N’DJAMENA, Chad — Due to an influx of refugees from the Central African Republic into impoverished regions of Chad, the World Food Programme is now appealing for a minimum of $186 million in U.S. currency to provide aid in Chad through the end of 2014. Additionally, the U.N. Refugee Agency is calling for $39 million to fund food security and nutritional support for refugees.
These appeals are in response to recent ration shortages, not faulted by the World Food Programme, but sparked by nearly half a million refugees fleeing violence in the Central African Republic. More funding is needed to provide relief for the vulnerable in overpopulated regions.
The World Food Programme and the U.N. Refugee Agency issued a joint report last week that warned of high levels of malnutrition, particularly among children, if the ration cuts continued.
“Some situations, particularly CAR, have been severely under-funded so there is an equity issue here that needs to be dealt with,” said Paul Spiegel, the U.N. Refugee Agency’s deputy director of programme support and management. “Protracted refugee situations have also not had the same level of funding.”
Approximately 75 percent of ration cuts affect long-term refugees, not new arrivals, according to Spiegel.
The good news is that donors are increasingly prioritizing funding for emergency refugee crises rather than protracted funding. Meanwhile, the U.N. Refugee Agency continues to integrate refugees into Chadian communities instead of setting up camps.
“Having refugees be amongst local communities is better for so many different reasons,” Spiegel said. “It allows them to be more self-reliant, reduces long-term dependence and UNHCR can use its funding to improve existing communities.”
In order to do this, however, the U.N. Refugee Agency will need to convince African governments that bringing refugees into local communities will help their economies, not hurt them — hence the need for appropriate funding.
Until funding is received, the World Food Programme and the U.N. Refugee Agency will have to make difficult choices in determining which refugee groups are better able to withstand ration cuts. For example, Sudanese refugees in Chad live in a desert-like climate, which makes farming very difficult, whereas refugees from the Central African Republic living in the southern region have available arable land.
“We’re doing surveys where we’re trying to look at — even within a camp — who are the most and least vulnerable,” Spiege said. “We may even consider, based on consultations with communities and leaders, giving full rations to some and smaller rations to others.”
World Food Programme spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said that U.S. aid is crucial in order to get aid to all refugees in need, and that prolonged ration cuts may lead to drastic measures on the part of refugees.
“Refugees initially try to make do by skipping meals, taking out loans and pulling their children out of school,” Byrs said. “In the longer term, ration cuts can lead to more risky behavior such as crime, sexual exploitation and conflict with host communities.”
Byrs is urging donors to prevent these things from happening by providing aid as soon as possible. This aid would undoubtedly save hundreds of thousands of lives.
– Paige Frazier