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RWANDA: WFP "urgently needs" US $3.3 million to prevent malnutrition

Nairobi, 1 September 2003 (IRIN) - The UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Monday that 6,200 mt of food worth US $3.3 million was "urgently needed" to prevent malnutrition among refugees and drought victims in Rwanda.

The agency said this would enable it to continue assisting more than 93,000 people until February 2004.

"If we don't receive more donations soon, we'll have to make some very hard choices," David Stevenson, WFP country director for Rwanda, said. "Basically, we'll be forced to reduce the amount of food we distribute per person by at least 30 percent from October onwards."

WFP said that ration reductions would have a devastating impact on already vulnerable people: while each person needed an intake of 2,100 kcal per day, a reduction to 1,600 kilo calories (kcal) resulting from the funding shortfall posed a serious threat to the health of refugees and drought victims - children, in particular.

Nutritional centres currently assisting at least 10,000 malnourished people, the majority of whom are children and women, would also be seriously affected.

WFP had requested some 24,000 mt of food for a 12-month period until February 2004. The agency has, so far, received 45 percent of the food required.

"We have to be aware that it takes at least three months before a contribution materialises into actual food for distribution," Stevenson said. "It's imperative to act now and prevent an already worrying situation from deteriorating any further."

WFP said there were severe food shortages in southeast Rwanda, in areas such as Bugesera, following two consecutive poor harvests. Crop failures in January and June have left 45,000 people in dire need of food aid, while the number of children seeking treatment at nutrition centres in the area has doubled since January. WFP reported that in order to cope, families had begun selling their belongings and had consumed seeds they would otherwise have used for farming.

Furthermore, WFP said that refugees in the country - without access to land or labour opportunities since 1999 - were also totally reliant on the agency's food aid for survival: almost 32,000 people, mainly from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, live in camps in Kibuye (western Rwanda), Byumba (northern Rwanda) and Gikongoro (southwestern Rwanda).

Theme (s): Food Security,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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