Recurrent natural disasters, such as floods and cyclones, continue to exacerbate poverty-related problems, including food insecurity and malnutrition, in many parts of the country. A massive influx of refugees from Burma to Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh, one of the least developed districts in the country, has sparked a large-scale humanitarian response.
• Attacks by armed actors on Burmese security posts in August 2017 and subsequent military operations in Burmese Rakhine state, home to the majority of Rohingya, triggered a major humanitarian crisis in neighboring Bangladesh. Violence in Burma forced nearly 739,000 people, most of them Rohingya refugees, to flee to south-eastern Bangladesh, joining more than 212,000 Rohingya living in the country by August 2017, the UN reports.
• Most of the refugees live in 34 extremely overcrowded settlements in Cox’s Bazar district, where they remain totally dependent on food aid to meet their basic needs. The influx nearly tripled the population of Teknaf and Ukhiya upazilas in Cox’s Bazar district, which is currently home to the highest concentration of refugees in the world. Host communities in the area are very vulnerable and also face food insecurity and limited livelihoods.
• While extreme poverty levels are declining, around 31 percent of Bangladeshis still live below the national poverty line, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). Approximately 25 percent of Bangladesh’s population remains food insecure and 36 percent of children under 5 are stunted, a common measure of chronic malnutrition, WFP reports
• In fiscal 2019, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) provided nearly $ 46 million in emergency food assistance to vulnerable communities in Cox’s Bazar district. In FY18, FFP provided more than $ 101 million to WFP to provide in-kind food assistance and food vouchers to Rohingya refugees, as well as cash income-generating activities to host communities in Cox’s Bazar. WFP’s programming also includes disaster risk reduction activities to prepare for the monsoon season.
• FFP supports both WFP and the United Nations Children’s Fund to implement nutrition activities, where children under 5 and pregnant and breastfeeding women receive specialized foods to prevent and treat acute malnutrition. FFP’s emergency contributions also include support for the coordination of the food security, nutrition and logistics sectors to enhance the scaling up of humanitarian activities and build the capacities of implementing partners.
• FFP partners with CARE International, Helen Keller International and World Vision to implement multi-year development programs aimed at promoting agriculture, livelihoods, maternal and child health, women’s empowerment and reduction disaster risk in several regions of the country. In fiscal 2018, FFP provided more than $ 44 million to these non-governmental organizations to support these efforts.