UN agencies seek funds to help hungry refugee children in Kenya

3 July 2007

Three United Nations agencies today sought $32 million from donors to help cut malnutrition rates which they warned have reached “crisis levels” among children under five living in refugee camps in Kenya.

Three United Nations agencies today sought $32 million from donors to help cut malnutrition rates which they warned have reached “crisis levels” among children under five living in refugee camps in Kenya.

A total of 237,000 refugees, mostly Somalis and Sudanese, live in camps at Dadaab and Kakuma, where the acute malnutrition rate among children under five years of age is above the emergency level of 15 per cent, according to a news release from the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which is launching the appeal with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“One in every five children under the age of five is so malnourished that they need special care, and some of them will die. This can’t go on,” said Marian Read, WFP deputy country director.

The UN agencies said the high rates of malnutrition persisted despite the fact that over the past two years WFP has provided 95 per cent of the general food distribution ration for refugees to meet the recommended minimum energy requirement of 2,100 kilocalories per person per day.

They said a complete package of assistance is needed to overcome chronic shortages in essential commodities such as firewood, energy-saving stoves and soap to ensure that refugees are not compelled to sell their food to meet the need for these items.

There is also an acute need for complementary foods such as groundnuts that provide extra nutrients, supplementary feeding for more children and therapeutic feeding to treat dangerously malnourished children.

The three agencies are also calling for better-staffed health facilities in the camps to help children constantly threatened by malaria and other diseases.

Over the past year, cholera, measles, meningitis and Kenya’s first cases of polio in 20 years have been recorded in the camps, further aggravating the fragile nutritional status of young children, the agencies said.

“The malnutrition crisis that we are witnessing in the refugee camps in Kenya is the cumulative effect of years of recurrent budgetary shortfalls,” said UNHCR acting representative Eddie Gedalof. “Year after year we are unable to fully meet refugees’ needs for firewood, soap and other essential commodities. We must get to the core of the issue if we are to eradicate malnutrition in the camps.”

UNICEF Country Representative in Kenya Olivia Yambi appealed for urgent support for the initiative, warning that this time of year was associated with the highest risk of malnutrition.

“In the camps, malnutrition is associated with at least half the deaths of children under five,” she said.

“Even for those who recover, malnutrition curtails the entire development potential of these children. We are appealing for immediate help from donors so that as many children as possible can swiftly recover and grow up to lead healthy, productive lives.”

 

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