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KENYA: World Food Program Cuts will Affect Nearly 1,000 Participating in Salesian Programs at Kakuma Refugee Camp

(MissionNewswire) The U.N World Food Programme made an announcement in June that due to a shortfall in donor funding it plans to cut food rations for half a million refugees living in camps in northern Kenya, according to a recent Thomas Reuters Foundation article. Food rations will be cut by close to a third for the primarily Somali and South Sudanese refugees at the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. Also affected are the more than one thousand refugees participating in Salesian programs at the Kakuma refugee camp.

Kakuma was established in 1992 near Kenya’s border with South Sudan and was a place of refuge for unaccompanied minors fleeing warring factions in what was then southern Sudan. Today, the Kakuma refugee camp has more than 180,000 refugees, well over the 120,000 person capacity for which it was built. More than 44 percent of the refugees at the camp are from South Sudan and arrived after fleeing the country to escape conflict and violence.

Kakuma is operated by UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, in collaboration with Salesian missionaries in the country as well as several other humanitarian organizations. The camp offers refugees safety, security and life-saving services such as housing, healthcare, clean water and sanitation. According to UNHCR, for the third year in a row, Kakuma continues to receive record numbers of refugees from South Sudan. By late December 2014, there were more than 42,000 new arrivals in Kakuma. Without a lasting ceasefire and peace and reconciliation in South Sudan, UNHCR predicts the steady influx into Kenya is likely to continue throughout 2015.

The World Food Programme distributes 9,300 metric tons of food for 500,000 refugees in northern Kenya each month at a cost of $9.6 million. Unless more than $12 million is raised, there will be a critical food gap during August and September of this year.

“We are very worried about how this cut may affect the people who rely on our assistance,” says Thomas Hansson, World Food Progammes’s acting country director for Kenya, in a statement in the Thomas Reuters Foundation article. “But our food stocks are running out, and reducing the size of rations is the only way to stretch our supplies to last longer. We hope that this is only a temporary measure and we continue to appeal to the international community to assist.”

Salesian missionaries at Kakuma operate the Holy Cross Parish and the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center where 1,044 young men and women are being trained in critical employment and life skills. There are many courses available at the training center and those studying welding, carpentry and bricklaying often utilize their new skills helping to build infrastructure within the camp.

“Don Bosco Vocational Training Center is the only formal technical training center in the Kakuma refugee camp,” says Father Luke Mulayinkal who oversees the Salesian work at Kakuma. “There are so many who are being prepared for a livelihood and for nation building in their home countries or in the countries in which they will be settled. At the end of their year studies, the students receive a Kenya Government Certificate which holds much value for the refugees.”

In addition to the critical food shortfalls, Kakuma is running out of space. By the end of August 2014, the camp was unable to accommodate new arrivals and UNHCR sought to secure new land for its expanded operations. With the influx of refugees into the camp and a need for technical education, Salesian missionaries at Kakuma are struggling to meet the demands of students seeking training. While land has been provided to build a new facility, funding still needs to be raised to complete the project.

“Since the influx of refugees and the critical food shortages, Salesian missionaries have many needs here,” adds Fr. Mulayinkal. “We need to expand our services to meet the growing demand for shelter, nutrition, education, social support and infrastructure to run our programs. Right now we do what we can for as many as we can but the demand continues to grow.”

Headquartered in New Rochelle, NY, Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, has launched a donation appeal to aid Salesian missionaries at Kakuma in building a new training facility as well as funding ongoing humanitarian assistance for those displaced. As Salesian missionaries in Kenya continue to provide safety and shelter for displaced families, they are reaching out for support so they may continue to help those in need.

To give to relief efforts helping those in need throughout Africa, go to SalesianMissions.org and select “African Crisis Emergency Fund” on the donate page.



Photo: Matija Kovac/Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Reuters Foundation – Funding shortfall forces U.N. to cut refugee food rations in Kenyan camps

UNHCR – Kakuma Refugee Camp 2015

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