UNHCR – Spiraling costs, surging conflict, and soaring climate disasters create a desperate future for millions of refugees across Eastern Africa

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Ethiopia. UNHCR and partners move refugees to safety in Benishangul Gumuz region

A young girl at a temporary site for refugees from Sudan and South Sudan in Tsore, Ethiopia, which is among several East African countries suffering from a shortage in humanitarian food rations.  © UNHCR/Adelina Gomez Monteagudo

NAIROBI – Millions of displaced families across eastern Africa will fall deeper into hunger as food rations dwindle due to humanitarian resources being stretched to the limit as the world grapples with a toxic cocktail of conflict, climate shocks, and COVID-19, combined with spiraling costs of food and fuel, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

Despite efforts to make resources stretch through prioritisation schemes, meaning food assistance is prioritised for the most vulnerable families, the sheer number of refugees in need of support has grown, along with the gap between resourcing and needs. In the past decade the number of refugees in eastern Africa has nearly tripled, going from 1.82 million in 2012 to almost 5 million today including 300,000 new refugees last year alone.

The growth in refugee numbers has not been matched by a growth in resources, forcing WFP to make difficult decisions about who receives food assistance and who goes without. Today, over 70 percent of refugees in need of assistance do not receive a full ration due to funding shortfalls.

“Refugees and internally displaced people are at the centre of the food ration cuts, compounding a desperate situation for millions of people uprooted from their homes and often relying on aid to survive,” said Clementine Nkweta-Salami, UNHCR’s Regional Bureau Director for the East, Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes. “More and more children below the age of five years are experiencing high levels of stunting and wasting, as they lack the nutrients to grow and develop.”

“Families do not know where their next meal will come from and are taking on huge debt, selling off what they can, or sending their children to work,” added Nkweta-Salami. “The risk of domestic violence is rising. Getting people out of harm’s way and shielding them from serious protection risks also requires that their food needs are adequately addressed.”

A sharp increase in food and fuel costs and conflict-caused displacement are being compounded by a worsening climate crisis. Globally, floods and droughts are becoming more frequent and intense, severely impacting countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, and worsening food insecurity.

“The unfortunate reality is that eastern Africa is confronted with a year of unprecedented humanitarian needs, driven by severe climate shocks, ongoing conflict and instability, and surging food and fuel prices,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa.

“The growth in needs here mirrors what we see happening around the globe and we implore the world not to turn its back on this region and, in particular, the extremely vulnerable communities of refugees who have limited access to livelihoods and rely on WFP to survive.”

There is likely to be little relief through 2022 as the conflict in Ukraine will cause a wave of collateral hunger by further exacerbating existing problems such as record high food prices. Refugees are one of the most vulnerable populations and will be among the first to feel the effects of rising costs, which come as communities are still reeling from two years of socioeconomic fallouts due to COVID-19.

WFP requires US$226.5 million to provide full rations for refugees across Eastern Africa for the period April to September 2022.

Note to editors:

Burundi: There are more than 86,000 refugees hosted in Burundi, the majority of whom are from the DRC. In April, WFP provided full rations to 54,000 refugees. However, the activity has a shortfall of 64 percent for the period April to September 2022, with a net funding requirement of US$6 million.

Djibouti: Almost 35,000 refugees are hosted in Djibouti. WFP’s support to refugees is being implemented at 92 percent for those receiving in-kind rations and no reductions for those receiving cash. The activity has a shortfall of 45 percent for the period April to September 2022 with a net funding requirement of US$2.9 million.

Ethiopia: There are more than 837,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Ethiopia, mainly from South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. WFP’s support to refugees is being implemented at 60 percent rations due to funding constraints. The activity has a shortfall of 82 percent for the period April to September 2022, with a net funding requirement of US$87.7 million.

Kenya: There are nearly 547,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya. WFP’s support to refugees is being implemented at 50 percent rations for those living in Dadaab and Kakuma camps and 60 percent for those living in Kalobeyei. The activity has a shortfall of 53 percent for the period April to September 2022, with a net funding requirement of US$73.1 million.

Rwanda: There are some 122,000 refugees who receive humanitarian assistance in Rwanda. Funding shortfalls meant a needs-based prioritisation scheme was introduced in May 2021 where highly vulnerable refugees currently receive 92 percent rations and moderately vulnerable refugees receive 46 percent rations. The activity has a shortfall of 55 percent for the period April to September 2022, with a net funding requirement of US$13.9 million.

South Sudan: One of the poorest and most conflict impacted countries in the region is also host to almost 340,000 refugees and asylum-seekers. Most face high levels of poverty and have limited access to livelihood opportunities. WFP’s support to refugees is being implemented at 50 percent rations due to funding constraints. The activity has an overall shortfall of 36 percent for April to September 2022, with a net funding requirement of US$62.9 million. 

Sudan: There are more than 1.1 million refugees in Sudan, mostly from South Sudan. WFP’s support to refugees is being implemented at full rations. The activity has a shortfall of 64 percent for the period April to September 2022, with a net funding requirement of US$47.8 million.

Tanzania: There are over 248,000 refugees in Tanzania. WFP’s support to refugees is being implemented at 68 percent rations due to funding constraints. The activity has a shortfall of 43 percent for the period April to September 2022, with a net funding requirement of US$21 million.

Uganda: With almost 1.6 million refugees and asylum-seekers, Uganda hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa and the third largest in the world. Funding shortfalls meant that a geographical prioritisation scheme was introduced in October 2021 where some refugees living in camps in north-west Uganda receive 70 percent rations and others receive 60 percent or 40 percent, depending on geographical location. The activity has a shortfall of 51 percent for the period April to September 2022, with a net funding requirement of US$74.9 million.


 

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, works to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence, persecution, war or disaster at home. Since 1950, we have faced multiple crises on multiple continents, and provided vital assistance to refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced and stateless people, many of whom have nobody left to turn to. We help to save lives and build better futures for millions forced from home.

 

For more information please contact (email address: [email protected]):

  • Alessandro Abbonizio, WFP/Nairobi, Mob: +254 723 001 639
  • Gemma Snowdon, WFP/Rome, Mob: +39 342 756 4238
  • Faith Kasina, UNHCR/Nairobi, Mob: +254 113 427 094 [email protected]
  • Boris Cheshirkov, UNHCR/Geneva, Mob: +41 79 433 76 82 [email protected]
  • Kathryn Mahoney, UNHCR/New York, Mob: +1 347 443 7646 [email protected]




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