According to the latest figures released by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 67 per cent of refugees and asylum-seekers originated from countries experiencing a food insecurity crisis in 2021. This, coupled with devastating conflict and climate extremes, is hitting refugees the hardest. Today, ration cuts of up to 50 per cent affect three in four refugees supported by WFP in East Africa.
This has already forced the agency to make significant reductions in daily meals for vulnerable people in the Sahel and elsewhere.
“Without urgent new funds to support refugees – one of the world’s most vulnerable and forgotten groups of people – many facing starvation will be forced to pay with their lives.”
Refugees living in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda are the most affected.
Vast level of needs
The cause of the imminent cuts is multiplying humanitarian needs around the world and insufficient funding.
As WFP is forced to institute ration reductions in order to stretch limited resources, UN humanitarians and their partners have had to respond to an additional six million refugees created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.
Despite these challenges, the UN agency is working towards building and supporting livelihood and resilience programmes for refugees, along with partners and governments.
“Imminent disruptions are expected in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zimbabwe,” it said in a statement.
These painful decisions very often leave refugees without support at a time where food assistance is the difference between life and death, the agency explained.
Hamstrung by funding constraints, WFP is having to prioritize assistance to ensure that vital food reaches the most vulnerable families first.
In southern Africa, where WFP provides assistance to some half a million people, the agency said that despite generous support from donors, it is struggling to meet even the basic needs of refugee households.
In Moldova, WFP has already delivered nearly 475,000 hot meals to families affected by the conflict, across 31 different localities.
And despite record hunger levels that haven’t been seen in a decade, WFP has had to reduce rations “significantly” in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Sustained investment plea
While the immediate needs of refugees remain WFP’s top concern, now, more than ever, there is also a need for sustained investments in programmes that foster self-reliance among refugee populations. But growing emergency needs mean that funding has had to be diverted from vital sustainable development projects that are key to preventing emergencies from escalating.
In 2021, WFP assisted nearly 10 million refugees globally.
“As global hunger soars way beyond the resources available to feed all the families who desperately need WFP’s help, we are being forced to make the heartbreaking decision to cut food rations for refugees who rely on us for their survival,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.