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WFP, UNHCR issue urgent appeal for refugees in 16 African countries

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WFP, UNHCR issue urgent appeal for refugees in 16 African countries

28 February 2000

The United Nations World Food Programme and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today expressed concern over dramatic funding shortfalls for humanitarian operations in Africa and appealed to the donor community to move quickly to meet the needs.

The joint appeal was prompted by a jump in the number of refugees, which has led to a shortfall of 36 percent, or $81 million, for food assistance to refugees in 16 African countries where the two UN agencies collaborate on humanitarian activities.

The largest funding problem is in Tanzania, where by July WFP will be unable to feed some 525,000 people unless contributions are received immediately, officials of the two UN agencies said. The refugee population in that country recently swelled by 120,000 to 500,000, most of whom came from Burundi. At the same time, some 25,000 poor Tanzanians who live near the camps are also receiving food from WFP.

"It is unthinkable that within only a few months, there will be over half-a-million people in Tanzania cut off from the food aid that is crucial to their survival," said WFP's Assistant Executive Director, Jean-Jacques Graisse.

"The great majority of those people - some 500,000 - are refugees living in camps who have no access to agricultural land and are totally dependent on WFP's food," Graisse noted. The refugees receive a basic ration of maize, pulses and cooking oil from the agency.

Among the 16 countries where WFP and UNHCR have joint operations, Kenya has the second-largest funding crisis, with a shortfall of $7.4 million, or 30 percent of WFP's food aid for refugees in that country. Since last October, over 20,000 additional refugees have flooded into Kenya to escape harsh conditions in Somalia and Sudan.

Guinea and Zambia have respective shortfalls of $7 million and $5 million, the agency officials said, noting that the numbers of refugees in the region could easily rise over the coming year and put even more strain on an already fragile humanitarian operation.

"One of my major concerns is that hungry refugees not be faced with the prospect of returning to areas that are not yet safe because they must feed their families," High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said. "None of us should allow that to happen."

The number of refugees WFP expects to assist with food aid in the 16 African countries in 2000 is expected to rise to 2,065,000 from 1.9 million last year. The combined projected needs are 363,000 metric tons of food with an estimated value of $221 million.

The 16 countries are: Angola, Chad, DRC, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.