By Alex Whiting
ROME, Nov 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than 40 percent of refugee families in Chad are going hungry after their food rations were cut two years ago, forcing many to reduce the number of meals and pushing some into debt, according to United Nations agencies.
Chad in central Africa is home to nearly 400,000 refugees in camps, most of whom fled Sudan's Darfur region more than a decade ago, and 70,000 are from Central African Republic. Some 5,000 have sought refuge from Boko Haram militants in Nigeria.
Since 2014 most refugees have received about 40 percent of the daily 2,100 kilocalories recommended by aid agencies during an emergency.
Poor harvests, combined with a cut in food rations, meant the proportion of refugee households without enough food doubled to 44 percent in October 2015 from 23 percent a year earlier, according to the latest food survey carried out by the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) and U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
"It's precarious - many of these refugees have been under a reduced food ration for two years," WFP's deputy country director in Chad, Issa Sanogo, said by phone on Tuesday.
"Our main concern is the trickle down effect ... if we don't find a solution," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
According to the survey, more than 40 percent of the total refugee population is stunted, a sign of chronic hunger in childhood which makes them short for their age.
The majority of refugee children under five years old are suffering from anaemia. More than 22,000 are being treated for wasting, which means they are underweight for their height.
"Lack of resources has forced us to reduce food rations," WFP's Chad country director Mary-Ellen McGroarty, said in a statement.
"Careful targeting according to vulnerability and needs, have somewhat lessened the impact of the cuts."
Refugees make some money by selling food, animals and wood, and through other small businesses, and the agencies give extra support to the poorest and most vulnerable families, WFP said.
(Reporting by Alex Whiting, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)