File photo shows a worker transfers relief food in Maralal town, Samburu County, Kenya, on March 2, 2017. (Xinhua/Pan Siwei)
by David Musyoka
NAIROBI, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- The UN World Food Program (WFP) said it had cut food rations by 30 percent for about 420,000 refugees living in Dadaab and Kakuma camps in northern Kenya due to insufficient funding.
WFP Representative and Country Director Annalisa Conte said early this week that the UN food agency is cutting the share of food from October while keeping the cash transfers unchanged.
"WFP urgently needs 28.5 million U.S. dollars to adequately cover the food assistance needs for the refugees for the next six months," Conte said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
She said refugees living in Dadaab and Kakuma camps will receive a food ration equivalent to 70 percent of their requirements.
"We are facing a critical shortage of resources which has compelled us to reduce the amount of food given to the refugees only six months after we resumed full rations," said Conte.
She said the WFP is working closely with UNHCR and other partners to meet urgent food and nutrition needs of refugees and other vulnerable groups.
The WFP official called on all parties to take all necessary steps to end conflicts and create conditions for refugees to safely return home.
WFP provides food assistance to refugees in Kenya as a combination of food (cereals, pulses, vegetable oil, and nutrient-enriched flour) and cash transfers sent via mobile phones used to buy fresh food items from local traders.
In addition to the general food ration and cash transfers, WFP provides nutritious foods to young children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, to stave off malnutrition.
Primary school pupils receive porridge in school, which helps them concentrate on their classes and acts as an incentive to their families to send them to school. For the time being, WFP can maintain these critical safety nets for refugees.
Conte also said WFP will not provide fortified flour to the general population as the low stocks remaining will be prioritized for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers through health clinics.
This, she said, may lead to a rise in levels of malnutrition among the refugees. "Cutting rations is a last resort and we hope that it is only a short-term measure as we continue to appeal to the international community to assist," said Conte.
"An abrupt halt to food assistance would be devastating for the refugees, most of whom rely fully on WFP for their daily meals," said Conte.
The UN food agency has provided food and cash to refugees this year thanks to the generosity of donations from Canada, China, the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), Germany, Hungary, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Conte said if new funds are received immediately, WFP can quickly mobilize food stocks from within the region, and/or increase the amount of cash transfers to the refugees allowing them to buy adequate food from the local markets.