Ready for Anything: How WFP is Restoring Dignity and Choice for Rohingya Refugees

Emergency Response Bangladesh Myanmar
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A family of Rohingya sit down to enjoy a meal.

For the World Food Programme (WFP), doing good better is a guiding principle for its work fighting global hunger. And in 2018, better serving Rohingya refugees who just can’t return home is one of its top priorities.

Updated February 22, 2018

More than six months after more than half a million Rohingya fled to Bangladesh seeking refuge, WFP is still on the ground providing lifesaving assistance to those who escaped the violence. And as the influx of refugees slows, WFP is adjusting its activities away from emergency response to helping refugees build a better life.

Every single month, more than 800,000 refugees receive rice, beans, and vegetable oil from WFP. Refugees like Tasmir and Mohammed, a mother and father of three small children. They fled Myanmar more than three months ago, and WFP’s food is their only reliable source of sustenance.

Almost one in four children under age 5 in the Kutupalong camp — now the largest refugee camp in the world — is severely malnourished. What this means is that the lifesaving food assistance many received when they first arrived — micronutrient-rich, high- energy biscuits and their first warm meal — just isn’t enough. Rohingya families and children must regularly receive the right food and nutritional aid to live healthier lives, especially when so far from home.

So here are WFP’s evolving plans for 2018 to support the Rohingya in response to the fluid situation in Cox’s Bazar:

  • WFP is scaling up its “e-card” program to give Rohingya refugees back the choice of what food they want to eat. Similar to debit cards, these e-cards will help more Rohingya families purchase fresh, locally produced food items like vegetables, eggs and dried fish at WFP-supported markets on their own terms, giving households greater choice in what they eat and increasing their self-reliance. This approach also boosts local economies and helps families consume a more nutritious diet. They didn’t have a choice when they fled Myanmar, but they will have a choice now about the food they eat.
  • WFP is scaling up its nutrition programs to tackle malnutrition. Families with young children are receiving Super Cereal Plus, a fortified mix that parents use to make a nutritious porridge. WFP staff is carrying out house-to-house visits to refer severely malnourished children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to treatment centers. Children under five suffering from moderate acute malnutrition receive Plumpy’Sup, a fortified peanut-based paste, at one of 14 supplementary feeding centers.
  • And for larger families, WFP is increasing the size and frequency of its food ration distributions — such as rice, vegetable oil and lentils — to ensure hungry families receive enough food more often.

This work in 2018 matters because Tasmir and Mohammed are counting on us. They and their three children — all under the age of 10 — depend on WFP’s ongoing, monthly support. With the scaling up of WFP’s e-card program, Tasmir is now looking forward to having access to more diverse food for her and her family.

We are going to be there for Rohingya refugees every month, all year long. We must do whatever it takes to help these vulnerable families make it through this crisis.

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