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Aid agencies seek assistance as food shortages hit 800,000 African refugees

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July 2, 2014 (GENEVA) – The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that funding difficulties, compounded by security and logistical problems, have forced cuts in food rations for nearly 800,000 refugees in the African continent.

The situation, it said, could worsen to unacceptable levels of acute malnutrition, stunting and anaemia, particularly in children.

At a meeting with government representatives in Geneva, WFP executive director Ertharin Cousin and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, made an urgent joint plea for $186 million to allow WFP to restore full rations and prevent further cuts elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR says it needs $39 million for nutrition support it provides to malnourished and vulnerable refugees throughout Africa.

“Many refugees in Africa depend on WFP food to stay alive and are now suffering because of a shortage of funding,” Cousin said.

“So we are appealing to donor governments to help all refugees – half of whom are children – have enough food to be healthy and to build their own futures,” he added.

Across Africa, 2.4 million refugees in some 200 sites in 22 countries reportedly depend on regular food aid from WFP. Currently, a third of those refugees have seen reductions in their rations, with refugees in Chad facing cuts as high as 60%

Supplies have reportedly been cut by at least 50% for nearly 450,000 refugees in remote camps and other sites in the Central African Republic, Chad and South Sudan.

In addition, a series of unexpected, temporary ration reductions has affected camps in several countries since early 2013 and into 2014, including in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cameroon. Some cuts were also due to insecurity that affected deliveries.

“The number of crises around the world is far outpacing the level of funding for humanitarian operations, and vulnerable refugees in critical operations are falling through the cracks,” said Guterres.

“It is unacceptable in today’s world of plenty for refugees to face chronic hunger or that their children drop out of school to help families survive,” he added, while calling for a rethink on funding for displacement situations worldwide.

Meanwhile, a joint UNHCR-WFP report issued Tuesday in Geneva says that refugees were among the world’s most vulnerable people and warns that reductions in their minimum rations can have a devastating impact on already weakened populations.

(ST)

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