Over 220,000 people in Kenya's northern camps of Kakuma (in Turkana) and Dadaab (in Garissa) had their food rations cut from 2,120 kilocalories per day to about 1,600, Lara Melo, spokeswoman for the World Food Programme told IRIN on Thursday. Apart from nutritional needs, refugees also used food rations to acquire other essential resources, such as firewood for cooking or clothes, she added.
The Kenyan government's policy of "encampment" in extremely arid regions of the country, where they are not allowed to cultivate or own livestock, means that refugees are dependent on food hand-outs.
If donations were not received, WFP will run out of maize meal stocks in February, salt in March, vegetable oil in April, wheat flour in May and pulses in June, Melo warned. "We will have to reduce rations further and further," she said.
The ongoing major food crises in other parts of Africa, with 14 million people threatened in southern Africa and 11 million in Ethiopia, had deflected attention away from other "long-standing crises" such as the one in Kenya, she said.
In a separate development, the Minister of Home Affairs, Moody Awori, said this week that Kenya would soon enact a law to govern refugees in Kenya, and introduce a department to ensure that refugee rights were respected.
Kenya would be obliged to adopt refugee legislation within one year of the adoption of the country's new constitution, George Okoth-Obbo, the country representative of UNHCR told IRIN. Despite having adopted international laws governing refugees, Kenya had never "domesticated" these legal instruments, he said.
It was essential that the government articulate a national refugee policy, setting out clearly the rights and obligations of refugees, and of the government towards the refugees, he added. It was also essential to "iron out the conflicts" between existing national law such as the Aliens Act, which required immigrants to carry travel documents, with international refugee law, which did not require asylum seekers to do so.
Commenting on the food crisis, he added, "refugees must be given the opportunity to fend for themselves".
[This Item is Delivered to the "Africa-English" Service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: Irin@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.irinnews.org . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial sites requires written IRIN permission.]
Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2003