The United Nations has launched an appeal to provide relief for hundreds of thousands of Burmese refugees now living in camps in Bangladesh. Money raised by the U.N. will go primarily to address malnutrition, which is particularly high among children.

According to spokesmen for the United Nations World Food Programme, malnutrition levels among Burmese refugees are "unacceptably high." More than 250,000 refugees fled Burma in the early 1990s, and are now located in two main camps in the southeast of Bangladesh.

The World Food Programme says it will launch an appeal to raise $2.1 million for immediate relief. According to numbers provided by the Programme, more than half of the refugee children under 5 years of age are underweight, and more than half of all the women in the camps are also malnourished.

Programme spokesmen say this problem can be addressed quickly, and that even a moderate increase in nutrition levels among pregnant women can have a significant effect on reducing low birth weight.

The agency hopes to have the money raised, and new nutrition programs established, within the year.