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WFP warns that funding crunch will slice by half refugee rations in Kenya

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Nairobi -- The United Nations World Food Programme warned today that food rations for 125,000 refugees in north eastern Kenya's Dadaab camps will be cut by half in two weeks' time if urgent funding for the Dadaab airbridge is not received immediately.
WFP says the reduction comes at a time when the refugees are particuarly weak and already suffering from a rise in malaria as a result of the constant rains and flood conditions in the camps caused by the El Nino phenomenon.

"These people are suffering intensely already and to cut their rations at this time is very worrying," says Rikki Malik-Lali, Advisor, WFP's Refugee Feeding Programme. "They have no other means of survival and are entirely dependent upon WFP food aid," she said.

Currently, WFP provides monthly nearly 1,800 tons of food to the 125,000 Somali and Sudanese refugees in the three Dadaab camps - Ifo, Hagadera and Dagahaley. Refugees receive almost 1,900 calories in their daily 510 gram ration made up of maize, wheatflour, beans, lentils, oil and salt.

"This provides the bare minimum in nutritional value. If it is halved we will see a rapid increase in malnutrition which could ultimately lead to starvation and further outbreaks of disease," said Malik-Lali.

WFP has been forced to airlift all food to the camps since December last year when unexpected and continuous heavy rainfall rendered the main Garissa-Dadaab road impassable. According to WFP representatives, unless there is a complete halt in the rains, which is unlikely given the oncoming rainy season, the chances of the road link being restored are remote.

As part of an emergency appeal for US$12 million for cash-strapped air support and logistics to flood victims in Kenya and Somalia, WFP has been urging donors to give US$2.2 million to continue the airbridge until March. To-date, only US$705,000 has been received from the United States and the Dutch governments, but these funds have now been exhausted.

WFP says that if it does not quickly receive the necessary funding for the airbridge it will have to stop the current Buffalo aircraft food aid flights to the camps. WFP is also airlifting to Dadaab non-food relief supplies on behalf of other aid agencies.

"We have ample food stocks in Mombasa and Garissa, but currently we simply cannot deliver the food by road. We are left with no other choice but to cut refugee rations by half for the first part of the March distribution cycle," said Malik-Lali.

Further compounding the need for continued airlifts to the flood victims are fears that rains due to arrive at the beginning of April when the normal rainy season starts, could create further havoc on the already-destroyed road infrastructure in north eastern Kenya.

The next few weeks will be a critical time for WFP to build up its food stocks before the rains set in.

"At this time we urgently appeal to the international community to provide additional funding," said Malik-Lali. "It is essential that the rations are not cut," she said.

WFP will take advantage of any drier weather in the weeks ahead to restore deliveries of food to people in the flood stricken north. WFP is working with UNHCR, the Ministry of Public Works and interested donors to initiate emergency road repairs before the onset of the long rains.

WFP started assisting Somali, Ethiopian and Sudanese refugees in 1991. Today WFP provides food assistance to 125,000 refugees in Dadaab and 52,600 refugees in Kakuma, working in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. WFP provides the refugees' general food ration, plus supplementary and therapeutic foods. WFP is also responsible for the transport of the food from Mombasa port to refugee camps, and the food warehouse management at the camp-level.

For further information contact:

Brenda Barton
WFP, Regional Information Officer
Tel. 254-2-622595

Lindsey Davies
WFP, Information Officer
Tel: 254-2-622336