How WFP Is Working With Rohingya Refugees

Access Displacement Emergency Response Nutrition Bangladesh

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled their homes in Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh. Over the last few months, the World Food Programme (WFP) has provided nutritious food to 700,000 people and continues to work alongside partners to find the best solutions for those in need.

Hamida’s husband was captured while the family was trying to escape Myanmar. She arrived at the Rabar Bagan makeshift camp with her two young sons. Her children haven’t seen their father since then.

But thanks to the World Food Programme (WFP), Hamida has one less thing to worry about: Putting food on the table.

Rashid looks on as his mother cooks a small meal for the three-person family in their makeshift home. This food is more nutrition than they've had in many days.

Mahmuda fled with her 8-year-old son Rashid and her mother, who is blind. Over the span of eight days, the threesome walked over hills, through a forest and over a river with no food.

“Thousands of soldiers came,” Mahmuda describes. “They came into our houses. They killed the men and the children. Then they set our houses on fire. They threw children into the fire. They killed my husband.”

Now in Bangladesh, they have food from WFP — rice, cucumbers, salt, some chili peppers.

The family has also eaten High-Energy Biscuits, fortified with lifesaving nutrients, just like the ones Rashid used to eat in school in Myanmar as a mid-morning snack.

Fueling Dreams for a Better Future

Refugee families settling in Cox’s Bazar receive monthly WFP rations of rice, lentils and oil. But making meals out of these ingredients is challenging because of the reliance on open fires for cooking and the need to gather firewood that is otherwise too expensive to buy.

Collecting firewood can be dangerous. Refugees, especially those who are women and children, risk violence, kidnapping and trafficking.

“It is dangerous there,” 16-year-old Sonidal Amin says about going into the forest each day. “The forest officer doesn’t want us refugees collecting firewood.”

Right now, WFP is working with the International Organization for Migration and the Food and Agriculture Organization to find the right solution. Plans include the distribution of Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (or SAFE) stoves, production of alternative fuels and regeneration of land used for firewood. SAFE stoves are fuel-efficient, saving up 45 percent of wood compared to more traditional fire pits.

Left to right: 8-year-old Ibrahim carries firewood back to his tent in the makeshift Rabar Bagan camp of Cox's Bazar. Hamida and her son Mohammed Faisal wait for her father-in-law to come back with firewood for the family. Sonidal cuts up the firewood he has collected for the day.

Connecting Communities With Food

In the Kutupalong camp of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, many of the newly arrived Rohingya refugees have settled along the river — further from food distribution points. Hilly terrain and muddy roads pushed WFP to find a solution: Building a bridge.

32-year-old Sham Allam is one of the Rohingya laborers working on the bridge. His home in Myanmar was burnt down.

“I work eight hours a day, carrying sand, bricks and rocks,” he says. “I know I am making a huge contribution and helping people.”

50-year-old Hajara Khatun worked as a maid in Myanmar and fled with her 11-year-old daughter Asma to Bangladesh. They’ve been in the Kutupalong camp for three months, living on the edge of the river.

Hajara and Asma walk together for an hour to collect rations from WFP. The new bridge project — supported by funding from USAID — will help them get there in just 10 minutes.

A bridge is being built by people like Sham Allam (in purple) over the Shaplapur to connect more refugees to food distribution points in the Kutupalong camp. This will allow families like Hajara (in yellow) and her daughter to walk shorter distances to receive food rations.