WFP CUTS FOOD RATIONS FOR REFUGEES
DAR ES SALAAM Faced with severe funding shortages, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) was forced today to cut food rations to some 400,000 Burundian and Congolese refugees living in 13 camps in western Tanzania.
WFP is urgently appealing to donors for US$14 million to prevent additional cuts and continue feeding the refugees through the first half of 2005.
With inadequate supplies of both cereals and pulses, WFP had to reduce the daily ration of the most important staple, maize, by 24 percent, from 2.5 kilograms to 1.9 kilograms per person per week. Recently WFP was forced to cut the ration of pulses by a similar amount.
"We had no other choice. This harsh measure was unavoidable and could have serious implications as the refugees rely almost entirely on WFP food aid for their survival," said Patrick Buckley, WFP Country Director for Tanzania.
"Regular provision of a full ration is vital for the health of refugees, and our concern is that prolonged cuts will lead to increased instability in the camps," he added.
WFP has appealed to donors for 39,000 metric tons of food, at a value of US$14 million, in order to bridge a gap in food commodities in the first half of 2005. According to Buckley, food arriving from outside Tanzania could take up to six months to reach the refugees, however cash contributions would enable WFP to buy food within Tanzania and neighbouring countries so it could reach the camps within two to three months.
"Donors have to act fast, otherwise food stocks will dry up completely by February," he warned.
The WFP refugee operation assists more than 400,000 refugees in addition to more than 8,000 Tanzanian school children, street children, orphans, hospital patients and others in the host communities surrounding the refugee camps. Many Burundian refugees have returned home over the last two years. The number repatriating has recently slowed because of concerns about the security situation in Burundi while the continuing insecurity in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been preventing most Congolese refugees from returning home.
Recent donors include the European Union (US$ 8,423,586), USA (US$ 5,299,071),
Finland (US$ 292,500), Luxembourg (US$ 248,756), and Japan (US$ 91,500).
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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