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Amid critical resource shortage, UN agency cuts food rations for refugees in Kenya

For 420,000 refugees living in northern Kenya, insufficient funding has forced the United Nations food relief agency to cut rations by 30 per cent, as it appeals for nearly $30 million for assistance.

“We are facing a critical shortage of resources, which has compelled us to reduce the amount of food given to the refugees only six months after we resumed full rations,” said World Food Programme (WFP) Representative and Country Director Annalisa Conte in a statement.

Overall, refugees living in Dadaab and Kakuma camps will receive a food ration equivalent to 70 per cent of their requirements.

“WFP urgently needs $28.5 million to adequately cover the food assistance needs for the refugees for the next six months,” she added.

The UN agency provides sustenance assistance to refugees in Kenya as a combination of dry food – including cereals, vegetable oil and nutrient-enriched flour – as well as mobile phone cash transfers to buy fresh food from local traders.

However, while keeping cash transfers unchanged, starting this month, WFP will provide through health clinics fortified flour only for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers instead of the general population, which may lead to a rise in malnutrition levels among the refugees.

“Working closely with UNHCR [Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees] and other partners, WFP strives to meet urgent food and nutrition needs of refugees and other vulnerable groups, and calls upon all parties to take all necessary steps to end conflicts and create conditions for refugees to safely return home,” she continued.

In addition to the general food ration and cash transfers, WFP provides nutritious foods to young children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, to stave off malnutrition. Primary grade students receive porridge in school, which helps them concentrate on their classes and provides an incentive for families to send them to school. For the time being, WFP can maintain these critical safety nets for refugees.

“Cutting rations is a last resort and we hope that it is only a short-term measure as we continue to appeal to the international community to assist,” said Ms. Conte.

If new funds are received immediately, WFP can quickly mobilize food stocks from within the region, and/or increase the amount of cash transfers to the refugees allowing them to buy adequate food from the local markets.

“An abrupt halt to food assistance would be devastating for the refugees, most of whom rely fully on WFP for their daily meals,” she concluded.

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations (UN).