The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: WFP Appeals for Support to Feed Refugees

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is appealing for donors to urgently intervene before the looming food crisis in the three main refugee camps worsens.

The three camps located in Karongi, Gicumbi and Gatsibo Districts have a population of about 54,000 refugees.

The food relief agency made the global appeal on Wednesday as it announced plans to cut food rations if there are no new contributions to help the agency to sustain the mainly Congolese refugees in the three camps.

WFP announced that due to a shortage of funds, its operations in Rwanda would reduce food rations by half from September 1.

The announcement came a few days after the WFP Country Director Abdoulaye Balde had written to the Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Marcel Gatsinzi, informing him of an alarming shortage of food and finances at WFP.

"This is a very difficult decision, but we currently do not have sufficient funds to provide the full recommended daily allowance of 2,100 kilocalories to more than 54,000 Congolese refugees in Rwanda", said Abdoulaye Balde.

He noted that the agency is urgently appealing for new contributions to allow it to continue providing vital nutritional support for the refugees.

"The refugees in the three camps in Rwanda; Nyabiheke, Gihembe and Kiziba, rely mainly on food assistance provided by the international community through the WFP, as they are unable to work.

"Reduced nutritional support could lead to higher malnutrition rates among the refugee population, especially children, pregnant women and nursing mothers," the WFP announcement said.

While the funding shortfall is affecting WFP's ability to procure all the commodities in its food basket, it is particularly affecting the procurement of Super Cereal, a blend of maize, soy and micronutrients designed for HIV patients and malnourished children.

WFP is urgently seeking donors' support to cover a critical shortfall of 2,250 metric tonnes of assorted commodities valued at US$3.8 million which is the sum needed to feed 54,000 Congolese refugees until the end of this year.

According to the WFP, to date, only less than 54 percent of the required contributions to the Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO 20030) to support the camps for the two year period have been received.

Earlier this week the Permanent Secretary at MIDMAR, Antoine Ruvebana, said that the situation is alarming hence an urgent need for a solution.

He blamed the problem on the food crisis in Somalia, saying donors had diverted 60 percent of the money meant for the refugees to Somalia. He revealed that the government does not have funds in its budget to support the refugees.

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