The United Nations World Food Program (WFP), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Ethiopian Refugee and Returnee Service (RRS) today appealed for US$73 million to provide food rations to more than 750,000 refugees in Ethiopia on over the next six months. . WFP will completely run out of food for refugees by October, putting vulnerable families dependent on food aid at risk of malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, susceptibility to disease/infection and increased protection risks, the three agencies have warned.
WFP has already been forced to cut rations for 750,000 registered refugees living in 22 camps and five facilities in host communities in Ethiopia’s Afar, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambela, Somalia and Tigray regions due to ongoing funding shortfalls.
Food rations for refugees in Ethiopia were first cut by 16 percent in November 2015, by 40 percent in November 2021, and by 50 percent in June 2022. Food insecurity among refugees has increased as a result of reductions and is exacerbated by current global food availability constraints, economic shocks, rising food and energy costs, the effects of COVID-19, conflict and insecurity.
To understand the impact of reduced food rations on the food security and socioeconomic situation of refugees, WFP, UNHCR and RRS conducted a rapid assessment in April, which was based on 1,215 households living in camps located in Afar, Beneshangul-Ghumuz, Gambella and Somali Regions.
Findings indicate that more families continue to use negative coping strategies by reducing the number of meals per day, consuming less expensive or less preferred foods, or limiting the portions of food served. More families reported engaging in degrading activities, including engaging children in income-generating activities such as collecting and selling firewood, while a few borrowed cash relying on food from friends/relatives. This forces refugees to rely on the resources of the host community and the environment in which they live, which also increases the likelihood of resource-based conflicts between refugees and host communities.
There is an urgent need to mobilize additional resources to meet the immediate food and non-food needs of refugees to prevent further suffering, while similar investments are made to ensure sustainable food solutions included in the Global Compact for Refugees (GCR) commitments. and the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) for refugees and host communities through livelihoods and cash-based programs in line with UNHCR and DRC strategies. As a short-term measure, WFP and its partners continue to prioritize the needs of children aged 6 to 23 months, as well as pregnant and lactating women, through the Malnutrition Prevention Program (blanket feeding).
“Three-quarters of a million refugees will be without food for weeks if we don’t get funding immediately,” said Claude Jibidar, WFP representative and country director for Ethiopia.
“The priority for all of us must be to restore aid to at least a minimum level for the refugees, all of whom depend solely on WFP cash and food aid for their survival.”
“We are US$73 million short of minimum refugee needs and we are deeply concerned that if funding cuts continue, they may consider returning to their place of origin if it is unsafe.”
In the event of an immediate donor response, WFP will be able to purchase food available in the region and transport it to meet the dietary needs of refugees. WFP will also provide cash transfers to refugees, which will empower them to choose how to meet their immediate needs and stimulate local markets.
“We are very concerned about the lack of food for the refugees. The continued lack of adequate rations for the refugees, combined with the effects of the worst drought the country has experienced in more than 40 years, will significantly undermine the gains made in the protection of the refugees and may affect the peaceful coexistence between the refugees and their host. communities,” said UNHCR Deputy Representative in Ethiopia Margaret Atiena. “We are grateful for what donors have provided so far, but more funding is needed, and quickly.”
“Ethiopia, with its progressive refugee policy and commitment, is committed to sustainable self-sufficiency of refugees and host communities with its limited resources, while coping with recurring funding shortfalls from the international community. The following calculation of the general humanitarian aid fund for refugees in Ethiopia in recent years has not only affected the immediate basic needs of refugees, but also hindered the long-term envisaged sustainable self-reliance and coexistence of refugees and host communities.” said RRS CEO Tesfahun Gobezai.
“Continuous resource constraints create conflict and stress due to competition for existing scarce local resources. Continued budget cuts and the recent 50 percent deduction of food and cash assistance to refugees from the minimum recommended standard are severely affecting the lives of refugees, exposing them to chronic hunger, anemia, sexual exploitation and death, as more than 85 percent of refugees in Ethiopia are completely dependent on of monthly WFP food rations. This will hinder Ethiopia’s positive development towards self-reliance and coexistence of refugees and host communities and, above all, will complicate all efforts to save lives.”
WFP, UNHCR and RRS continue to prioritize the food needs of refugees and have established an effective system to identify refugees’ food assistance needs through biometric verification, ensuring accountability and eligibility for monthly food and cash assistance. The three agencies call on all partners to strengthen efforts to meet the medium and long-term food needs of refugees in line with the 2019 Government of Ethiopia Declaration on Refugees and commitments contained in the GCR and CRRF.
Ethiopia hosts more than one million registered refugees and asylum seekers. Most of them are from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. Of these, about 750,000 are completely dependent on humanitarian food aid. RRS manages the distribution of food and cash assistance to refugees in a more accountable and transparent manner according to the biometric database. The RRS will continue to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees have access to biometric (third level) registration to meet their assistance and protection needs.
WFP, UNHCR and RRS continue to rely on the donor community for enhanced financial support for refugees based on the principle of shared responsibility for the implementation of essential life-saving humanitarian activities.
 The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), approved by the UN General Assembly on 17 December 2018, aims to facilitate the sharing of responsibilities between host countries and communities to better support refugees.
 As outlined in the 2016 New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) focuses on the importance of supporting countries and communities hosting large numbers of refugees, facilitating the integration of refugees into host communities, and developing a whole-of-society approach to responding to refugees.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the World Food Program (WFP).
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