$10-a-month food bill: Rohingya situation gets more desperate after aid cut

By Azad Majumder

Dhaka, Mar 8 (EFE).- Nearly one million Rohingya Muslims in overcrowded Bangladesh refugee camps are fighting another survival battle after an aid slash that has left the dispossessed community with a meager $10 a month for food.

Hardships are mounting for more than one million Rohingya refugees living in camps in Cox’s Bazar since they fled their villages in Myanmar after a brutal military campaign in what the United Nations has called genocide.

On Tuesday, the UN agencies launched the Joint Response Plan for 2023 in Geneva, appealing for $876 million to manage the refugee crisis.

The UN refugee agency said the aid provides food, shelter, health care, drinking water, education, livelihood opportunities, and skill development to 1.47 million people, including 495,000 Bangladeshis.

The appeal for the squeezed budget came after a cut in donations forced a reduction in food rations despite the growing Rohingya population in the camp and rising prices.

In February, the UN food agency World Food Programme announced it would cut its lifesaving assistance for all Rohingya living in the camps in Cox’s Bazar, from $12 to $10 starting Mar.1, citing a fund shortfall of $125 million.

Refugee Mohammad Hashim said his six-member family used to get food assistance equivalent to 7,200 Bangladeshi takas ($72) in the past, but this month they got only 6,120 Bangladeshi takas.

“We could somehow manage with whatever little money we used to get, but now we cannot even get that,” Hasim said.

Rohingya refugees said they get food assistance vouchers, which they use at WFP outlets to buy food items like rice, lentils, garlic, onions, salt, eggs, and chilies.

Most refugees, who are without work, sell their aid to others for the hard cash to fill other demands like paying their phone bills or buying fish or meat, a rare item on the menu for refugees.

Rohingyas serving different NGOs in the camp told EFE they were losing their work due to aid cuts.

Maung Maung Sa, a Rohingya refugee, who goes by his Myanmar name, said he used to work in a learning center of a local NGO near his shelter.

“I was asked to go to a faraway area because there was no work near my camp. So I had to give up work,” he said.

Rohingya volunteers get $2.5 to $3.5 a day for working with aid agencies.

Mohammad Ahatram, a Rohingya refugee, said that people would suffer, especially those with large families, due to the slashed aid.

“People will engage in criminal activities and smuggling if there is no aid.”

In a February statement, WFP said that despite concerted humanitarian efforts, 45 percent of Rohingya families were not eating sufficient diets, as malnutrition was widespread in the camps.

“Some 40 percent of children have stunted growth and 40 percent of pregnant and breastfeeding women are anaemic – all this is before the ration cut,” it said.

Johannes van der Klaauw, UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh, told EFE that they expected less donor support because of other global emergencies.

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