A Widening Budget Gap Is Forcing the UN to Slash Food Aid to Refugees

Eight years ago, Khadija Abdi fled the fighting and chaos in Somalia that killed her father and brother

Author: Paul Schemm

MELKADIDA REFUGEE CAMP, Ethiopia — Eight years ago, Khadija Abdi fled the fighting and chaos in Somalia that killed her father and brother and made it across the border to a refugee camp in southern Ethiopia. Life isn’t so bad here, she says. Tents have gradually been replaced by huts. She is safe, and her daughter goes to school.

The problem: There’s not enough food.

“Three times this year, rations have been cut,” Abdi, 40, said of their monthly allotment of grain, pulses, cooking oil and salt.

Beset by funding shortages, the U.N. World Food Program has reduced the daily calorie intake for the 650,000 refugees it feeds in Ethiopian camps by 20 percent, leaving them with an average allowance of just 1,680 calories a day. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, men need on average about 2,500 calories a day, women about 2,000.

If new funds do not come by March, the refugees will see a further drop, to about 1,000 calories a day. Meanwhile, nearly 10,000 new refugees, mostly from war-torn South Sudan, arrive every month.

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