October 25, 2004

Funding shortage forces UN agency to cut rations for refugees

A severe funding shortage has forced the United Nations emergency feeding agency to cut rations to about 400.000 Burundian and Congolese refugees living in western Tanzania. The World Food Programme (WFP) urgently appealed to donors for US$14 million to prevent additional cuts and continue feeding the refugees housed in 13 camps through the first half of next year. With inadequate supplies of both cereals and lentils, WFP had to reduce the daily ration of the most important staple, maize, by a quarter to 1.9 kilograms per person per week, down from 2.5 kilograms. Recently WFP was forced to cut the ration of lentils by a similar amount.
WFP has appealed to donors for 39.000 tons of food in order to bridge a gap in food commodities in the first half of 2005. Food arriving from outside Tanzania could take up to six months to reach the refugees, but cash contributions would enable the agency to buy food within the country and in the region that could reach the camps within two to three months. "Donors have to act fast, otherwise food stocks will dry up completely by February," warned Patrick Buckley, WFP Country Director for Tanzania.
The WFP 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. Though 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. Meanwhile the continuing insecurity in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been preventing most Congolese refugees from returning home. (UN News, New York)

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