URGENT FUNDS NEEDED TO PREVENT RATION CUTS FOR REFUGEES IN ETHIOPIA
ADDIS ABABA - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today it would be forced to make a drastic cut in food rations for 118,000 refugees in camps in Ethiopia, unless donations of US$4.2 million are made urgently to provide enough food for at least the next six months.
WFP said it needed an additional 8,500 metric tons of cereals, vegetable oil, pulses, salt and blended foods. If new contributions are not forthcoming, WFP must reduce rations to beneficiaries by 30 percent from January 2005. Cereal stocks are expected to run out by next April.
This ration cut would lower the beneficiaries' nutritional intake from the recommended 2,100 kilocalories per person per day to 1,500 kilocalories. Cereals comprise almost 80 per cent of the daily food consumed by the refugees, 90 percent of whom are from Sudan, with the remainder from Somalia and Eritrea.
"When rations are reduced, the health of beneficiaries deteriorates; young children, women and the elderly in particular, become more vulnerable to malaria," said Georgia Shaver, WFP Country Director in Ethiopia. "When epidemics occur, mortality rates are much higher than in normal circumstances, when refugees are properly fed."
The shortfall could also delay the repatriation of 6,500 Somali refugees currently in eastern Ethiopia. Without funding, WFP cannot provide them with a repatriation food package before their departure.
Refugees in Ethiopia depend almost entirely on food assistance. Their self-reliance is limited by the scarcity of income-generating activities. Equally limited is the availability and access to arable land for growing their own food.
WFP stressed that with the exception of vegetable oil, the commodities needed for the refugees could be purchased quickly locally if donors provided cash, rather than in-kind contributions.
WFP has so far received US$3.4 million of the US$26.7 million that it requires to assist the 118,000 refugees in Ethiopia through the twelve months from January 2005. Contributions have come from the United States (US$2.5 million), Switzerland (US$76,792) and from multilateral funds (US$750,00).
The current WFP programme for refugees in Ethiopia began in July 2002 and concludes at the end of this year. Funding for that operation came from various governments including the United States (US$13.6 million), France (US$2.8 million), Canada (US$1.3 million), Finland (US$1.1 million), Japan (US$845,000), Saudi Arabia (US$368,000), Germany (US$269,000), Luxembourg (US$294,000) and Cuba (US$181,000).
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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