June 1, 2023 — Today, Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh are dealt yet another blow as cuts in food rations are set to leave almost one million people fighting to survive on just $8 per month. The resulting scarcity of food is likely to lead to a significant increase in hunger and the exploitation of children, as food prices soar and families are compelled to go without.
In February, for the first time in six years, the UN was forced to make the drastic decision to cut food rations in Cox’s Bazar by 17% due to funding shortfalls as the world’s attention diverted to other crises such as the Ukraine conflict. Food vouchers for Rohingya refugees were reduced from $12 USD to $10USD per month, and the latest decrease will leave families with just 9 cents to spend on each meal per day. Meanwhile, soap rations are set to be halved, with individuals being given one bar of soap to last one month. This is likely to lead to an increase in skin diseases, such as scabies, and impact menstrual health for women. The IRC is warning that the latest ration cuts are yet another step towards a worrying trend where the Rohingya crisis is fast becoming forgotten by donors and the international community.
Hasina Rahman, IRC Bangladesh Director, said,
“The Rohingya population in Bangladesh are being increasingly forgotten by the international community and the donors who could turn their situation around. Food rations have already been cut by 17% since the start of this year, and this latest decision signals a worrying trend that could leave refugees in Bangladesh without enough food to eat.
“With 95% of Rohingya refugees entirely dependent on humanitarian support to survive, the effects of the reduction in food rations could be disastrous for the communities that live in Cox’s Bazar. The IRC is particularly concerned about the rise in child labour and child marriage that is likely to occur as families seek out ways to purchase additional food and resources. A 2022 IRC study on child labour revealed that almost half of Rohingya children could already be in paid work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, child marriage is likely to increase as a result of the reduction in food vouchers, as families struggle to make ends meet and take desperate action to reduce the burden on the house hold and generate an income.
“The Rohingya population in Bangladesh have endured disaster after disaster, having most recently dealt with the fallout from Cyclone Mocha that displaced at least 1,100 people. Now is not the time for the world to turn its back on them; instead, the international community must step up its support and make every effort to close the $660 million funding gap. Without their support, humanitarian organisations will continue to be forced to make agonising decisions like cutting food rations, which means that hundreds of thousands of refugees are left without sufficient food.”
The IRC began responding to the Rohingya crisis in August 2017 and launched its response officially in March 2018. With over 400 staff in Bangladesh and operating across 27 camps across the district, our teams provide essential healthcare to the host community as well as Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar, as well as reproductive and maternal healthcare, child protection, education, prevention and response to Gender-Based Violence, and Emergency Disaster Risk Reduction (EDRR).