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Acute food shortages now affecting two million African refugees

by Njoroge Kaburo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Two UN agencies on Monday warned that critical shortages in food assistance are affecting some two million refugees in ten African countries.

In a joint statement, the World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned that the shortages could worsen in coming months without new resources to meet food needs.

"The right to food is a basic human right. We are working with WFP to ensure that no refugee goes to sleep hungry, but support has to come quickly," UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said in the statement.

The agencies said food rations have been dramatically cut—in some cases by up to 50 percent—in large operations including Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, Mauritania, South Sudan and Uganda.

The two agency heads said refugees in Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Burundi and Ethiopia have had specific commodities cut including micronutrient fortified blended foods, needed to ensure an adequate quality diet.

"Refugees are extraordinarily resilient, but cuts in food assistance—sometimes as high as 50 percent—are having a devastating impact on the health and nutrition of thousands of families," said Grandi.

UNHCR and WFP are concerned that sustained cuts to food assistance will have severe nutrition and protection-related consequences as refugees try to cope by skipping meals, pulling their children out of schools to stay at home or work and selling family assets.

According to the UNHCR, the number of refugees in Africa nearly doubled from 2.6 million in 2011 to nearly 5 million in 2016.

The two agency heads warned that food shortages will have dire consequences on the health and protection of vulnerable people, unless more support is urgently made available.

WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said donors have been very generous facing unprecedented global needs but added that no refugee deserves to be abandoned and left behind.

"Millions of refugees depend on WFP food and our work to treat and prevent malnutrition to stay alive. But in Africa they are in danger of being overshadowed by large humanitarian crises elsewhere," said Cousin.

The agencies said nutritional situation of these refugees before the cuts to food assistance was already worrying and is now worsening.


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