Food rations for refugees and displaced people are being cut by as much as half as the world faces a worsening hunger crisis fueled by the war in Ukraine and funding constraints.
"We are being forced to make the heart-breaking decision to cut food rations for refugees who rely on us for their survival," WFP Executive Director David Beasley said Monday in a statement.
There is a massive funding shortfall with millions set to go hungry as prices rise and climate shocks hit yields. Food prices have neared a record high after Russia's invasion of Ukraine sharply reduced Kyiv's key exports of grain and vegetable oil, adding to price pressures from logistics snarl-ups and a rebound in demand after the pandemic.
Efforts to let Ukraine resume crucial agricultural exports are moving slowly, Bloomberg reported.
Refugees living in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda are being most affected by food ration cuts, the United Nations agency said.
The WFP has already significantly reduced rations to refugees across its operations.
The UN humanitarian office (OCHA) estimated that some 18 million people will face severe food insecurity in the next three months across the arid belt that stretches across Africa beneath the Sahara. Its $3.8 billion appeal for the region is less than 12% funded, OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said.
"The situation has reached alarming levels in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, where people will experience emergency levels of food insecurity during the lean season between June and August," he told the media in May, adding that the levels of food insecurity were the worst since 2014.
According to the UN refugee agency, 67% of refugees and asylum seekers came from countries with food crises in 2021. With 6 million people fleeing Ukraine this year alone, a lack of access to food may spur millions more people to migrate.
"This, coupled with devastating conflict and climate extremes, is hitting refugees the hardest," the WFP said.
In Burkina Faso, rations are currently at 75% in areas that are hard-to-reach and the most food insecure, and 50% at other sites, the World Food Programme said.
Rations have already been cut by half for displaced people and refugees in Chad, it said. The WFP will be forced to reduce them further from July if more funding is not received.
In Mauritania, the food component of the food-cash ration is being cut by 50% at Mbera camp, it said.