The region is feeling the pressure of hosting 5.28 million displaced people even as refugees face a food and non-food items shortage due to funding shortfalls.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has introduced strict cost-saving measures, meaning Kenya has had supplies cut by a third, South Sudan by 20 per cent, Ethiopia by 15 per cent, Rwanda by 10 per cent and Tanzania by 10 per cent.
Refugees in the region normally receive a combination of foods — cereals, pulses, vegetable oil, and nutrient-enriched flour — and cash transfers sent via mobile phones to buy fresh food items from local traders.
“There is a growing need for humanitarian assistance in the region but shortfalls in the funding continue” said Naser Mohmand the UN refugee agency official, said while releasing the refugee status update in Nairobi.
Humanitarian needs around the world are soaring and donors are prioritising crises in Syria, Yemen and Bangladesh.
To make matters worse, the region is experiencing a new influx of refugees due to ongoing conflict and insecurity with the total number of refugees and asylum seekers increasing to over 5.28 million in the region as of end of May, from 5.23 million in December 2017.
“There is severe malnutrition among newly arrived refugees among going by the screening at entry points of South Sudanese, Somali and Burundian refugees, “said Mr Mohmand.
Pregnant women, lactating mothers and children were the most affected.
East African nations usually provide sanctuary for millions fleeing drought in the Horn of Africa as well as the protracted conflicts in Somalia and South Sudan.
Most of the refugees are from South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, where civil war has created the continent’s biggest refugee crisis, with 2.48 million people being displaced.
The protracted conflict in Somalia has seen 563,700 people living as refugees while DR Congo has 548,800 and Burundi 431,100.
The World Food Programme has only received about one-fifth of the almost $360 million it needs to support refugees in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania in 2018.
Last week, Ethiopian Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs and the WFP called for more funding saying it was struggling to meet the humanitarian needs of close to one million refugees relocated to the country.
“Our food bill is about $11 million a month in Ethiopia as we feed close to 700,000, refugees,” WFP deputy country director for Ethiopia, Paul Turnbull told journalists.
Last year, WFP cut food rations by 30 per cent for the 420,000 refugees living in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps in northern Kenya.
The number of refugees hosted by Uganda are 1.46 million, Ethiopia 920,262, Sudan 919,102, DR Congo 536,740, Kenya 468,910 and Tanzania, 349,038.
Meanwhile, South Sudan has 298,081, Rwanda 141,583, Burundi 72,384, Congo has 47,876 and Somalia hosts 30,919.