U.S. donates millions to Bhutanese refugees, but shortfalls

Kathmandu, 25 May 2007 - WFP today welcomed a US$2 million donation from the United States to provide essential food aid to more than 108,000 Bhutanese refugees who have been in camps in eastern Nepal for the last 16 years.

"Twice this year, the United States has stepped in at critical times and provided a total of US$3.8 million towards ensuring adequate food supplies for the refugees.

Despite the humanitarian assistance received by traditional donors like the US, challenges remain.

Refugees' needs

WFP must still raise US$1 million a month for the next three months to secure the food needed for the refugees this year," stated Richard Ragan, WFP Representative in Nepal.

Although solutions to the Bhutanese refugee issue, such as third-country resettlement are now being discussed, it will take years before the issue is completely resolved.

"As the Bhutanese refugees consider options for their future, it is important that their basic needs, like food, continue to be met.

"Tremendous opportunity"

There is a tremendous opportunity for the wider international community to take action and provide the funds needed to continue essential food aid to the refugees during this critical period," continued Ragan.

At a cost of nearly US$24 million, WFP aims to provide food aid to over 108,000 Bhutanese refugees over the next two years. Donors have contributed US$11 million towards the appeal.

Since 1992, WFP has been providing essential food aid to the Bhutanese refugees at the request of the Government of Nepal and in close coordination with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

Donors to date

Other donors to WFP's operation to provide food aid to the Bhutanese refugees include:

EC: US$2 million

Canada: US$1.3 million

Netherlands: US$600,000

Switzerland: US$400,000

Australia: US$400,000

Nepal: US$4,000

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