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Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse
Added 17 Jul 2014
All photos UNHCR / Corentin Fohlen
A funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations in refugee camps in eastern Chad by up to 60 per cent. As a result, Sudanese refugees in 13 camps in the east now receive about 850 calories per day, down from the minimum ration of 2,100 calories daily they used to get. The refugees are finding it difficult to cope. Clinics in the area report a significant spike in malnutrition cases, with rates as high as 19.5 per cent in Am Nabak camp.
WFP needs to raise £108.75 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the £45.6 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.
In the meantime, the refugees experiencing ration cuts have few options. Poor soil quality, dry conditions and little access to water mean they can’t plant supplemental crops as refugees in the less arid south of Chad are able to do. To try to cope, many refugee women in eastern Chad are leaving the camps in search of work in surrounding towns. They clean houses, do laundry, fetch water and firewood and work as construction labourers. Even so, they earn very little and often depend on each other for support. In the town of Iriba, for example, some 50 refugee women sleep rough each night under a tree and share their some of their meagre earnings to pay for a daily, communal meal.
They are also subject to exploitation. Sometimes, their temporary employers refuse to pay them at the end of the day. And some women and girls have resorted to prostitution to earn money to feed their families.
Ration cuts can have an impact far beyond health, reverberating through the entire community. It is not uncommon for children to be pulled out of school on market days in order to work. Many refugees use a portion of their food rations to barter for other essentials, or to get cash to pay school fees or buy supplies for their children. Small business owners like butchers, hairdressers and tailors – some of them refugees – also feel the pinch.
WFP supplies food to around 240,500 Sudanese refugees in the camps of eastern Chad. Many have been in exile for years and, because of their limited opportunities for self-sufficiency, remain almost totally dependent on outside help. The ration cuts have made an already difficult situation much worse for refugees who were already struggling.
Angelina Jolie revisits Myanmar refugees on World Refugee Day
Added 25 Jun 2014
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie spent this year’s World Refugee Day with Karenni refugees from Myanmar – one of the longest-running refugee situations in the world.
On her fourth visit to the refugee camps in Thailand, she met Baw Meh’s family, three generations of refugees who have lived in Ban Mai Nai Soi camp since 1996. The family told Jolie they fled Myanmar’s Kayah state thinking they would return home shortly. Eighteen years later, they are still here.
Baw Meh, 75, lost her husband last year. He died before he could fulfill his dream of returning home. Some of their children and grandchildren have been resettled to third countries. Others have chosen to stay. Baw Meh has refused to go, preferring to stay close to her village. Like many refugees along the border, her family is watching the reform process in Myanmar closely. As they mull the prospect of eventual return, Jolie had a strong message for them: “At the end of the day, you will need to make the choices that are right for your families. UNHCR is here to listen to you, to guide you, and to help you prepare for life beyond the camps.”
All photos should be credited: UNHCR/R. Arnold
Iraq Crisis: Finding a Place to Stay
Added 25 Jun 2014
Tens of thousands of people have fled to Erbil and Duhok governorates in Iraq’s Kurdistan region over the past week, sheltering in schools, mosques, churches and temporary camps following a surge of violence in parts of central and northern Iraq. UNHCR and its partners have been working to meet the urgent shelter needs. The refugee agency has delivered close to 1,000 tents to a transit camp being built by the authorities and NGOs at Garmawa, near Duhok.
Many of the people arriving from Mosul at checkpoints between Ninewa and governorate and Iraq’s Kurdistan region have limited resources and cannot afford to pay for shelter. Some people stay with family, while others are staying in hotels and using up their meagre funds.
In the village of Alqosh, some 150 people from 20 families, with little more than the clothes on their back, have been living in several overcrowded classrooms in a primary school for the past week. One member of the group said they had lived in a rented apartment in Mosul and led a normal family life. But in Alqosh, they feared for the welfare and education of their children and the presence of snakes and scorpions.