16 March 2007Facing a critical lack of funds, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today it would be forced to halve food rations for nearly 1.5 million displaced people and refugees in Uganda as of the beginning of next month. Facing a critical lack of funds, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today it would be forced to halve food rations for nearly 1.5 million displaced people and refugees in Uganda as of the beginning of next month. “If we don’t cut them by 50 per cent in the next few weeks, the relief operation would grind to a halt in May,” WFP Country Director Tesema Negash said.The agency has so far received only $37 million of the $127 million it has sought from donors and the Government to provide for relief and recovery support this year for 1.2 million displaced people, 182,000 refugees and 500,000 drought victims. In 2007, some 170,000 metric tons of food worth $90 million are needed for these programmes.Since 2005, WFP has reduced rations to as low as 40 per cent of the minimum daily requirement per person in some areas. This month it removed nutritious corn soya blend for children’s porridge from the general relief package for families.If the shortage of funds continues, WFP will be forced in May to make further cuts in maize and beans for 600,000 school children assisted by an emergency food for education programme, as well as for some 240,000 people affected by HIV/AIDS. Mr. Negash noted that it costs about $11 million a month to sustain the relief and recovery operation in Uganda.“Even though the security situation in northern Uganda has improved and the peace process with the [rebel] Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is moving ahead, the humanitarian needs of the people remain considerable,” he said of the conflict which has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.“It is vital that we do not abandon the displaced at this critical stage in the peace process. Even after they have returned home, we expect them to require humanitarian support until they are able to harvest sufficient amounts of food for their families.”If the security situation remains stable and the Government reaches a peace agreement with the LRA, WFP foresees a massive return of people to their homes in Acholiland.To help displaced people voluntarily returning home, WFP provides a three-month package until they can plant sufficient food. “We cannot provide that assistance without some buffer stock,” Mr. Negash said.