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Growing Tide Of Somali Refugees Flee To Kenya

UN Needs Urgent Funds To Feed Growing Tide Of Somali Refugees Fleeing To Kenya

New York, Sep 26 2006 11:00AM

As Somalis fleeing renewed conflict in their homeland pushed the number of refugees in neighbouring Kenya to the highest level in a decade, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed for immediate contributions to stave off major cuts in essential aid by November.

“The situation is dire,” WFP Deputy Country Director Marian Read said. “Unless we get new funds for our refugee operation immediately, we will have to cut rations in the camps in November. “It is a terrible decision to face but we have no choice – we can’t wait until food stocks run out. Even with the cuts, we will still run out of food in February nextᾠyear.

To continue feeding 240,000 refugees already in Kenya, as well as the tens of thousands of new arrivals, WFP needs $8.1 million over the next six months for its operations in the camps where malnutrition is already rife.

Since January, an estimated 24,000 people have entered camps in Dadaab in north-eastern Kenya, but with escalating tension between the Transitional Federal Government in Baidoa and the Union of Islamic Courts, which controls the capital of Mogadishu and coastal areas, Somalis have recently been pouring in at the rate of 2,500 a week.

Unless new donations are made now, rations will be cut by 12 per cent in November, leaving refugees to survive on 1,900 kilocalories a day instead of the recommended daily minimum of 2,100 kilocalories per day. In December, deeper cuts will follow, with rations at 79 per cent of the normal level, or 1,700 kilocalories a day, for all except the most vulnerable.

Malnutrition rates in the camps are already well above the emergency level. High energy biscuits are urgently needed because they help tide over the newly arrived families before the next fortnightly food distribution.

Kenya’s refugee camps were set up 15 years ago, and mainly host refugees from Somalia (62 per cent) and Sudan (33 percent). WFP provides general food distributions for all registered refugees in the camps, school meals, and food for selective programmes for malnourished children and pregnant and nursing mothers.

At another crisis flashpoint, WFP said today it had started airlifting urgent food aid to at least 8,800 people in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), although it has not yet received any funding pledges for next year’s operations.

Over 70 nutritional centres run by non-governmental organization (NGO) partners desperately need food for children, pregnant mothers and returnees and the agency has contracted several commercial airlines to bring 1,450 metric tons of food into North Katanga, Maniema and South Kivu provinces, where road and rail transport is virtually non-existent.

“Some centres have not received food in months and the situation of the children is particularly worrying,” WFP Country Director Charles Vincent said. “They are in an area cut off by lack of infrastructure and struck by high rates of malnutrition among the local and displaced people.

“Here in DRC, we are obliged to act like firemen: we put out a blaze, but we know it will re-ignite unless we provide continuous nutritional support to those in need, especially children,” he added.

The current airlift operation is being financed through a contribution of $1.95 million from the new UN Central Emergency Response Fund.

WFP aims to feed more than 875,000 people in DRC each month, with 7,800 tons of food. But only 500,000 people are currently provided with rations – and these are reduced. Some 35,000 tons of food worth $63 million is urgently required to meet food needs from October to next June.

ends

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