ADDIS ABABA, March 7 (Xinhua) -- The World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN refugee agency UNHCR have appealed for 80 million U.S. dollars to provide food assistance for refugees located in Ethiopia.
The two UN agencies announced in a joint statement issued on Wednesday that the amount of food that refugees receive was cut by 20 percent last year below the 2,100 kilocalories per day required to sustain the average person.
"UNHCR and WFP are warning of deeper cuts to the amount of food from April unless new funding is received in March," the joint statement said.
"Without new contributions, 650,000 refugees in camps in Ethiopia could soon become even more hungry and may eventually face hunger so severe that it could put lives at risk," the statement added.
Ethiopia hosts the second largest number of refugees in Africa, next to Uganda. Ethiopia presently hosts more than 900,000 refugees, mainly from Eritrea, South Sudan, Somalia, and Sudan, according to figures from the Ethiopian government.
According to the joint statement, some 650,000 of the total refugees live in camps across the East African country and depend on assistance from WFP and UNHCR.
"After fleeing conflict and deprivation in their home countries, refugees deserve to be protected and supported," said Samir Wanmali, WFP's Acting Country Director in Ethiopia.
The two UN agencies fear refugee families could adopt harmful survival strategies and might even try to leave Ethiopia. Particularly at risk are young children, with risks of becoming stunted if they do not receive the right amount of nutrient.
Malnutrition rates in the camps are already high and further ration cuts could have a devastating effect, said the statement.
Recent assessments show that malnutrition rates among children under five are above the emergency threshold of 15 percent in nearly half of the 26 refugee camps in Ethiopia.
Conflict and drought in neighboring countries continues to force people to seek refuge in Ethiopia, which has a long tradition of hosting refugees. In 2017, nearly 110,000 refugees have to Ethiopia.