400,000 refugees in Tanzania face malnutrition due to donor shortfall, UN agency

11 March 2005
Congolese refugees

Some 400,000 mainly Congolese refugees in northwestern Tanzania will see their food rations increase by 23 per cent as of Monday, but this is still well below the standard 2,100 calories per person daily due to insufficient donations and a food shortage in the region, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

Some 400,000 mainly Congolese refugees in northwestern Tanzania will see their food rations increase by 23 per cent as of Monday, but this is still well below the standard 2,100 calories per person daily due to insufficient donations and a food shortage in the region, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

“Refugees in our Tanzanian camps are already paying the price for a dramatic shortfall in almost all foods – cereals, pulses, corn-soya blend, vegetable oil and salt – due to inadequate funding by donors,” UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva, appealing to the world community to increase their donations.

The increase in rations from the UN World Food Programme (WFP), will bring total daily calories to 1,629 per person, with the staple food, maize, at the full amount for the next three months.

A nutrition survey at the end of last year showed that 37 per cent of refugee children under the age of five were chronically malnourished and just over 23 per cent underweight. The situation is being made all the more difficult because the Tanzanian Government has imposed restrictions on the movements of refugees, thus limiting their ability to provide for themselves.

“We are concerned that as food rations have been cut, refugees are trading or selling part of their WFP food ration for less nutritious but more filling food like cassava and bananas, thus lowering even further their nutritional intake,” Mr. Redmond said.

Some refugees are even resorting to theft to feed themselves. One refugee who was caught stealing beans was burned to death by irate Tanzanians in a village near Ngara. In a disturbing development some refugees are going back to unsafe areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) because of the food shortages.

“Along with WFP, we have appealed to donors to increase their contributions, but fear a shortfall of nearly half the money we need this year,” Mr. Redmond said. “We strongly urge donors to support WFP's efforts to ensure that refugees do not go hungry.”

WFP has requested $43 million to feed refugees in Tanzania adequately, and has received so far $23 million.

 

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