United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have appealed for $266 million to assist some three million refugees in East Africa at risk.

UNHCR and the WFP said they had been forced to cut food rations by up to 60 percent due to funding shortfall, which has been compounded by Covid-19 lockdowns and containment measures.

The lockdowns and containment measures have reduced food stocks in markets in refugee camps, and limited refugees’ ability to support their families through casual jobs and small businesses, according to the UN agencies.

‘The pandemic has been devastating for everyone, but for refugees even more so’, UNHCR’s Regional Bureau Director for the East, Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes, Clementine Nkweta-Salami, said in a statement.

‘Unless more funds are made available, thousands of refugees including children will not have enough to eat’.

Nkweta-Salami said refugees had adopted negative coping strategies – skipping or reducing meals, taking out high-interest loans, selling assets, child labour and increased domestic violence – to meet their basic food needs.

‘There is often a desperation and a feeling of no alternative’, Nkweta-Salami said.

WFP, on the other hand, has been forced to cut monthly assistance to refugees in six countries.

‘We have never had such a terrible funding situation for refugees’, WFP Regional Director for Eastern Africa , Michael Dunford, said.

‘We have a $266 million shortfall for the next six months for refugees’ minimum needs. We are deeply concerned that if cuts continue, they will be faced with a very difficult decision: stay in the camps where food and nutrition security is deteriorating, or consider risking going back when it is unsafe’.

In Uganda, which is home to the largest refugee population in Africa, WFP said it had to cut food assistance to nearly 1.3 million people by 40 percent last month. To provide full rations, the agency says it will need $77 million through August.

Also, an additional $82 million is needed to assist one million refugees in South Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti, according to WFP.

The agency assists some 138,000 refugees living in camps and 12,500 children from host communities, who attend the same schools as refugees and receive school meals.

Source: UN News

Photo source: UNHCR


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