Wednesday, June 01, 2005

WFP Dwindling Funds Affect returnees

WFP Dwindling Funds Affect Returnees

The New Times (Kigali)

May 31, 2005 Posted to the web June 1, 2005

By Joan WanguiKigali

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are increasingly concerned about the deteriorating conditions of tens of thousands of refugees and returnees in Rwanda, as WFP runs out of funds to provide them with food aid.
In a press release, the WFP says it urgently requires US$5.5 million to provide 9,000 tonnes of food assistance to some 60,000 people until the end of this year.
Food stock to feed 54,000 refugees, mainly from the DRC, Burundi, and thousands of returnees is quickly running out and, by June, according to the release, the WFP will have exhausted all its cereals.
'The impact of this is terrible," Maarit Hirvonen, the WFP Country Director in Rwanda said, adding that, "The refugees depend entirely on our food for their survival."
Hirvonen said WFP is doing all it can to channel all available resources into the life-saving operation.
"We are even taking loans from partner agencies but the sources for any extra food are getting scarce. Without WFP food aid, life in the camps would be totally unsustainable," he is quoted in the release as saying.
According to the release, lack of resources in March caused the WFP to reduce the amount of food provided to refugees by 30%.
'This had serious nutritional consequences. The condition could be worse as the number of refugees from the DRC have increased from 35,000 to 53, 000,' the release states in part.
It also indicates that increased malnutrition has been reported in crowded camps in the hilltop, where refugees also face harsh cold weather and limited facilities.
'To the school- going children, the condition is unbearable as there are fewer and fewer going to school as they are too weak to sit in classes,' the release indicates.
Meanwhile, the UNHCR representative in Rwanda, Panos Moumtzis, also says that domestic violence, crime and prostitution within the camps is on the rise, with implications of HIV/Aids infection for the community.
Reports show that during the last three years, about 25,000 Rwandans have returned each year. A monthly average of between 1,000 and 2,000 returned early this year.
But there is hope as donors led by the US with US$3.5 million, have given financial support for WFP Rwanda operations. Among other donors are Japan (US$1.7 m), Canada ($254,000) and Germany (US$989,000).

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