In eastern Sudan UN emergency programme struggles to feed 90000 refugees

Having received only just over half of the funding needed for its programme in eastern Sudan, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed to donors to make up the shortfall as it struggled to feed 90,000 Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees who fled conflicts in their countries and are afraid to go home.WFP said it has been given $9.4 million of the $17.7 million that it requires for the two-year programme until March 2006. “Food distributions to the refugees are in real danger of being scaled down or even interrupted because of the lack of funds and because we are battling to feed more refugees than were expected to remain in Sudan at this time,” WFP Sudan Country Director Ramiro Lopes da Silva said. “We appeal to the international community to remember the plight of these people who are dependent on food aid, cannot yet return home and currently have little chance of integrating into the local community. The least we can do is provide them with food.” Some refugees have access to land for farming, but the majority have not, WFP said. Few have any chance of employment and the many women heads of household are particularly vulnerable because social and cultural factors limit their access to food and income. Concerns about conditions in their countries discouraged more refugees than expected from coming forward for the voluntary repatriation programme assisted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Sudanese Government.The influx of refugees into Sudan’s east began in the 1970s and 1980s, when thousands fled civil war, drought and famine in Ethiopia, followed by the two-year Ethiopian-Eritrean border war which ended in 2000. Even now, small numbers of refugees continue to arrive, WFP said. Nutrition surveys and reports from NGOs running selective feeding programmes in the camps show malnutrition rates reaching worrying levels, it said. “We need the world’s support to keep feeding,” Mr. Lopes da Silva said. “We know that without food aid these people won’t be able to feed their families. Their situation is precarious. Malnutrition rates among children are always the first to climb because they are the most vulnerable.”

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