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WFP Warns Togolese Refugees Running Out of Food

The World Food Program warns food will run out for 65,000 Togolese refugees and displaced people by the end of the year unless it immediately receives $1 million. WFP says these people are victims of this year's political upheaval in the West African country.

Thousands of people fled to neighboring Ghana and Benin following violent political disturbances in Togo earlier this year. Thousands of others fled their homes to places of sanctuary within Togo.

World Food Program spokesman, Simon Pluess, says these people have nothing and ignoring their needs could spell trouble.

"When you abruptly halt aid deliveries, it can spark unrest in camps, it can deepen tensions between refugees and the communities that host them," he said. "People can take desperate measures. It could also lead some refugees to say OK, we have nothing anymore, we return back. And they might return back into a Togo where there is danger, where there is not yet a safety guarantee for them."

Togo was plunged into political crisis in February following the death of long-time president Gnassingbe Eyadema. His son, Faure Gnassingbe, assumed power immediately afterwards and was confirmed as president following disputed elections in April. At least 400 people are believed to have been killed in factional fighting.

Mr. Pluess says there are too many competing crises in the world. And, this has made it difficult for WFP to raise the money it needs for the Togolese operation.

"We have been supporting in Ghana and in Benin - like in Benin 10,000 refugees in two camps and 8,000 refugees in Ghana in other camps," he said. "But, there are still tens of thousands of people that live in these countries in host communities. That means, communities in Benin and Ghana who receive Togolese refugees. They have a very hard time to cope with that because all of a sudden they have to feed like 20 mouths instead of 10."

Mr. Pluess says WFP would like to support these host communities but is unable to do so because it is short of cash. He says WFP has borrowed money from its own emergency funds to feed the refugees. But, he notes this is only a stop-gap measure and donors must give money now or assistance to the Togolese victims will grind to a halt at the end of the year.