Critical food aid shortages hit Africa's refugees hard, UN warns

A young girl stands with her water container ona bank in the UN Protection of Civilian Camp (POC) Bentiu, South Sudan on 20 October 2016. Credit:UNICEF/UN043942/Holt

20 February 2017 – Across Africa, some two million refugees are facing critical shortages in food assistance, the United Nations warned today.

Refugee operations in 10 African countries have experienced cuts affecting the quantity and quality of food assistance for approximately two million refugees, according to a joint press release from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“Millions of refugees depend on WFP food and our work to treat and prevent malnutrition to stay alive. But in Africa they are in danger of being overshadowed by large humanitarian crises elsewhere,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said in the release.

Food rations have been dramatically cut – in some cases by up to 50 per cent – in large operations including Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, Mauritania, South Sudan and Uganda.

Refugees in Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Burundi and Ethiopia have had specific commodities cut including micronutrient fortified blended foods, needed to ensure an adequate quality diet.

 

“We can't imagine how difficult life is for thousands of refugee families with no food, and often denied the possibility to work or provide for themselves in other ways,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “Refugees are extraordinarily resilient, but cuts in food assistance – sometimes as high as 50 per cent – are having a devastating impact on the health and nutrition of thousands of families.”

The number of refugees in Africa nearly doubled from 2.6 million in 2011 to nearly five million in 2016, the release said. While donor funding for refugee assistance increased during this period, it did not keep pace with rapidly rising needs. As a result, the humanitarian response is significantly underfunded.


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