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Hungry Darfuri refugees eat toxic seeds

July 2 - 2014 EASTERN CHAD

The Darfuri refugees in the 12 eastern Chad camps are suffering from an acute shortage of food.

“The suffering has worsened with the start of the fasting month of Ramadan”, Jamal Daoud, the head of the Bredjing refugee camp told Radio Dabanga. “The World Food Programme (WFP) brought back the food rations to three items only: sorghum, beans, and oil. The amounts were reduced too. We now receive 4 kg of sorghum per capita a month, instead of 12 kg.”

Daoud warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if aid organisations do not help out soon. "As the refugees cannot find work and an income, they resorted to eating the seeds of the mekheit tree, which are potentially toxic if not carefully prepared.”*

Food cuts

Refugees in Chad face the most severe food cuts of all displaced and refugees in Africa, UNHCR and WFP reported in a joint press release on Tuesday.

“Some 300,000 refugees in Chad, primarily from Sudan's Darfur region in the east and from the Central African Republic in the south, are among the worst affected by the cuts. Food distributions there have been slashed by up to 60 percent, leaving refugees with a scant 850 kilocalories per day. In the south of Chad, some refugees are able to grow food on small plots provided by the government. In the arid east, however, that is not an option for most refugees.”

The heads of the WFP and UNHCR stated that funding difficulties, compounded by security and logistical problems in some countries, have forced cuts in food rations for nearly 800,000 refugees in Africa. The cuts may worsen the already unacceptable levels of acute malnutrition, particularly in children.

Mekheit

* The mekheit tree (boscia senegalensis) grows wild in arid areas. Its seeds have to be soaked in water for at least one week to reduce the toxin. After the seeds are sun-dried, they are crushed, and cooked as porridge or baked as bread. However if this slow procedure is not followed rigorously, the toxicity can be fatal.

File photo: Boscia senegalensis (bee-paysage.fr)

Related:

World Food Programme, UNHCR appeal for urgent extra funding (2 July 2014)

Reduced WFP rations for Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad (20 May 2014)


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