Kenya

WFP forced to continue half rations for refugees in Kenya

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Nairobi -- WFP today expressed deep concern that a 50 per cent cut in food rations for thousands of refugees in Kenya would have to continue until the end of the month, and could lead to a deterioration in the health of the refugees.
Fifteen-day rations were cut in half for the first time at the beginning of March when the road to the camps was impassable, and funds for air transport insufficient.

Transport of food to the Dadaab camps in northeastern Kenya continues to be problematic after heavy rains severed road links earlier this year, and donations for WFP's airbridge have been slow to arrive. Only half the amount of food needed for the full distribution on March 15 has reached Dadaab.

"To date refugees have been patient although disappointed with the reduced rations," said Mike Sackett, WFP's Regional Manager for the Horn of Africa and Country Director for Kenya. "We're extremely concerned and are trying to do everything we can to ensure that this is the last ration cut."

The agency also warned that from the end of March the rains can be expected to start at any time, which will make the main road to Dadaab impassable once again. While some stretches of the main road to the camp have recently dried, large food trucks are unable to pass over the more difficult parts.

Taking advantage of the drier weather in northeastern Kenya over the last three weeks, WFP has been working with the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Agriculture to repair the road between Garissa and Dadaab. To date, 70 kms of road has been repaired.

With the imminent onset of the seasonal rains, the next few weeks will be a critical time for WFP to build up the food stocks for the April to May distributions in the Dadaab camps.

"Ideally, we should now be stockpiling enough food for a full ration at the camps before the next onslaught of rains," said Mike Sackett. "But at this point, we're so shackled by road and air transport problems that we can't even deliver enough food for the refugees' basic ration."

Normally, WFP provides nearly 2,000 tons of food each month to the 125,000 Somali refugees in the three Dadaab camps - Ifo, Hagadera and Dagahaley.

Between December 1997 last year and the beginning of this month, WFP was forced to airlift all food to the Dadaab camps when the main Garissa-Dadaab road was almost destroyed by the continuous heavy rains caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon.

Since December the agency has made monthly appeals for urgent funding for the airbridge. As only limited funding was received, it was not possible to avoid a 50 per cent ration cut for the March distribution and when the shortfall of US$ 1.4 million was not covered, the air operation ground to a halt. Subsequently, rations for the 125,000 refugees in Dadaab were halved at the beginning of March.

WFP now needs US$ 2 million to deliver food by air to Dadaab until the end of May.

WFP states that there are ample food stocks in Mombasa and Garissa but that it has no other choice but to cut refugee rations until either the trucks can travel the road to Dadaab in sufficient numbers or adequate funding is available for the airlift operation.

"When the rains start in April, the roads will be further damaged and air transport will be the only means available to move the food to the camps," said Sackett. "It is critical that we receive money now for air operations so we can stockpile enough food for the April to May distribution."

The fleet of smaller food trucks currently being used to move the food to the camps, is carrying an average of 60 tons of food per day. WFP is striving to increase this daily delivery to 100 tons of food, in order to give the refugees a 100 per cent ration by April 1.

Mike Sackett
Country Director, WFP Kenya
Tel: 0254-2 622049

Brenda Barton
Regional Information Officer
Tel: 0254-2 62594
Hme: 0254-2 583549

Lindsey Davies
Information Officer
Tel: 0254-2 622336
Hme: 0254-2 582162