January 4, 2006

UN halves food aid for refugees

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has noted that due to a poor response to international appeals it had not received any funding to care for refugees in Zambia in 2006. WFP spokesman Jo Woods said the lack of funds could lead to starvation among the tens of thousands of Congolese and Angolan refugees living there. According to him, food rations for 80.000 refugees had been cut by half at the start of January because the WFP had run out of resources. An estimated 8.5 million dollars was needed to feed refugees over the next 12 months. Current food stocks were expected to last until March after which the situation would become critical, she said. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had already warned of possible unrest in the camps due to the food shortage, and said this could jeopardize national security.
The government of Zambia meanwhile described the food situation in the camps was serious and said it was doing all it could to avert starvation in the camps. The UNHCR emphasised the food shortage would affect the health and nutrition of refugees and could give rise to sexual exploitation, crime and child labour. It would also increase morbidity and mortality. Zambia declared its food shortage crisis a disaster in October following drought that left an estimated 1.7 million people in need of food aid. Because of poor harvests, villages around the camps are unable to help or sell their stocks. The government said it had limited resources to fight hunger, and has called for partners to help fight poverty and develop an appropriate sustainable food security programme.
Over 50,000 Angolan refugees have been repatriated since the advent of peace in the country several years ago. However, thousands remain in Zambia from those that fled from among others the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Somalia. (dpa)

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