WFP shifts from in-kind food to cash support to Bhutanese refugees in Nepal


KATHMANDU, May 9: The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) will shift its support from in-kind food assistance to distributions of cash to Bhutanese refugees in Nepal starting mid-2018, the WFP said in a press release Wednesday.

The UN body stated that this shift is in line with refugees’ preference and will ensure the dignity of choice for assisted people, who will be able to purchase the food they like.

In June 2018 there will be a shift towards a so-called “basic needs approach” which will ensure WFP’s continued support through 2018 for all Bhutanese refugees residing in the camps. Under this approach, especially vulnerable refugees, as defined by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) (for example the elderly, those with disabilities, and vulnerable female headed households), will receive a cash entitlement equivalent to the full food ration, whereas other refugees will receive the cash equivalent of their current ration.

WFP will provide the cash equivalent to the full rations (US$13 per person per month) to around 1,000 refugees deemed especially vulnerable, enabling them to purchase food of their choice in local markets. (This would add up to the 15 kilograms full ration, composed of a daily ration of 440 grams of rice, 90 grams of varied pulses and 25 grams of vegetable oil and equivalent of 2,100 calories per person per day.) All other refugees will receive the cash equivalent to the in kind reduced ration of 10 kg of rice per month (US$6.5 per person per month).

“After 25 years of humanitarian assistance, WFP will shift from in kind food assistance to cash distributions until the end of 2018” said Pippa Bradford, WFP Representative and Country Director. “WFP has sought a special allocation to ensure that for 2018 it can continue to provide full support to the refugees. WFP will also promote the expansion of vegetable gardens with tools, seeds and guidance, in order to complement the refugees’ food basket and promote self-reliance” she added.

Since 1992, WFP has provided food assistance to Bhutanese refugees living in camps in eastern Nepal since 1992, thanks to generous funding from international donors. The original population of around 107,000 people has decreased steadily since 2007 as people have been resettled in other countries. Many donors including Australia, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the United States, have contributed generously over the years.

However, the world faces unprecedented humanitarian needs, and donors have to make tough decisions. Many have shifted their priorities to major refugee crises in other parts of the world, meaning no donor countries have contributed to WFP’s operation in support of these refugees since 2016.

The changes that WFP plans to introduce starting mid-2018 are part of a long-term WFP/UNHCR strategy that includes WFP transitioning out of the assistance to the refugees from Bhutan by the end of 2018. RSS