Growing concern about impact of food shortages on refugees in Malawi - UN agencies
A lack of funds could have severe consequences for more than 23,500 refugees at Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned today.
Due to funding shortfalls, WFP has been forced to reduce rations and even suspend provision of some foodstuffs during the last six months. Currently, the refugees are only receiving three of the five planned foods — and even then pulses, vegetable oil and maize are being provided at half the planned amount.
Stocks of a special nutritious food (Super Cereal Plus) for young children were depleted last September. A corn soya blended flour fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, known as Super Cereal, is the only commodity that is being provided at the full amount to refugees.
Ration cuts mean that refugees are only receiving 40 percent of the recommended minimum daily kilocalories, compromising long-standing efforts to achieve food security in Dzaleka camp. Without additional funding, maize stocks, even at half rations, are set to run out in mid-February. Stocks of vegetable oil, pulses and Super Cereal are likely to be depleted by May.
WFP requires US$2 million to resume provision of full food rations for the next 12 months.
“The situation is becoming dire,” said Monique Ekoko, UNHCR Representative for Malawi. “Many of the most vulnerable, including children, the chronically ill, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and the elderly are at the brink of malnutrition.”
When rations are reduced, protection concerns increase in the camp. A survey carried out by WFP, UNHCR and UN Women found that lack of food was one of the main drivers of sexual and gender-based violence among the refugees.
“Reducing rations is a last resort in these circumstances,” said Coco Ushiyama, WFP Representative for Malawi. “At a time of high food security challenges in Malawi, we realise budgets are tight but we can't forget those who have nowhere to turn. Hence this urgent appeal for funding to restore adequate food assistance and support for a safe environment in refugee camps, especially for women and girls.”
Dzaleka refugee camp is located in the central region of Malawi and hosts refugees mostly from the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions. In addition, asylum seekers who have recently arrived from Mozambique into the south-west of Malawi also require assistance.
“We'll continue to meet our international obligations towards refugees,” said Bestone Chisamile, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Commissioner for Refugees in Malawi. “However, we need continued support from WFP and UNHCR to be able to do so. That is why we're appealing to the international community to provide the necessary funding so that refugee families in Malawi do not go to bed hungry.”
Malawi is the country in the region worst-affected by food insecurity with some 2.8 million people estimated to be currently in need of food assistance. This situation is due to severe flooding at the beginning of last year followed by prolonged dry spells resulting in much lower than usual crop production. The situation is being exacerbated by the global El Niño weather event resulting in severely-reduced rainfall for southern Africa.