KUTUPALONG, Bangladesh – Rohingyas who have fled Myanmar seeking refuge in Bangladesh faced on Monday another day with an uncertain food supply.
Kutupalong refugee camp is a hive of activity as sacks of basic food supplies for the Rohingya, members of a mostly Muslim minority in Myanmar who have fled to Bangladesh since an outbreak of violence on Aug. 25, come and go.
Hazima Hatun, a heavily pregnant young woman, spends the day collecting water from wells and buying food from shops with the coupons that have been assigned to her.
She told EFE that she also cooks and takes care of children and the elderly.
Her diet is chiefly composed of rice and pulses, and in the absence fruits and vegetables, lacks the micro-nutrients she needs in the late stages of her pregnancy.
Women, children and the elderly are most at risk of suffering from food insecurity and efforts should be specially directed towards them.
Shelley Thakral of the World Food Programme said that the organization had expanded its program to reach some 20,000 pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as some 60,000 children under five years of age.
In Cox’s Bazar, on the Bangladeshi border with Myanmar, the WFP provides food assistance to more than 800,000 displaced Rohingyas.
The enormous number of arrivals fleeing the crisis has led to an alarming prevalence of malnutrition, with rates above the 15 percent stipulated as the emergency threshold in all camps in the area.
Sulimula, a recent arrival with a family of seven, including an abandoned orphaned child they came across on their journey, has been able to add fish to his family’s diet of rice and pulses by selling products that he receives through his ration card.
The scale of the humanitarian crisis has compelled international organizations, local non-profits and the Bangladeshi authorities to coordinate their efforts in order to expand the distribution of food.
Ranjan Das, Programme Officer at Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, called for a local agricultural program that regularly provides healthy food to be set up as a long-term response to the crisis.
The agency has developed a plan that aims to cater to the energy needs of the refugees, improve food preservation, help producers from local communities to supply the market, and prevent environmental degradation.
The flow of refugee arrivals shows no signs of stopping, despite claims by the Burmese authorities that the army’s campaign has ended.
Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, considering them to be undocumented Bengali immigrants.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has said the latest campaign by Myanmar’s army may amount to genocide, while the UN Secretary-General has described the crackdown as “ethnic cleansing.”