UNITED Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) has raised an alarm over funding deficit to feed 320,000 refugees in Kigoma, saying it needs 23.6 million US dollars (about 52bn/-) between now and December to supply food to the immigrants.
WFP Tanzania Country Representative Michael Dunford said in a statement in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the UN agency has reduced food rations for the refugees in Mtendeli, Nduta and Nyarugusu camps in northwest Tanzania due to funding constraints.
"WFP urgently requires 23.6 million dollars between now and December to continue meeting the food and nutritional needs of the refugees," reads the statement.
Home Affairs Minister Mwigulu Nchemba, addressing refugees over the weekend, warned against the reduced food rations, which he related to increased conflicts pitting the immigrants against residents around the refugees' camps.
"International laws require provision of food to all refugees in camps by 100 per cent of their needs... failure to provide refugees with adequate food is fuelling insecurity since they look for alternative means to fend for themselves," the minister warned. During his visit to the camps, Mr Mwigulu was informed by Muhambwe Member of Parliament, Mr Atashata Nditiye, of increased conflicts in the area, accusing refugees of stealing food from the villagers' farms.
The officer in charge of Mtendeli refugees' camp, Mr Optatus Kazonde, told the minister that the rations for refugees had been reduced to 60 per cent, noting that the reduction was one of the measures to compel immigrants to return to their home countries.
The UN agency provides refugees, primarily from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with five food commodities -- maize meal, pulses, super cereal, vegetable oil and salt.
Due to funding shortages, all five commodities were reduced for August distribution, reaching only 62 per cent of the 2,100 required kilocalories, the recommended daily calorie intake, the statement said.
"Without an immediate response from donors, further ration cuts will be necessary as food stocks are simply running out.
"While WFP appreciates the support received so far, we urgently appeal to donors to quickly come to the aid of the refugees and provide additional funding so that we can return to full rations and avoid any prolonged negative impacts," the WFP boss stressed.
Reducing rations result in far-reaching and potentially life-altering consequences for refugees as cutting the intake of kilocalories and nutritional support can lead to acute malnutrition and increased vulnerability to disease.
In addition to the five food items, WFP also provides hot meals for refugees upon arrival, supplemental rations for pregnant and nursing women and food assistance to hospital in-patients and people living with HIV/AIDS.
The agency noted however that hot meals for refugees entering the country and supplementary feeding programmes remain unaffected by the current ration reductions.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience.
Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in 80 countries.