COX’S BAZAR – The almost 1 million Rohingya refugees and their host community in Cox’s Bazar remain vulnerable and need continued support almost five years after they were forced to flee their homes for safety, according to the latest Refugee Influx Emergency Vulnerability Assessment conducted by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners.

The Rohingya’s extreme vulnerabilities are further exacerbated by large-scale hazards, including fires and floods that hit the camps in 2021. Almost all 900,000 refugees – 95% of them – remain entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance today. In the host community, where most families rely on daily-wage jobs, a slow economic recovery after COVID-19 lockdown measures has caused their vulnerability levels to increase, with 52% of the families considered moderately to highly vulnerable now compared to 41% in 2019.

“The Ukraine crisis is a stark reminder that no one chooses to be a refugee. In this year of unprecedented humanitarian need, we hope the international community won’t lose sight of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, who are more vulnerable than ever and may be plunged further into destitution by the impact of food and fuel price hikes,” said Sheila Grudem, the U.N. World Food Programme senior emergency coordinator in Cox’s Bazar.

Access to food remains a top priority for both refugees and host communities, with 82% and 59% of families, respectively, reporting so. They are also worried about the continuation of food assistance. A growing number of families in both communities fall into debt to cover their most essential needs, such as food. This is particularly worrying as their ability to withstand any new shocks and stressors will be compromised.

In 2021, the U.N. World Food Programme continued to provide monthly cash-based food assistance to almost 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and increased the number of fresh food corners available at its retail outlets in the camps. All refugees can now purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, live chicken and fish from the outlets using their monthly entitlements known as “e-vouchers.” This assistance also provides substantial economic opportunities for the host community, injecting $11 million into the local economy every month.

The U.N. World Food Programme also continued its cash assistance to host community families affected by the economic consequences of COVID-19, reaching 450,000 people in 2021. The U.N. World Food Programme directly provides economic opportunities year-round in the host community through cash-for-work programs as well as livelihoods grants and business skills trainings.

“In 2022, we count on the continued support of all donors to help us provide vital assistance to Rohingya families as well as their host community, who has demonstrated remarkable solidarity by welcoming them almost five years ago. Any drop in funding will directly threaten the food security of refugees and make the recovery of the communities more difficult,” Grudem added.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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COX’S BAZAR – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is serving hot meals today to 2,200 refugees affected by a large fire that damaged or destroyed at least 500 shelters in Camp 16 of the Kutupalong refugee settlement.

In the immediate aftermath of the blaze last night, the U.N. World Food Programme and its national NGO partner Resource Integration Centre (RIC) distributed fortified biscuits to 328 families (approximately 1,600 people) who had lost their homes or cooking equipment. Starting today, the U.N. World Food Programme will distribute hot meals twice daily to all the families left with no means to cook until shelters and cooking equipment, including cooking gas, can be restored. Families will then be reintegrated into the regular food assistance program.

“We are deeply saddened to see the extent of the devastation in Camp 16,” said Sheila Grudem, the U.N. World Food Programme’s senior emergency coordinator and head of office in Cox’s Bazar. “Thanks to the partnerships we have with national organizations, UN agencies, retailers and local restaurants, we fortunately have the capacity to provide immediate relief to those who have lost everything and we have all our hands on deck to do so,” Grudem added.

As in the March 2021 fires, the U.N. World Food Programme is also making its suite of digital beneficiary management systems available to humanitarian partners to support the coordination of the delivery of non-food items such as cooking gas, especially to those refugees who have lost their documents in the fire. Volunteers from the U.N. World Food Programme and the inter-agency Site Maintenance Engineering Project (SMEP) are also deployed in the field to support the clearance of debris.

The U.N. World Food Programme’s regular food assistance in Cox’s Bazar provides every refugee family in the camps with an electronic voucher (“e-voucher”) topped up with a monthly allowance of $12 per person per month. Refugees can purchase their preferred foods directly from a network of 22 outlets in the camps managed by Bangladeshi retailers. No U.N. World Food Programme site was damaged by the fire, which will allow affected families to return to the outlets as soon as they have the means to cook.

Cox’s Bazar is the largest refugee settlement in the world, home to almost 900,000 refugees. In a dense mesh of bamboo and tarpaulin shelters, fires are one of many hazards adding to the extreme vulnerability of refugees. In March 2021, 10,000 homes burned down and at least 45,000 people were displaced. Heavy monsoon floods in July 2021 affected 46,000 refugees and caused devastating landslides.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA and @wfp_media

This is a summary of what was said by United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Tomson Phiri – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

GENEVA – Almost five years after the 2017 influx of the Rohingya refugees, food security in Cox’s Bazar remains a top priority – with over a quarter of the new $943 million Joint Response Plan allocated towards fighting hunger and malnutrition among Rohingya refugees and host communities.

Rohingya refugees are more vulnerable than at any point since 2017. Latest assessments show that 96 percent of all refugees are moderately to highly vulnerable and entirely reliant on humanitarian assistance. This is largely due to the impact of COVID-19 and forced adjustments to humanitarian operations on a fragile community with limited income opportunities. Vulnerability among the host community has also increased since the start of the pandemic, as most of the labor force in Cox’s Bazar were daily wage earners.

The U.N. World Food Programme has scaled up its electronic voucher assistance to nearly all the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar –providing a food basket to 860,000 people from which they can choose what is best for their families. A key focus for the U.N. World Food Programme this year is to open and expand the number of Fresh Food Corners available, which give refugees access to a wider choice of locally produced vegetables and fruits as well as live chicken and fish.

The U.N. World Food Programme is integrating the host community into the Rohingya response and providing them with economic opportunities. The U.N. World Food Programme’s response to the Rohingya refugee crisis provides substantial economic opportunities to the host community – injecting $10 million into the local economy every month. All U.N. World Food Programme food assistance provided through its e-voucher outlets and fresh food corners is locally produced and procured, providing vital economic opportunities for the host community, while also improving the dietary diversity of refugees.

Cox’s Bazar is extremely disaster-prone – and refugees are immensely exposed to the elements. Every 12 months in Cox’s Bazar sees one monsoon and two cyclone seasons, meaning everyone living in the area is subject to natural disasters for nine months of the year. In 2021 we are continuing our disaster risk reduction activities, including rehabilitating cyclone shelters, improving drainage systems, stabilizing slopes in the camps, maintaining existing forests and planting new ones, and helping communities diversify their livelihood activities so they don’t rely only on agriculture for income.

Vulnerabilities in Cox’s Bazar continue to mount and would rapidly deteriorate if humanitarian assistance were decreased or discontinued.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA, @wfp_media and @PhiriTomson

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