Cameroon: Food Assistance to Refugees in Cameroon At Risk of Halt Amid Funding Shortages

Yaounde — The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are today warning that vital food assistance to refugees in Cameroon’s Far North, Adamawa, East and North regions is at risk of grinding to a halt due to funding shortfalls. Funding shortfalls had already forced WFP to cut rations for refugees to 50 percent in the Far North, Adamawa, East and North regions of Cameroon and to distribute incomplete food baskets since end 2023, missing some items such as pulses, vegetable oil and salt. These measures are already exposing the refugee communities to higher vulnerability and limiting their access to diverse and nutritious meals.

“Without immediate support we will have no option but to further cut the already meagre portions on refugees’ plates, with all the devastating impacts this will bring including rising malnutrition and hunger, exposure to protection risks and families resorting to desperate strategies to cope, including pulling children out of school and eating less food – affecting especially women and children,” said Wanja Kaaria, WFP Representative and Country Director in Cameroon.

“We are grateful for generous donor funding in Cameroon and we are hopeful that donors will step up and help address our funding gaps, helping us to avoid further cuts to those who have already lost everything due to conflict, violence and natural disasters,” she added.

WFP requires US$ 23.1 million to assist to over 222,000 refugees from Nigeria and the Central African Republic (CAR) currently hosted in Cameroon, funding that will ensure the life-saving humanitarian assistance can continue through December 2024.

Most refugee families rely on WFP food assistance to survive. WFP food assistance has already been re-prioritized to the focus on the most vulnerable people, of whom the majority are women, female-headed households, elderly persons, persons with disability, and unaccompanied children.

“The food ration cut is a forecast of the escalating protection crises in Cameroon which is now affecting the most basic human right of the forcibly displaced people in the country – the right to food. We are deeply concerned that further ration cuts may disrupt the existing social cohesion as we received reports of the outcry of the refugee communities. Thus, we appeal to donor governments to support refugees in accessing the much-needed food and remain healthy,” said UNHCR Representative to Cameroon, Olivier Guillaume Beer.

For over a decade, Cameroon has faced three complex, intertwined, and protracted humanitarian crises that have remained largely underfunded. As of December 2023, 4.7 million people needed humanitarian assistance, with over two million on the move as refugees, internally displaced people and returnees.

Food insecurity in the country affects 2.5 million people, according to the November 2023 Cadre Harmonisé analysis. These figures represent some of the highest rates of food insecurity recorded in the country, affecting refugees, internally displaced people and host communities, with nearly 75 percent of the severely food insecure people located in crisis-affected regions.

Alarming rates of acute malnutrition and stunting in children under 5 are also reported among refugee communities. Wasting rates vary between 10 percent among those living outside of camps in the North and 17.4 percent in the Adamawa and East campsites, above the emergency thresholds of 10 and 15 percent (SMART/SENS, 2022).

But the US$ 371.4 million humanitarian response plan for 2024 is only 5 percent funded as of February 2024. The situation was no better in 2023 when the plan was only 28 percent funded.

While the Government of Cameroon is making every effort to address the humanitarian situation, there is an urgent need for additional support to meet the immediate food and nutrition needs of crisis-affected families in Cameroon.

WFP and UNHCR remain committed to working with the government, donors and partners to continue providing food and nutrition assistance to vulnerable communities including refugees and internally displaced persons, helping them meet their basic needs, and rebuild their lives and livelihoods through longer term solutions to achieve self-reliance.

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