ARUSHA, 3 February (IRIN) - Starting
this week, refugees in Tanzanian camps will have their rations cut by up
to 50 percent due to the lack of any "major food contributions"
over the last six months, an employee of the World Food Programme (WFP)
said on Monday.
"Our pipeline is running on empty," Mario Leeflang, WFP pipeline officer, told IRIN from the Tanzanian commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.
The only major contributor, he said, was the United States, which had donated of 16,000 mt last week.
The ration cuts, which amount to a 50-percent reduction for all cereals and 25 percent for the Corn Soya Blend, are the second stage of ration cuts which began in November 2002, and which AFP has described as "extremely serious" and likely to lead to a decline health levels.
Rations were cut to extend the supplies in country, Leeflang said, "when we see nothing coming on the horizon - and that is the situation we have. Even the contribution from the US will take up until June to arrive, so what we have in the country is extremely limited."
Even if donors stepped forward immediately, he said, it would take four months at the earliest to resolve the situation. Meanwhile, the WFP is expecting increased malnutrition and a decline in the refugees' health status.
"The refugees will receive just over 1,200 kilocalories per day - that speaks for itself," he said. "But we are also entering the lean season, so the little crops the refugees are allowed to grow in the camps will be severely limited."
On the positive side, he said, the refugees had been receiving full rations for over a year so "their nutritional status is as good as it can be". Most had experienced ration cuts in the past, he added, and were confident that, once the pipeline situation improved, the rations would return.
Observers put the lack of interest in the Tanzanian camps down to the long-term nature of the programme, the Ethiopian and southern African food crises, as well as the possibility of a war in Iraq and the consequent humanitarian situation.
Two weeks ago, ECHO, the European Commission Humanitarian Office, approved a 10-million euro (US $9.26 million) donation, but this was not expected until later in the year, when WFP would use the ECHO money to buy crops from Tanzanian farmers to feed the refugees, Leeflang said. "So even if the money was available tomorrow, we couldn't do much, because there aren't large quantities of maize available on the free market at the moment," he said.
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