Tanzania: Refugees risk violence due to food ration cuts, UN agencies say

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NAIROBI, 21 July (IRIN) - A shortfall in food aid to refugees in western Tanzania may be responsible for an increase in domestic violence and sexual exploitation outside the camps, according to a joint statement by two UN agencies.

"Hunger will drive people to do almost anything," said Patrick Buckley, the country director of the World Food Programme (WFP) which issued the statement on Tuesday along with the UN refugee agency, UNCHR.

He said after nearly one year of ration reductions, there had been a significant rise in gender-based violence in the camps that can be linked to food shortages.

Since September 2004 poor funding has forced WFP to cut food rations to about 400,000 refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo who are living in 12 camps in western Tanzania.

UNHCR's representative in Tanzania, Chrysantus Ache, said the agency conducted a survey in 2005 which found that the leading cause of domestic violence was arguments over food: husbands and wives arguing over whom in the family would eat, who would go out of the camp to look for work and risk arrest or worse.

A 2004 nutritional survey of the refugees found that 37 percent of children under five years were chronically malnourished and 23 percent were underweight. A follow-up survey is planned for August.

"In July and August, the refugees will receive just 65 percent of the necessary 2,100 daily kilocalories for healthy survival," said the statement. "Without additional contributions, by October the percentage drops to 55 percent."

The agencies requested an additional US $5 million for approximately 11,000 tonnes food.


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