Bangkok – UN food assistance agency, World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it will reduce rations for Rohingya refugees by 17 per cent in March and warned that if no new funding commitments were made by April, a new round of deeper cuts will have to be made. It is appealing for $125 million in funding.
The UN agency blamed, a funding shortfall for cuts that would deepen food insecurity and malnutrition in the world’s largest refugee settlement.
About 730,000 Rohingya, a persecuted minority from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, fled to Bangladesh in 2017 to escape an army crackdown the U.N. said was carried out with genocidal intent. Including others who left in prior waves, nearly 1 million live in huts made of bamboo and plastic sheets.
WFP said it would reduce the value of its food assistance to $10 per person from $12 starting next month. Donor budgets have been stretched by the pandemic, economic downturn and crises across the globe.
WFP appealed for $125 million in urgent funding, warning of "immense and long-lasting" repercussions on food security and nutrition in camps rife with malnutrition, where more than a third of children are stunted and underweight.
"That the international donor community is now turning its back on half a million Rohingya children and their families really shows the limits of its commitment to some of the most vulnerable people in the world," Onno Van Manen, Save the Children's country director in Bangladesh, said in a statement.
Two U.N. special rapporteurs, Michael Fakhri and Thomas Andrews, warned of the "devastating consequence" of the funding shortfall, saying it was "unconscionable" to cut rations, the U.N. human rights agency said in a statement.
Cuts could cause more Rohingya to take desperate measures to seek work, said Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh's refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, who is based in Cox's Bazar, the border district where the refugees live.
Rohingya are barred from working to supplement their income, and Bangladesh has constructed fences around the camps that stop them leaving.
But an increasing number are fleeing for countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia via perilous and often fatal boat journeys, as violent crime adds to longstanding troubles like a lack of educational and work opportunities and bleak prospects of returning to military-ruled Myanmar.