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Funding crisis forces WFP to reduce food rations for thousands of refugees in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA - The United Nations World Food Programme announced today that it has been forced to reduce the amount of food distributed to refugees in Ethiopia due to lack of funding. The 126,000 refugees will only receive 70 percent of the food considered adequate for a healthy diet.

WFP urgently requires US$10 million to avoid further cuts in food rations and continue feeding the refugees up to the end of December 2004. So far, WFP has received only 40 percent of the funds required to feed the refugees. WFP will run out of food in May if further donations are not made immediately.

"The imminent cut in food rations will put at risk the health and lives of refugees, especially women and children," said Georgia Shaver, WFP Country Director in Ethiopia. "We will be only able to provide 1,500 kilocalories per person per day, which is well below the minimum 2,100 kilocalories required to carry out a healthy and active life."

The refugees from southern Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea live in camps in western, eastern and northern Ethiopia. Confined to camps where arable land is scarce and other money-making opportunities limited, refugees have few alternative sources of income to feed themselves.

"Lack of sufficient food combined with precarious living conditions will have an impact on the status of refugees," said Shaver. "They will be more vulnerable to disease, and the number of low weight births could increase in the camps."

Political and civil unrest in the Horn of Africa, combined with repeated cycles of drought and other natural disasters, are the main reasons for refugee influxes into Ethiopia.

To date, the Ethiopia refugee operation has received donations totaling US$18 million from the United States, France, Japan, Finland, Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, Germany, Cuba and USA Friends of WFP.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2003 WFP fed 104 million people in 81 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.

For more information please contact:

Wagdi Othman
Public Affairs Officer
WFP/Addis Ababa
Tel. +251-9-201976