Bangladesh: UN experts decry devastating second round of rations cuts for Rohingya refugees

Geneva, 1 June, 2023.- UN experts condemned a second cut in food rations for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh effective today, after a funding shortfall of US$56 million compelled the World Food Programme to enforce the cuts.

The cuts will reduce the value of rations provided to Rohingya refugees to US$8 per month, or 27 cents per day.

The experts warned that the cuts will have devastating consequences for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and make life in the camps even more untenable. The experts implored UN Member States to urgently fund the humanitarian response in Bangladesh, ensuring the restoration of full rations for refugees.

“In the span of three months, Rohingya refugees have seen their food rations cut by a third, further eroding the health and security of a population already suffering from severe trauma and deprivation,” the experts said.

This move follows an earlier reduction implemented in March 2023 from US$12 per month to US$10 per month. The rations cuts affect approximately 1 million Rohingya totally dependent of aid and with no possibility of employment to sustain their livelihood and nutrition in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district, the majority of whom arrived in Bangladesh after fleeing genocidal attacks in Myanmar in 2016 and 2017.

“The consequences of the rations cuts will be devastatingly predictable: spiking rates of acute malnutrition, infant mortality, violence, and even death. It also will contribute to increased regional instability, and some Rohingya may decide that it is better to trust their lives to traffickers and smugglers and risk their lives at sea, than to face hunger and even death in the camps,” the UN experts warned.

“The impact on the Rohingya will be severe and long-lasting, stunting the development of children and dimming the hopes of future generations. Vulnerable populations, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, adolescent girls, and children under five will bear the brunt of the cuts and be further exposed to exploitation and abuse,” they said.

Even prior to the first round of rations cuts, health indicators for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh were grim. Forty-five percent of Rohingya families were not eating a sufficient diet. Forty percent of Rohingya children experienced stunted growth, and more than half suffered from anemia. Cyclone Mocha, which made landfall in western Myanmar on 14 May, damaged or destroyed the shelters of approximately 40,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, exacerbating suffering and adding to budgetary needs.

“Member States must urgently act to close the 56 million dollar funding shortfall for food rations that has led to these cuts. Those that have announced or are contemplating cuts in funding should reverse course. Member States that have not yet provided financial support to the Rohingya should do so without delay,” the experts said.

“The failure to provide Rohingya families in Bangladesh with sustainable levels of food is a stain on the conscience of the international community. They are in Bangladesh not by choice, but because of genocidal attacks by the Myanmar military,” the experts said.

They said many governments, including the governments of wealthy countries, have offered strong rhetorical support for the Rohingya but have failed to contribute a single penny toward humanitarian relief in Bangladesh. The US$876 million Rohingya Humanitarian Joint Response Plan remains desperately neglected, and currently is only 24 per cent funded.

“These States must now get out their checkbooks and work towards durable solutions. It is time to match words with action,” the experts said.

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