Beset by funding shortages, the U.N. World Food Program has reduced the daily calorie intake for the 650,000 refugees it feeds in Ethiopian camps by 20 percent, leaving them with an average allowance of just 1,680 calories a day. (On average, men need about 2,500 calories a day, women about 2,000.)
If new funds do not come by March, the refugees will see a further drop, to about 1,000 calories a day. Meanwhile, nearly 10,000 new refugees, mostly from war-torn South Sudan, arrive every day.
The problem is not restricted to Ethiopia. The operations of the WFP, by far the world’s biggest food provider, are under threat as global crises overwhelm donor countries’ capacity to give. With near-famines in South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia, as well as a string of protracted conflicts and refugee crises in places such as Syria and Ethiopia, the need is simply too great.
In Syria, where a six-year-old civil war is slowly winding down amid massive devastation and displacement, the WFP has been able to feed fewer people every month, dropping from 4 million in November, to 3.3 million in December and an expected 2.8 million next month.
In Yemen, where a civil war and a foreign blockade make it hard just getting food into the country, half of the 7 million people fed by the WFP are on 60 percent rations (1,260 calories a day). Similarly in Somalia, where 3 million people receive assistance, the WFP has had to suspend rations for many and reduce them for others.