Absence of funds threatens UN efforts to feed 106,000 Bhutanese refugees in Nepal
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that it will no longer be able to provide full rations to more than 106,000 Bhutanese refugees living in camps in eastern Nepal as of January unless there is an immediate infusion of international donations.
“Despite recent international media and donor attention on the Bhutanese refugee issue, it has not yet translated into the kind of financial support that WFP has received in previous years, putting the health and safety of the refugees at serious risk,” WFP country representative Richard Ragan said.
“I appeal to the international community to respond quickly,” he added, noting that lack of funds for the two-year $23.6 million dollar programme would not only cut rations to the refugees.
The threat of over 100,000 people losing access to food could also have serious implications for overall security in Nepal at a critical time when the Government and Maoist rebels are implementing a peace process.
Since 1992, the donor community has always provided crucial aid to the refugees, who began arriving in Nepal in 1991 after the introduction of strict citizenship laws in Bhutan. But no funds at all have been forthcoming for the next two-year programme, which starts on 1 January.
Under their current status, refugees are restricted from engaging in economic activities outside the camps and from owning land, making humanitarian aid like food critical to fulfilling their basic needs.