‘WFP can no longer feed Druk refugees’
KATHMANDU, Dec 23 - The UN World Food Program (WFP) on Friday said it won't be able to feed Bhutanese refugees languishing in seven camps in eastern Nepal from the coming New Year because of lack of funding.
"WFP will no longer be able to provide full food rations to more than 106,000 Bhunatese refugees living in camps in eastern Nepal from January 2007, unless there is an immediate infusion of fund from the international donor community," WFP's Kathmandu office said in a statement.
"The donor community has always come through and provided critical assistance to the Bhutanese refugees since 1992 but no funds at all have been forthcoming for the next two-year program, which starts on 1 January 2007," the WFP office stated.
WFP is solely responsible for feeding all the refugees.
WFP's Country Representative in Nepal, Richard Ragan, said there has been no commitment made so far to support feeding of the refugees for the coming years. Ragan also said lack of financial support has put the health and safety of the refugees at serious risk. He appealed to the international community to respond quickly.
"Despite recent international media and donor attention on the Bhutanese refugee issue, it has not yet translated into the kind of financial support that WFP has received in previous years," Ragan said.
The lack of donor funds for this two-year, US$23.6 million dollar program means the WFP would not only have to cut food rations to the refugees, but at this critical time in Nepal's history, the threat of over 100,000 refugees losing access to food could have serious implications on the overall security situation in the country, Ragan said.
In this situation humanitarian assistance, like the food aid provided by WFP, is critical to fulfilling their basic needs, the WFP Kathmandu office said.
"As the international community lines up to support the peace process in Nepal, it is important that the donor community does not forget the needs of existing humanitarian crises like the Bhutanese refugees," said Ragan.
In addition to providing essential food items, WFP provides vitamin-fortified food to 3,000 pregnant and lactating women and young children, according to the WFP office. It has also been supporting income-generating activities aimed at improving the livelihoods of refugees as well as vocational training programs that help refugees become self-sufficient once durable solutions are found.
For the current year that ends on 31 December, support for the program has come from the European Commission (US$2.7 million), the United States (US$1.9 million), Nepal (US$150,000), Japan (US$20,000) and the private sector (US$8,000).
A further US$3.7 million was received in multilateral contributions. According to a WFP source, WFP spent about 9.3 million dollars in 2006 to feed the refugees.