Amidst a “critical shortage” of resources, hundreds of thousands of refugees in Kenya will lack food unless new funds are swiftly received, the UN’s food relief agency warned on Thursday.
The World Food Programme (WFP) needs $57 million to continue providing food and nutrition assistance to the country’s 435,000-strong refugee population between January and June of next year.
“WFP is facing a critical shortage of funds to finance food assistance to refugees living in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps and in Kalobeyei settlement”, said WFP Kenya Country Director Lauren Landis, referring to the country’s three main refugee sites.
A real threat
Most refugee families rely solely on WFP food to survive, said the agency.
Without invigorated funding, beginning in January WFP will be forced to completely halt all cash transfers.
And by March, the UN food relief agency will have fully depleted its food stocks. “We have exhausted all resources and are frankly faced with a life-threatening crisis”, said Ms. Landis.
A crisis in the making
As of last September, the funding shortfall has already forced WFP to cut full food rations by more than one-third – compromising refugees’ health and nutrition.
“We are appealing to our donors to quickly provide new resources to allow us to carry on providing food and cash to the refugees”, she said.
As WFP food is delivered purely in the form of cash transfers to 40,000 refugees living in northwestern Kalobeyei settlement, they are at risk of being hit first.
In Dadaab and Kakuma camps, the UN agency provides almost 400,000 refugees with a mix of cash and food, with cash covering some 60 per cent of staple cereals in their food baskets.
A sharp reduction or complete stop in assistance could have far-reaching consequences for the health and nutrition of refugees as well as an impact on the stability and security of the surrounding communities and the camps themselves, according to WFP.
These latest cuts follow other ration reductions over the past two years that have increased child and maternal malnutrition.
Disruption would be ‘catastrophic’
The agency commended the Government of Kenya for hosting the refugees and seeking to meet its obligations under the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) – opening up access to local services, providing land and allowing greater integration of refugees with local populations.
The CRRF outlines a commitment by the international community to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of the refugees to ease the burden on Kenya.
“A disruption of this magnitude to the life-saving refugee operation would be catastrophic”, Ms. Landis spelled out.