The World Food Program (WFP) says more than 100,000 refugees in camps in Ethiopia are facing a serious shortfall of food. The WFP says it will be forced to cut food rations unless donors urgently contribute more than $4 million.
Most of the 118,000 refugees in camps in Ethiopia are from southern Sudan. The rest are from Somalia and Eritrea. Many of these people have lived in exile for the past 20 years. A World Food Program spokesman, Simon Pluess says these refugees are almost entirely dependent upon international food assistance.
"To become self-reliant in this very arid region, very desert-like region is difficult and access to arable land to cultivate is almost impossible," he said. "Some of the refugees do, of course, try to find some earnings and collect wood, but this is always hampering and creating tensions with the resident population."
The World Food Program says it needs an additional 8,500 tons of cereals, vegetable oil, salt, and blended foods. It notes cereal stocks are expected to run out by April. But, warns food rations for the refugees will have to be cut by 30 percent as of January if the agency does not receive $4.2 million immediately.
It says this money would provide complete food rations for the refugees for the next six months. The agency says many people are likely to fall ill and some may die if they do not get enough to eat. In particular, the health of young children, women and the elderly is likely to deteriorate.
Mr. Pluess says the lack of food also is adversely affecting the repatriation of Somali refugees to their country.
"This commodity shortfall could also delay the repatriation program of some 6500 Somali refugees in eastern Ethiopia since WFP would just simply not be able to provide repatriation food packages prior to their departure," he added.
The World Food Program says most of the food it needs for the refugees could be bought quickly in local markets if donors provided cash, rather than in-kind contributions.