Warning that crop failures have left 45,000 people in Rwanda in dire need of food assistance, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is appealing for urgent contributions to prevent malnutrition among refugees and drought victims in the Central African country.
The agency is appealing for 6,200 tons of food worth $ 3.3 million to continue assisting more than 93,000 people in all until February 2004.
"If we don't receive more donations soon, we'll have to make some very hard choices," WFP Country Director for Rwanda David Stevenson said. "Basically, we'll be forced to reduce the amount of food we distribute per person by at least 30 percent from October onwards."
Ration reductions will have a devastating impact on already vulnerable people. Each person needs an intake of 2,100 kcal per day. A reduction to 1,600 kcal resulting from the cash crisis poses a serious threat to the health of refugees and drought victims, in particular children.
"We have to be aware that it takes at least three months before a contribution materializes into actual food for distribution," Mr. Stevenson said. "It's imperative to act now and prevent an already worrying situation from deteriorating any further."
The number of children seeking treatment at nutrition centres in south-east Rwanda following crop failures in January and June has doubled since the beginning of the year. In order to cope, families have begun selling their belongings and consumed seeds they would otherwise use for farming.
Refugees in the country are also totally reliant on WFP food aid for their survival. Almost 32,000 people, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, live in camps in Kibuye in the east, Byumba in the north, and Gikongoro in central Rwanda. Living without access to land or labour opportunities since 1999, their only resource is WFP-donated food.