Date Published: 1 February 2020
Food Aid for Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh
People living in Rohingya refugee camps in the southern part of Bangladesh are among the large groups of people currently displaced from their homes and receiving help from the international community. The Kutupalong refugee camp (pictured1) is one of the two refugee camps run by the Bangladeshi government in the Cox's Bazaar area. The city and fishing port of Cox's Bazaar, whose long beach is one of its popular tourist attractions, is located close to the most southerly point along the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar (formerly, and in some contexts still, known as 'Burma') to the east.
Refugees at the Kutupalong and Nayapara camps at Cox's Bazaar, in common with other refugees around the world, need many forms of assistance including access to food. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Bangladesh has recently welcomed a new contribution from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) to support the Rohingya refugee response in Cox's Bazar2. This £8 million (approx. 10,296,010 USD) contribution will support WFP's work to provide 270,600 refugees with three months supply of electronic vouchers (e-vouchers), which recipients can use to purchase a variety of food items from 25 WFP e-voucher outlets across the Rohingya refugee camps. Families receive credit equivalent to about of USD 9 per person per month on a prepaid WFP Assistance Card that can be used to buy food such as fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, chicken, eggs, spices, and other staples. The e-voucher outlets are run by local traders, providing economic opportunities to the host community in Bangladesh.
Richard Ragan, WFP Representative and Country Director for Bangladesh among other countries, explained that:
" E-vouchers create market linkages with the host community. Most food items provided in WFP shops are procured in Bangladesh, with fresh items procured locally in Cox's Bazar district. WFP aims to transition all refugees to e-vouchers by mid-2020."
The e-voucher scheme, which provides recipients with more choice than was possible before, is still being made more widely available. As of September 2019, WFP was providing food assistance to over 842,100 refugees per month, half of whom received food through e-vouchers with the rest receiving in-kind food distributions of rice, lentils, and oil.
The UK DFID has also supported of WFP activities in Cox's Bazar in previous years, with contributions of £11.3 million 2017 (when in August of that year more than 745,000 Rohingyas arrived in Bangladesh3), £17 million in 2018, and £20.4 million last year, 2019. Despite being the most densely populated country in the world except for city states, Bangladesh has received a huge influx of Rohingya refugees from neighbouring Myanmar. The international response includes the WFP's emergency operation to provide food to approx. 880,000 people, of whom it is estimated that 728,000 arrived in Bangladesh since August 20174.