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Refugees in Djibouti face malnutrition as food supplies dwindle, UN warns

Refugees in Djibouti face malnutrition as food supplies dwindle, UN warns

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed for an emergency infusion of 8,000 tons food for refugees living in Djibouti, warning that supplies were rapidly running out, leaving some 25,000 people at risk of malnutrition.

In April, WFP was forced to reduce food rations by 20 per cent due to insufficient resources. Refugees are no longer receiving rations of corn-soya blend, a nutritious flour enriched with vitamins, while vegetable oil rations have been cut in half.

"Refugees are now getting rations well below agreed international nutritional standards," said Fatma Samoura, WFP Representative in Djibouti. "If we do not quickly restore normal rations, malnutrition will sharply increase in the camps."

According to WFP, food assistance to the refugees is crucial because they have no other means to feed themselves. They cannot grow their own food due to the arid climate and water shortage in Djibouti. Moreover, there are no employment opportunities in the remote areas where the camps are located.

The break in WFP's food pipeline might also delay a refugee repatriation programme planned jointly by the agency and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is due to start early June with a group of about 2,000 Somalis.

In March, WFP launched an 18-month relief and recovery operation to provide assistance to refugees in Djibouti. So far, the agency has received less than 17 per cent of the $4 million needed for the operation.