Refugees in Nguenyyiel Gambella of Ethiopia, May 2019 [Image File]

UN, Ethiopia Appeal for Aid to Avoid Ration Cuts to over 700,000 Refugees

ADDIS ABABA – Two UN agencies and Ethiopia’s national agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) on Friday appealed on Friday for 68 million dollars to avoid food ration cuts for over 700,000 refugees in Ethiopia.

The agencies including UN refugee and food agencies warned of growing risks such as increased malnutrition and stunted child growth, deterioration of the health status due to refugees susceptibility to diseases including the Covid-19 pandemic.

Funding shortages will force ration cuts of up to 60 percent of people’s required daily intake, meaning some 710,000 refugees impacted by the cuts will only receive 1,262 kilocalories per person per day.

Food to run out by Jan

The cuts, starting in November, will impact all refugees living in camps in Gambella, Afar, Shire, Melkadida, Assosa and Jijiga in Ethiopia, the agencies said in a statement.

The ration cuts are a last resort to avert a complete break in food supplies across the country, the statement reads.

However, WFP said if additional funding is not available it will completely run out of food for refugees by January 2022, even with this reduction.

“We are appealing to our donors to quickly come to the aid of the refugees, who solely rely on WFP food and cash transfers for survival,” said Dr. Steven Were Omamo, WFP’s Country Representative for Ethiopia.

“Sadly, prolonged ration cuts affect the refugees’ nutrition and health,” he said. “The immediate priority for us all must be to restore assistance to at least minimum levels for refugees, many of whom lost the lifeline of remittances due to the global impact of Covid-19.”

Malnutrition Could Spike

If there is an immediate response from donors, however, WFP said it would be able to buy food available in the region and quickly transport to meet the refugees’ urgent dietary needs and avert the ration cuts.

The agencies would also be able to transfer cash to refugees immediately so they can buy the food they need from local markets and meet their urgent dietary needs.

UNHCR’s Representative in Ethiopia, Dr. Mamadou Dian Balde, said he was grateful to donors for providing funding to meet the needs of refugees, so far.

“However, the lack of funding to sustain food assistance will greatly undermine the overall protection needs of the refugee population in Ethiopia, with negative effects to the peaceful coexistence between refugees and hosting communities, and plausibly reverse the gains made in reduction of malnutrition,” Balde added.

UNHCR, WFP and ARRA continue to priorities the food needs of refugees, in accordance with their Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding.

The trio have already established effective food assistance identification systems through the biometric verification, which ensures accountability and entitlement of the food and cash assistance to refugees on a monthly basis.
“We must all do more, in support of refugees and their host populations”, said Balde.

Shared responsibility

Ethiopia is currently providing protection to more than 800,000 refugees, the majority of whom are from South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. Of these refugees, 710,000 are fully dependent on food assistance.

Ethiopia’s refugee agency is distributing the food both in kind and in cash in a more accountable and transparent manner, and said it will continue to ensure asylum-seekers and refugees have access to level three registration to meet their protection and assistance needs.

Aid workers continue to count on the donor community for the extended funding support for the refugees in the principle of shared responsibility to implement basic humanitarian life-saving activities.

“ARRA strongly appeals to the donor community to extend their generous hands to the refugees, in the principle of shared responsibility before the refugees are impacted seriously by continuing cut off from the recommended minimum food basket,” said Eyob Awoke the deputy director of Ethiopia’s agency for Refugee.

The UN says the triple burden of food insecurity, under-nutrition and micro-nutrient deficiencies is expected to worsen, behind the background of the already high global acute malnutrition rates in 16 of the 24 or two-third of the refugee camps in the East African nation.


Featured Image Caption : Refugees in a camp located in Ethiopia’s region of Gambella in May, 2019. [Photo File]