Kigoma — The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been forced to reduce the size of food rations distributed to refugees in the Mtendeli, Nduta and Nyarugusu Camps due to funding shortfalls.
The three camps, which are located in northwest Tanzania, host 320,000 refugees, who mainly come from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The new revelation shows that WFP urgently requires some $23.6 million, which would be enough to cater for refugees' food and nutritional needs in the country until December. WFP provides the refugees with five food commodities: maize meal, pulses, super cereal, vegetable oil and salt.
Due to the funding shortfalls, all five commodities have been reduced in the August distribution, going down to barely 62 per cent of the 2,100 required kilocalories, which is the recommended daily calorie intake.
"Without an immediate response from donors, further ration cuts will be necessary because our food stocks are simply running out," said the WFP Tanzania Country Representative, Michael Dunford.
Mr Dunford added: "While WFP appreciates the support received so far, we are urgently appealing 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."
He warned that reducing the rations result in far-reaching and potentially life-altering consequences for refugees, adding that cutting the intake of kilocalories and nutritional support can lead to acute malnutrition and increased vulnerability to diseases.
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.
More than 290,000 people live in refugee camps in Kigoma with majority coming from neighboring Burundi following recent political instability.
More people cross the border every day--according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, nearly 19,000 Burundians arrived in January 2017.
He said unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, particularly in the cramped mass shelters that house new arrivals, cause a host of health problems for refugees, including diarrhea, respiratory tract infections and skin conditions.
"Children, as well as expectant or new mothers, are often the most vulnerable with illnesses. Malaria is one of the biggest risks in the camps, particularly during the rainy season, when stagnant water provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes," he said.
In January 2017 alone, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams tested over 31,200 people and treated 16,812 of them who were diagnosed with the disease.
Four MSF patients in Nduta and Nyarugusu camps lamented over shelter, water, food and hygienic challenges they face in the camps.