GENEVA, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP) Ertharin Cousin and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned Monday that critical shortages in food assistance are affecting some 2 million refugees in 10 countries across Africa.
The two agencies said the shortages could worsen in coming months without new resources to meet food needs.
The number of refugees in Africa nearly doubled from 2.6 million in 2011 to nearly 5 million in 2016, according to the UN agencies, who said donor funding for refugee assistance did not keep pace with the rapidly rising needs despite increased donation during the period.
As a result, the humanitarian response is significantly underfunded, which has forced cuts in food assistance to some refugee groups, said the agencies.
The two agency heads warned dire consequences of the shortages on health and protection of the vulnerable people, calling for urgent support.
"Refugees are extraordinarily resilient, but cuts in food assistance, sometimes as high as 50 percent, are having a devastating impact on the health and nutrition of thousands of families," said UNHCR's Grandi in a statement.
"The right to food is a basic human right. We are working with WFP to ensure that no refugee goes to sleep hungry, but support has to come quickly," Grandi added.
"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," said Cousin.
UNHCR and WFP recognized the very concerning food security and nutrition situation in the Horn of Africa and the unprecedented needs for assistance.
Individuals are fleeing Somalia and South Sudan and arriving as refugees in critical condition. Over 75 percent of the Somali refugee children who have arrived in Ethiopia since January were acutely malnourished, said the agencies.