UN to boost food ration for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

The United Nations will increase the food ration for each Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh by $2 a month, to $10, from Jan. 1, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday, as it thanked donors for coming to the rescue of a cash-strapped effort, reports Reuters.

The United Nations had cut food aid last year to the refugees by a third, to $8 each every month, as it had raised less than half of the $876 million required to support them.

Nearly a million members of the Muslim minority from Myanmar live in bamboo-and-plastic camps in Bangladesh’s border district of Cox’s Bazar, most of them having fled a military crackdown in 2017.

“The rapid deterioration of the food and nutrition situation in the camps is extremely worrying,” Dom Scalpelli, the WFP’s director in Bangladesh, said in a statement.

“Through all this, the donor community stood with the Rohingya – it’s all thanks to its generous contributions we can now have this increase and also add locally fortified rice to WFP’s food assistance package.”

The WFP said a latest survey showed malnutrition in the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh was at its highest since the 2017 influx and had exceeded the emergency threshold of 15 per cent, according to the World Health Organization’s emergency classification.

Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner in Cox’s Bazar, said the target currently was to raise the ration to $12.5 per person per month.

“The cuts last year had a massive impact on the Rohingya refugees and was a major cause of malnutrition among children living in the camps,” said Rahman, thanking the United States for boosting its contribution to the WFP.

An increasing number of Rohingya people left with their children in 2023, taking to boats in search of a better life as hopes fade of returning to Myanmar or being resettled and camp life gets tougher, aid groups said.

As of Nov. 30, 3,468 Rohingya embarked on risky boat journeys last year, almost half of them women and children, the WFP said. Most headed for Indonesia or Malaysia.

“Our children are malnourished. At least we can now buy basic items and feed them,” said Rohingya refugee Shafiqur Rahman, a father of a two-year-old son.

The WFP said it still had a funding gap of $61 million to raise the ration to $12.5.

“This rise will not be enough as prices of essentials have skyrocketed. But it’s still good,” Mohammad Taher, a Rohingya refugee in Cox’s Bazaar, said. “The world should not forget us. They must come forward and help us as much as they can.”

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