," said WFP Chad Representative and Country Director Philippe Guyon Le Bouffy. "The food stocks are exhausted. If we do not receive more funding for this operation, WFP will be forced to stop assisting these people who are reliant on food aid."
With chronic instability, high rates of HIV/AIDS and severe poverty, the disaster in the CAR is one of sub-Saharan Africa's untold crises. WFP fears that since international attention is focused on the Darfur region of western Sudan, the plight of the CAR refugees in Chad is going largely unnoticed.
"Emergency food rations are a lifeline for these people," Le Bouffy said. "If WFP food aid stops, these refugees will depend on the host communities, who have meagre resources. This could lead to grave socio-economic destabilisation."
The CAR refugees are living in two camps in southern Chad. The 27,000 men, women and children are the remnants of some 40,000 people who fled in late 2002 and early 2003, to escape fighting between government and opposition forces as well as unrest across the country. WFP began providing food aid to the refugees in 2003.
The agency appealed in July 2003 for US$3.4 million to assist the refugees but has so far received less than half at US$1.48 million, leaving a shortfall of $1.92 million. Rampant instability throughout the CAR has prevented the refugees from returning to their homes and farms in the north, where many people cannot even tend their crops for fear of attacks by armed groups.
WFP provides a monthly ration of sorghum, maize meal, oil and beans, as well as special food commodities for pregnant and lactating women and malnourished children in programmes run by Médecins Sans Frontières Belgium.
In addition to the refugees from the CAR, WFP is running a major emergency operation to feed some 180,000 refugees who have fled to eastern Chad from the Darfur region of western Sudan. This operation is also seriously under-funded. Furthermore, WFP is confronting rains and insecurity in its drive to feed up to one million people in the three Darfur states in July.
To date, donors to WFP's operation in Chad for CAR refugees are: USA (US$643,557); Denmark (US$41,023) and from multilateral funds (US$795,096).
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.
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