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UN Appeals For $10mil To Feed Refugees In Ethiopia

UN Appeals For $10 Million To Feed Refugees In Ethiopia This Year

With food for refugees hosted by Ethiopia likely to run out by May, two United Nations bodies and the country's Government appealed today for $10 million to feed some 126,000 Sudanese and Somalis living in camps through the end of this year.

Budget cuts are forcing the World Food Programme ( http://www.wfp.org/index.asp?section=2 WFP) to cut rations by almost a third starting next month, giving the refugees 1,500 calories per person per day instead of the minimum requirement of 2,100 calories.

"We expect that the lower caloric intake due to the 30 per cent reduction will result in a quick deterioration of the nutritional status of children and a general deterioration in the overall health status of the refugees, making them more vulnerable to epidemics," said Peter Kessler, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees

(http://www.unhcr.ch/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/+mwwBmeK5+dewxwwwwAwwwwwwwhFqnN0bItFqnDni5zFqnN0bIAFqnN0bIDzmxwwwwwww1FqnN0bI/opendoc.htm UNHCR).

"Should illnesses occur, there will also be a much higher mortality rate in comparison to periods when the refugees receive the standard 2,100 [calorie] ration," he warned.

In addition, UNHCR cautioned that the ration cuts could cause tensions to rise in the camps housing Sudanese in Ethiopia's Gambella region, where violence broke out last year. The agency called on donors to act immediately to avert an interruption in the distribution of food aid.

On Monday, UNHCR chief Ruud Lubbers told WFP's Executive Board in Rome that the most critical challenge facing the two agencies "is that of ensuring the regular and uninterrupted supply of food to our beneficiaries."

"In spite of our inter-agency appeals and the joint briefings by WFP and UNHCR to alert donors to impending breaks in food pipelines, some operations - particularly in Africa - remained poorly funded," he added.

After the last appeal a month ago, Japan gave a donation that allowed WFP to buy 1,000 tons of cereals, UNHCR said.

The refugees in Ethiopia have been unable to grow food for themselves because their camps are located in semi-arid areas, according to the agency.

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