World Food Program (WFP) cuts refugee food rations in Rwanda as funding declines.
Today, the World Food Program (WFP) announced that it would reduce food assistance to refugees in Rwanda by a dramatic 60 percent, starting in March 2021. Some 135,000 Burundian and Congolese refugees in camps in Rwanda depend on humanitarian assistance. to meet their basic food needs each month.
“This is a desperate situation and, without an immediate response from donors, we simply have no choice but to reduce our assistance to refugees,” said WFP Country Director Edith Heines. “While WFP appreciates the support received so far, we urgently appeal to donors to come quickly to the aid of refugees and provide additional funds so that we can return to full rations and avoid any prolonged negative impacts.”
WFP provides refugees with a monthly cash transfer to buy food in local markets. Each person receives RWF 7,600 (US $ 7.72) under a full ration allowance, which provides the staples to meet that person’s minimum nutritional requirements.
WFP needs $ 9 million to avoid ration reductions from March to June 2021 and $ 20.6 million to continue full assistance to refugees during 2021. If no new funding is received, deeper reductions in next months.
Despite the reductions, WFP will maintain full rations of targeted nutritional support for refugees identified as particularly vulnerable, such as children under two years of age, schoolchildren, and pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as people living with HIV and tuberculosis patients undergoing treatment. A total of 51,000 refugees are being assisted, including 37,000 school children.
This comes at a time when many refugees have been particularly affected by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. WFP data for June and November 2020 pointed to increased dependence on foreign aid among refugees since the start of the pandemic.
Reductions in rations are likely to cause widespread food insecurity and may lead to increased tensions within the refugee community. From late 2017 to mid-2018, WFP was forced to reduce rations by 25 percent due to funding constraints. A 2018 WFP survey found that the percentage of refugee families with poor eating habits at home doubled as a result.
In 2021, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and WFP are jointly moving towards needs-based humanitarian assistance rather than current blanket assistance for refugees. This exercise will also make it possible to prioritize scarce donor resources for the most vulnerable. The strategy will also strive to create more access to livelihood opportunities for refugees.
“This new approach will allow us to prioritize funding and focus on those refugees who most need our help,” Heines said. “But to be successful, the refugee operation must be fully supported at this critical stage to ensure that we have the support of the refugee community as we transition to this new form of programming.”
The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) describes the international community’s commitment to meeting the immediate humanitarian needs of refugees to ease the burden on Rwanda. Additional support is needed to support the host government and its goodwill and not undermine development achievements.