Refugees Alarmed at Change in Food Rations
Volume 1, Issue 2 / January 2009
Refugees were alarmed to see that the food ration package distributed in the second week of January replaced wheat flour with yellow maize meal. Yellow maize meal is rarely eaten even by communities whose staple food is maize. The current malnutrition rate in Kakuma Camp is 15.9 percent of the population, according to a recent UN survey.
The shift from wheat flour to maize meal signifies deterioration in the quality of food rations in terms of micro-nutrient needs. As compared to wheat flour, yellow maize meal is unpalatable.
According to a refugee who spoke on condition of anonymity, the new maize meal distributed cannot even be used by those communities which customarily eat maize. One Congolese woman who requested anonymity explained, “Even if ugali is our cultural food, we aren’t used to the yellow maize. I will sell it and buy the white maize.” Ugali is a traditional starchy paste made from boiled maize.
Many refugees are now selling their food rations, particularly the yellow maize flour. This results in low prices for yellow maize in comparison to skyrocketing food prices country wide. For example, the price of a sack of wheat in Kakuma Camp has risen from1,600 Ksh to 2,700 Ksh over the past year.
The most recent food ration distributed for a single person contained maize meal 6.56 kg, pulses 0.96 kg, vegetable oil 0.40 kg, corn soya blended (a mixture of grains, CSB) 0.88 kg, salt 0.08 kg and ground nuts 0.64 kg. This personal package of food is intended to last fifteen days. Some refugees question whether this food package meets the 2,100 calorie daily requirement recommended by the World Health Organization.
When contacted for comment, World Food Program officials were too busy to schedule an appointment.
Correction (updated 9 February 2009): The original figures published for food items in a 15-day ration package were inaccurate. The figures have now been updated according to LWF Distribution Department records.