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U.N. Says Lack of Money Forces Cuts in Food Aid for African Refugees

This is Shep O'Neal with the VOA Special English Development Report.

Two United Nations agencies have appealed for more money to supply food to refugee camps in Africa. They say they have had to cut food aid to hundreds of thousands of people. Most are in West Africa and the Great Lakes area.

The World Food Program says it needs more than two hundred million dollars for its operations through the end of this year. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says it will need at least one hundred eighty million.

The two agencies say the cuts have created suffering among those affected. Special feeding programs for young children, pregnant women and new mothers have also been reduced.

Forty-four thousand Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone have received less food since May. Four hundred thousand refugees in Tanzania have been affected for almost a year. They have received only two-thirds of their daily needs. The U.N. agencies say the situation there has improved a little now, but more money is needed to prevent future cuts.

In southern Chad, refugees from the Central African Republic have also had their shipments limited.

In Sudan, the World Food Program reported a separate problem: a shortage of airplane fuel at the worst time of year. Aid workers call it the hunger season. The agency says it had to cut in half its emergency food shipments in August to more than one million people in the south. The fuel shortage also affected efforts in the Darfur area in western Sudan.

Also in Africa, there were more warnings last week about the food crisis in Niger. It follows rain shortages and a locust invasion last year. Doctors Without Borders says recent international aid has yet to help some areas that need it most. The medical aid group says tens of thousands of children still require immediate assistance.

The group found that one in five children suffered from malnutrition in the Zinder area in August. It says death rates were higher than when the crisis began in January.

Last week, the World Food Program reported "good progress" in its work in Niger. The aim is to supply food to more than three and one-half million people. But the U.N. agency says its operation remains only fifty-eight percent financed. The next harvest in most of Niger is several weeks away.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. Our reports are on the Web at I'm Shep O'Neal.