UN food agency seeks $2.1 million to help Myanmar refugees in Bangladesh

UN food agency seeks $2.1 million to help Myanmar refugees in Bangladesh

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today launched a $2.1 million appeal to help refugees from Myanmar living in camps in Bangladesh, where they depend on outside assistance to survive.

“The malnutrition rates in these camps are unacceptably high,” said Pieter Dijkhuizen, WFP’s Country Director for Bangladesh, calling on the international community “to support our new operation so that over the course of the next year we can bring this problem under control.”

The “Rohingya” refugees are confined to two camps in south-eastern Bangladesh and have no access to jobs or farming, according to WFP. Many have suffered from chronic malnutrition since arriving in the early 1990s as part of a wave of 250,000 people who fled Myanmar. Surveys show that 56 per cent of the refugee children under five are under weight, while more than half of all women show signs of moderate malnutrition.

Mr. Dijkhuizen noted that rapid improvements in refugees’ health were possible, citing the fact that birth weights rose significantly after pregnant women were given an extra 550 calories a day in the form of a high-energy porridge.

Working with other partners, WFP has already undertaken a series of food-for-work programmes in the camps. Some 3,000 refugees are engaged in skills training, small income-generating activities, and projects to improve camp conditions. In addition, the agency plans to provide snacks to 4,000 children in schools that were recently opened in the camps.