Around half a million refugees, mainly from Somalia and South Sudan, in northern Kenya will see their food rations halved starting Saturday as a result of funding gap, a UN spokesman said here Friday, quoting a source of the World Food Programme (WFP).
"WFP says that it has done everything it could to avoid reducing rations but will have to cut them by 50 percent, starting tomorrow, as it struggles to raise 38 million U.S. dollars to cover its refugee operation for the next six months, including 15. 5 million U.S. dollars urgently required to address food needs through January 2015," Farhan Haq, the deputy UN spokesman, said at a daily news briefing here.
Paul Turnbull, the WFP deputy country director for Kenya, in a press release on Friday said that "Cutting rations is the last resort and we're doing it to eke out the limited food we currently have available over the next 10 weeks, as we continue to appeal to the international community to assist."
Each month, WFP distributes 9,700 metric tons of food for some 500,000 refugees in Kenya, at a cost of almost 10 million U.S. dollars.
Refugees are given a food ration of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil, a nutrient-rich maize-soya blend and salt, providing 2,100 kilocalories per person per day, the recommended emergency ration. From mid-November, the refugees will receive a food ration equivalent to 1,050 kilocalories per day.
Scores of South Sudanese refugees have crossed into Kenya following the outbreak of civil war in December last year, while in Somalia, refugees fled more than two decades of conflict.
"WFP depends entirely on voluntary contributions from donors who generously support food assistance for refugees," said Valerie Guarnieri, WFP's regional director for East and Central Africa. " With competing humanitarian needs around the world, we realize budgets are tight, but nonetheless, we must call for more funding so that we can work with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to meet the urgent needs of these vulnerable people, who have no other means of support," Guarnieri said.
The half-rations are expected to last until the end of January 2015, when a shipment of food assistance donated by the United States -- sufficient for six weeks'food requirements -- is expected to arrive.
In 2014, international donors have contributed 68.8 million dollars to support food assistance for refugees in Kenya, the agency said.
WFP also provides specialized fortified foods to young children, as well as to pregnant women and nursing mothers, to stave off malnutrition.
In addition, primary and pre-primary schoolchildren receive porridge, which helps them concentrate on their classes and acts as an incentive for their families to send them to school. So far, these activities are not expected to be affected by the cuts, the UN agency said.