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Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Rohingya refugees and their hosts in Bangladesh remain highly vulnerable

March 13th, 2022  •  Author:   World Food Programme  •  3 minute read
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COX’S BAZAR – The almost one million Rohingya refugees and their host community in Cox’s Bazar remain vulnerable and need continued support – almost five years since 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 percent 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 percent of the families considered moderately to highly vulnerable now compared to 41 percent 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, WFP Senior Emergency Coordinator in Cox’s Bazar.

Access to food remains a top priority for both refugees and host communities, with 82 percent and 59 percent 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, WFP 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 US$11 million into the local economy every month.

WFP also continued its cash assistance to host community families affected by the economic consequences of COVID-19, reaching 450,000 people in 2021. WFP directly provides economic opportunities year-round in the host community through cash-for-work programmes 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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