DAKAR, 16 November (IRIN) – Over 65,000 people forced to flee Togo or seek shelter from political violence elsewhere in the country will stop receiving essential food aid unless the World Food Programme secures just US $1 million from donors by the end of the year.
The UN food agency warned in a statement that unless funds can be found, imminent food shortages could lead to unrest.
Almost 40,000 refugees are living in camps as well as with host communities in Benin and Ghana after fleeing post-poll violence that gripped the country in April. A further near 20,000 people were internally displaced.
« These people have virtually nothing and the world is in danger of ignoring their most basic needs, » said WFP regional director for West Africa, Mustapha Darboe.
The office of the UN refugee agency in Benin echoed WFP’s concerns.
« We are very concerned, extremely concerned about this, » UNHCR country representative Rafik Saidi told IRIN.
Though the UNHCR camps are calm for the moment, many of the Togolese residents already are dissatisfied with the amount of food handed out, according to the agency.
« WFP is giving out the required 2,100 calories per day but people are used to eating a greater quantity of food..UNHCR is even stepping in to give some condiments to enrich their current daily allowance, » Saidi said.
WFP so far has received only one donation of US $410,000 towards their operations, which were estimated to cost US $3 million to cover food relief until March 2006.
A report by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour published in September, calculated that between 400 and 500 people died and thousands were wounded in the weeks following the April polls. A national inquiry has listed the names of 154 people killed in the violence.
Arbour’s report said that state security forces used excessive force against opposition demonstrations and that the majority of victims were killed in their own homes.
Violence first erupted in this tiny West African nation in February when the death of President Gnassingbe Eyadema brought his 38-year rule to a sudden end and the army backed a bid to seize power by his son Faure Gnassingbe.
In the face of international condemnation, Gnassingbe agreed to step down and hold elections. He eventually won the ballot but the opposition denounced the polls as rigged, and more violence ensued, sending thousands of Togolese fleeing east to Benin and west to Ghana to seek refuge.
Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)