United Nations: Half a million refugees in Kenya are being forced to go on half rations as the World Food Program scrambles for funding amid an unprecedented number of major emergencies around the globe.
The United Nations food agency is increasingly taking this last-resort measure as the world body responds to five humanitarian crises in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Central African Republic and now West Africa with the Ebola outbreak, senior spokesman Steve Taravella said yesterday.
Taravella said WFP expects it will have to reduce rations like this in other places as resources are stretched thin.
"We really don't want to be doing this," he said. "Telling hungry people they'll be receiving less food than they're accustomed to is never easy."
As of today, the 500,000 refugees in northern Kenya, most of them from South Sudan and Somalia, will receive a daily food ration of just over 1,000 calories, compared to the 2,100 calories a day they've been getting, through the end of January. That's when a United States food donation is expected to arrive, but that amount is expected to be enough for just six weeks.
The WFP is trying to raise USD 38 million to pay for its Kenya refugee operations for the next six months.
This year has seen similar cuts elsewhere, notably in conflict-torn Syria and its neighbours, which have taken in millions of Syrian refugees.
In October, WFP announced it would have to cut rations for people in Syria by 40 per cent, and this month rations were cut by a further 20 per cent.
While those rations are expected to return to normal in December, the situation for Syrian refugees in the five neighbouring countries is dire, and "we don't know what will happen," Taravella said.
The UN food agency has to rely on a patchwork of donor appeals and commitments. It had to make temporary cuts recently in North Korea and Congo as well.
"Where there are so many true crises on the global landscape, it's just not possible to continue providing" help, Taravella said.
He said he believes this is the first time the agency has had to cut rations in Kenya, which has taken in a large number of refugees from conflict-hit places like Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia over the years.
Until now, the refugees have been given the suggested emergency ration of 2,100 calories a day, made up of cereals, vegetable oil and salt, according to the WFP.