WFP ration cuts to Rohingya may force child marriage, prostitution, say refugee organizations

Twelve Rohingya community organizations on Wednesday (March 1) expressed concern about the World Food Program’s (WFP) decision to reduce food rations for refugees, fearing that it would force Rohingya living in Bangladesh into human trafficking, child marriage, or even prostitution, Anadolu Agency reports.

“This announcement of cutting food rations will create a devastating situation for the Rohingya and will have severe implications, including child labor, human trafficking, child marriage, illegal activities, prostitution, and a hostile environment,” these organizations based in Bangladesh said in a joint statement.

“The timing of this decision, just before the month of Holy Ramadan, is particularly insensitive and obnoxious,” it added.

The WFP announced in mid-February that food rations for Rohingya refugees, who mostly live in Bangladesh’s southern coastal district of Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char island, would be reduced by 17% beginning March 1, to $10 per person from $12 per month.

The WFP cited a sharp drop in international funding as the reason for the decision and stated that further cuts were likely in April unless donors provided an urgent $125 million.

More than 1.2 million forcibly displaced Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have been housed in 33 congested refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. Most of them fled a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine State in the Buddhist-majority Southeast Asian nation.

The joint statement, underlining the WFP’s decision as a UN failure, stated that the Rohingya community has already become a burden for Bangladesh, and the announcement of cutting food rations will create a devastating situation for them.

Referring to the price hike of daily commodities in Bangladesh, the statement calculated: “The price of food in Bangladesh is getting higher day by day, but the assistance of food for Rohingya is set at $10 per person per month, which is 0.3 dollar per day or 0.1 dollar per meal or around 10 Bangladeshi taka. How does the WFP think that 10 Bangladeshi taka per meal is sufficient for a Rohingya?”

The statement urged the WFP to cut unnecessary costs and waste, particularly among their employees, in order to address the issue.

“We believe that it is unacceptable for WFP staff members to use private AC cars, stay at 5-star hotels, and receive thousands of dollars while the Rohingya community suffers. This is not in line with WFP’s mission of ‘Saving Life, Changing Life,’ but rather it seems to be ‘Saving Life, Changing Staff Members’ Lives’,” said the statement.

Claiming that the cutting of food rations for the vulnerable Rohingya community is tantamount to genocide, these organizations urged the humanitarian groups and other actors not to take any major decisions without the participation of Rohingya community-based organizations.

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