Starting from the 1st June 2023, the funding shortages forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to reduce food assistance for the Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar from USD 10 to USD 8 per month, just three months since the first round of cut. This reduction in ration will push the current food assistance provided to the Rohingyas fall far below the recognized global humanitarian standard of 2,100 kcal, entailing a significant drop in refugees' food intake (67 percent of full assistance; only 83 percent of energy requirements per SPHERE standards). Simultaneously, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector has to decrease the number of bathing soaps for Rohingya refugees to one per person per month from 1 June 2023 as well.
Cuts in essential humanitarian assistance have severe impacts on the refugees and the host community, which lead potentially to criminal activities, such as theft and robbery, increased domestic violence, gender-based violence, and neglect towards persons with disabilities and older individuals in the community.
Even before the first round of food ration cut in March 2023, with WFP's food assistance, four in 10 families were not consuming enough food and 12 percent of children were acutely malnourished.
The data obtained from focus group discussions in camps by a few humanitarian agencies between March and May 2023 reveals that some individuals have expressed their intention to migrate to other countries, such as Malaysia and Thailand, via the Bay of Bengal, if they are unable to sustain themselves within the camps. This raises concerns regarding the risks of human trafficking and smuggling. Furthermore, the findings from one camp indicate that certain community members are allegedly being influenced to join armed groups, as these groups allegedly provide a monthly payment of BDT 5,000 (approximately 50 USD) to active participants.
Similarly, drawing upon other crises worldwide, the existing research and reports show that the assistance cuts lead to multiple consequences, including malnutrition, disease incidence, access to essential items, mental health issues, starvation and stunting in children, increased gender based violence, which might further lead to server developmental delay and eventually disabilities in young children, child marriage or sex for survival, among other negative coping strategies.
These cuts may also result in further social tension or conflict among communities as resources will be limited or overstretched.
Call to Action
We, the NGO Community in the Rohingya Refugee Response from Bangladesh, call on the international actors, including diplomats, donors and United Nations agencies to take immediate actions to mitigate and address the above-mentioned adverse impacts by
Strengthening the funding and advocacy efforts to support the Government of Bangladesh, which is crucial to expand livelihoods and skills development initiatives as well as self-reliance in both the refugee camps and host communities, including but not limited to, the initiatives under the volunteer program, Cash for Work, and inclusion of small-scale private business. This will not only help the Rohingya to maintain the basic access to food, but also contribute to the local economy by including local small businesses in the supply chain.
Supporting health and nutrition organizations to design and implement targeted interventions, including supplementary feeding programs, micronutrient supplementation, nutrition sensitive programs and access to healthcare facilities.
Prioritizing the funding for protection services to enhance the monitoring and mitigation of increasing protection risks associated with negative coping mechanisms among the affected population.
Continuing the dialogue with members of the Association of Southeast Asians Nations (ASEAN) group in order to garner support and seek long-term solutions to the ongoing Rohingya crisis.