In March, the value of the food vouchers for camp residents was reduced from $12 per person per month to $10, and in June, to just $8; the equivalent of 27 cents a day.
“The ration cuts are our last resort. Many donors have stepped forward with funding but what we have received is simply not enough,” Dom Scalpelli, WFP Country Director in Bangladesh, said in a release on Wednesday.
“It is absolutely critical that we give the Rohingya families back the full assistance they deserve. The longer we wait, the more hunger we will see in the camps – already we are seeing more children being admitted into malnutrition treatment programmes.”
Over 950,000 Rohingyas remain stranded in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, southern Bangladesh. Most of them fled their homes in northern Myanmar following widespread and systemic attacks in August 2017 by the country’s armed forces that former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
‘Only reliable source’
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR), which has been assisting the Rohingya refugees since the crisis erupted, said that the WFP food assistance is the “only reliable source they can count on to meet their basic food and nutrition needs.”
“But since the start of the year, this lifeline has been under severe pressure due to reduced donor funding.”
Alongside fresh food assistance, WFP implements nutrition programmes for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under five years of age.
Despite this additional support, vulnerable households are still struggling to make ends meet. The only solution to prevent the situation from deteriorating further is to restore the full rations for the entire Rohingya population immediately, UNHCR said.
Falling donor funding
In addition to WFP, other UN entities and humanitarian agencies are feeling the impacts of falling funding from donors.
The 2023 Rohingya humanitarian crisis response plan, which requires about $875 million to reach the nearly one million refugees in need, is only a quarter funded.
The impacts of such cuts are particularly devastating for women and children, who make up more than 75 per cent of the refugee population and face higher risks of abuse, exploitation and gender-based violence, UNHCR warned.
Without enough food and no means of generating a legal income, refugees have resorted to increasingly desperate measures to survive, such as child marriage and child labour, as well as embarking on dangerous boat journeys.
Livelihood programmes needed
As the situation of Rohingya refugees becomes protracted and needs continue growing, more support will be needed from the international community.
Johannes van der Klaauw, UNHCR Representative to Bangladesh, said the only way to prevent the humanitarian situation in the camps deteriorating further, is by investing in education, skills training and livelihood opportunities.
“This would allow refugees to become self-reliant and partially fulfill their basic needs through their own means – and above all, to prepare them for rebuilding their lives when they can voluntarily and safely return to Myanmar.”