Two United Nations humanitarian agencies today agreed to strengthen their cooperation in providing food aid to refugees and returnees, which could help benefit some 20 million people around the world, more than a third of them in Africa.
The head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), James Morris, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers, signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) in front of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Durban, South Africa, where all three officials are attending the launch of the African Union.
“I think this partnership emphasizes the determination of the two agencies to implement their operations effectively,” Mr. Annan told reporters at the signing ceremony. “I hope and trust that the donors will also continue to support us and enhance their support in material and financial terms.”
The MOU updates one originally signed in 1985 and reflects the changes in refugee programmes around the world, such as attention to the needs of refugee women and children to guarantee their protection against abuse, the two agencies said in a statement.
In addition, protracted refugee programmes have led the two agencies to refocus their strategies in order to make refugees more self-sufficient by establishing income-generating activities and negotiating with host countries to incorporate refugees' specific needs into national development plans.
According to the agreement, WFP, which traditionally has procured and transported food aid for refugee caseloads over 5,000 people, will also now assume on a temporary basis responsibility from UNHCR for distributing the supplies. If the new division of labour proves more effective, the UN food agency will take over the task worldwide.