Dar es Salaam. The Sh2.6 billion support extended on Thursday by the Irish Embassy to World Food Programme (WFP) Tanzania for refugee to help various programmes comes as a huge relief at a time when funding for such objectives has been deteriorating.
The boost comes at a time when the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has expressed concerns that reduction in funding for refugee services in East Africa could lead to the shutting down of aid-dependent programmes, hence, leaving refugees in crisis.
NRC reported that xenophobic policies were pushing migrants out of Europe and the US. Refugee and migrant arrivals in Europe dropped from 362,000 in 2016 to 178,000 in 2017, according to NRC.
At the same time many rich nations have made drastic cuts to aid funding that help refugees survive in Africa.
In a statement, NRC gave an example of Tanzania where this year’s UN humanitarian aid appeal has received only $24 million, down from $88 million in 2017, about 70 per cent fall.
The funding across Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda dropped an average of 64 per cent compared to last year’s levels, NRC reported.
At a ceremony of signing the aid agreement with the WFP Tanzania, Mr Paul Sherlock, the Irish ambassador to Tanzania, said his country was not only aware of the concerns by organizations providing services to refugee population on funding issues but shares them as well.
“From the embassy point of view,” said Mr Sherlock, “we do see [a] huge gap [between] what’s needed and what’s [being] provided for.”
All the Irish government can do, he added, is to make its contribution to the issue and play a part in order to help fill some of those gaps.
Asked by journalists at a press conference on Thursday, the French ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Frédéric Clavier, said they were not the direct stakeholders in the matter and declined to go into further details.
He, however, spoke about the stance shown by President John Magufuli encouraging Burundian refugees to go back home because security and safety had improved in their home country.
Mr Clavier, however, said voluntary repatriation was the way to go but “under good conditions and under the control of the United Nations.”
For his part, Mr Michael Dunford, WFP’s Country Director, pointed out that at the moment all organizations, including the WFP, were struggling with regards to raising funds to meet the need of the refugee population.
“What we are doing here today,” said Mr Dunford at the signing of the deal with the Irish government, “actually speaks to the need of WFP to attract funding [which] …is keen to being able to continue to provide the minimum food and nutrition requirements.”
In its 2018 Mid-Year Report published in its website the UNHCR-led Refugee Response Plan (RRP) also echoed similar concerns that the diversion of limited funds and human resources to support the return operation, has resulted in a deterioration of the services being provided to refugees who choose to remain in the camps.
Mr Nigel Tricks, NRC Regional Director warned that fast and furious budget cuts will continue to hit the East Africa aid sector hard and if more funding isn’t found, malnutrition will rise, schools will close, and water-borne diseases will break out.
“We have a window to avoid a refugee catastrophe in East Africa if we act now,” he said.