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Johannesburg - Amid a funding shortage which has forced the reduction of rations for some 320 000 refugees in north-west Tanzania, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has said that it urgently requires $23.6 million (about R307 million) to guarantee the food and nutritional needs through December.

“Without an immediate response from donors, further ration cuts will be necessary as food stocks are simply running out,” said Michael Dunford, WFP Tanzania Country Representative.

Five food commodities – maize meal, pulses, Super Cereal, vegetable oil and salt – are provided by WFP in Mtendeli, Nduta and Nyarugusu camps in Kigoma in north-western Tanzania, mainly to refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

However, food portions were reduced in August due to funding cuts, which might lead to long-term, life-changing consequences, such as acute malnutrition and rising vulnerability to disease.

The UN agency also provides hot meals for refugees upon arrival and supplemental rations for pregnant and nursing women and food assistance to hospital in-patients and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warned recently that despite a slight stabilisation in Nyarugusu, there were now 312 725 refugees living in Nyarugusu, Nduta and Mtendili camps.

As seen by MSF in Nduta, humanitarian agencies were struggling to meet the shelter, medical, food, and hygiene needs of the refugees.

“Until sufficient shelter is available via the rehousing of refugees into an additional camp, health challenges will remain high,” said David Nash, Head of Mission for MSF in Tanzania.

“To avoid a further deterioration in conditions, we again call for a fourth camp to be established immediately.”

Additional support is also required to ensure that the Tanzanian government can continue to adhere to refugee conventions.

For years, Tanzania has hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees and, since April 2015, automatically granted refugee status to all Burundians entering Tanzania.

However, the revocation in January 2017 of this approach now means that Burundian refugees must have their refugee cases determined individually, a move which affects the humanitarian assistance available to them.

“We urge all stakeholders, including the Tanzanian government and international donors, to rapidly increase their support,” said Nash.

“It is crucial that humanitarian organisations take concrete action to help Tanzania provide shelter and assistance to refugees for as long as they continue to flee.

“Tanzania must not become home to yet another forgotten refugee crisis.”