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World Food Program Concerned About Lack of Response to Kenya Aid Appeal

The United Nations World Food Program says it is very concerned that it has received no response to an appeal it issued earlier in the month on behalf of 220,000 refugees in Kenya. The agency warns food supplies will run out in mid-January.

The World Food Program said nearly 250,000 Sudanese and Somali refugees in Kenya are totally dependent for their survival on food assistance from the agency. It said the refugees are not allowed to leave their camps to look for work, and they do not have any land to cultivate.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said the agency has been forced to cut food rations on several occasions during the year because of lack of supplies. She said the refugees are facing an even more critical situation now.

"By mid-January, if we do not have new contributions, we will have nothing for food distribution. At least we will not have any maize, which is the basic meal. We still have a little bit of vegetable oil and salt. But, this also will be running out by March or April if we do not have more contributions," Ms. Berthiaume said.

Earlier this month, the World Food Program appealed for $11 million to provide food for the refugees in Kenya until September.

Ms. Berthiaume said 70 percent of the refugee children are close to malnutrition, and a further reduction of the rations will have a devastating effect. In addition, she said aid workers are concerned that the lack of food could create security problems in the camps.

"There are no security problems right now, but there could be. And this is what we are scared of. Obviously, people are not happy when we tell them that we do not have enough food, and hungry people are desperate. And it happened in the past that we had riots and problems because we did not have enough food for distribution," Ms. Berthiaume said.

World Food Program spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said a serious crisis in the Kenya camps can be avoided if contributions come in quickly and food distribution is not interrupted.