Ethiopia: More than 750,000 refugees will run out of food by October

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Ethiopian Government Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) appealed on Tuesday for US$73m to provide food rations to over 750,000 refugees in Ethiopia over the next six months.

WFP will completely run out of food for refugees by October, leaving vulnerable families who are dependent on food assistance at risk of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, susceptibility to diseases/infection and increased protection risks, the three agencies warn.

“Three quarters of a million refugees will be left with nothing to eat in just a matter of weeks unless we receive funding immediately,” said Claude Jibidar, WFP’s Representative and Country Director for Ethiopia.

Cutting rations has been an issue with which WFP has long had to grapple.

Food rations for refugees in Ethiopia were first reduced by 16% in November 2015, then 40% in November 2021, and finally 50% in June 2022.

The impact of these cuts has been heightened by global limitations on food availability, widespread economic shock, rising food and energy costs, the Covid-19 fallout, and armed conflict.

To understand the impact of ration cuts on refugees, WFP, UNHCR and RRS conducted in April, a rapid assessment on 1,215 refugee camps households throughout relevant regions.

The results show that most had coped with food insecurity by reducing the number of meals eaten in a day, consuming less expensive foods, or limiting meal portions.

The joint assessment also revealed that households are going to desperate measures to make up for funding cuts and are forced to rely on an ever-finite supply of food, which increases the likelihood of resource-based conflicts.

Data shows that many families have been relying on children to generate extra income to afford food.

Other households were forced to borrow cash, relying on friends or relatives for sustenance.

“We have a shortfall of US$73 million for refugees’ minimum needs and we are deeply concerned that if funding cuts continue, they may consider returning to their places of origin when it is unsafe,” warned Mr. Jibidar.

More resources must be mobilized to meet immediate food demands, and smart investments should be taken to prioritize sustainable farming.

“The priority for us all must be to restore assistance to at least minimum levels for refugees, all of whom are solely reliant on WFP’s cash and food assistance for survival,” said the UN Country Director.

With an immediate donor response, WFP would be able to buy food available in the region to meet the dietary needs of the refugees and also transfer cash to the refugees, providing them the choice of how to meet their immediate needs and stimulating local markets.

The agencies have established an effective system to identify the food assistance needs of refugees through biometric verification, accountability mechanisms and programmes to grant monthly food and cash assistance.

The trio called on all partners to strengthen efforts to address their immediate and long-term food needs in line with international commitments.

Meanwhile, WFP, UNHCR and RRS will continue to count on donors for extended funding support based on the principle of shared responsibility to implement basic humanitarian life-saving activities. (Source: UN News)

 

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