More than 31 percent of Bangladeshis live below the national poverty line, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). Frequent natural disasters, including floods and cyclones, compound the problems caused by the high national poverty rate.
In addition to natural disasters, the most socially vulnerable Bangladeshis historically lack access to health and hygiene services. These factors, along with the relatively high domestic prices of rice, the staple food crop, exacerbate food insecurity, especially among the rural poor. According to the WFP, stunting affects 36 percent of children under 5 years old. In addition, 11 million people suffer from acute hunger.
Bangladesh has made significant development progress in recent years, including sustained economic growth, improved gender parity in education, and reduced infant and maternal mortality. Despite this progress, 40 million people, or about a quarter of the population, remain food insecure.
In October 2016, the Burmese government carried out a series of security operations targeting Rohingya Muslims in northern Burma. The ensuing violence forced more than 80,000 Rohingya refugees to flee to south-eastern Bangladesh, according to the UN. Most of these refugees currently reside in makeshift settlements near Cox’s Bazar, where they are vulnerable to natural disasters and food insecurity. In June 2017, the UN reported a global acute malnutrition rate of over 21 percent in one of the major refugee camps near Cox’s Bazar.