Bangladesh has experienced sustained economic growth in recent years – one of the fastest in Asia prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, 40 million people remain food insecure and 11 million suffer from acute hunger. The country’s low elevation and vast watercourses leave it greatly susceptible to climate shocks. Since 2017, Bangladesh has also seen a massive influx of Rohingya refugees, with almost three quarters of a million fleeing across the border from Myanmar since 2017 alone.
Since beginning its activities in Bangladesh in 1974, the World Food Programme (WFP) has touched the lives of more than 155 million people through both emergency response and longer-term resilience-building for improved food and nutrition security. While continuing to provide humanitarian assistance, WFP is shifting towards a more advisory role, assisting the Government in efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 on ending hunger.
Our Country Strategic Plan 2022-2026 reinforces WFP’s commitment to working with the Government to improve the food security, nutrition and resilience of vulnerable communities, while also providing emergency food assistance to people affected by disasters.
For the past 20 years, WFP has supported the national school meals programme, reaching 3 million children through fortified biscuits and, in some ultra-poor places, hot meals. We are again assisting the Government in developing the next National School Feeding Programme, to be launched in 2023.
Under social protection, WFP has partnered with the Government in improving national social safety nets, with a special focus on women and children living in extreme poverty. Through innovative tools such as forecast-based financing and climate risk insurance, we help build the resilience of families and improve the Government’s ability to respond to major shocks.
Since 2017, WFP has provided life-saving food and nutrition assistance to the Rohingya in Bangladesh, along with life-skills training, disaster risk reduction, and common logistics services and emergency telecommunications to humanitarian partners – all part of the Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis.
WFP’s response also reaches host communities in Cox’s Bazar – a highly disaster-prone area and one of the poorest districts in Bangladesh – with nutrition, school feeding, livelihoods and disaster risk reduction assistance, to improve their food security and nutrition, and build resilience.
Since late 2021, WFP, along with UN and humanitarian partners, has supported Rohingya refugees relocated to Bhasan Char Island, with WFP providing the entire population of nearly 30,000 people with food assistance, along with nutrition services for women and children.
Despite concerted efforts, the humanitarian situation facing the Rohingya remains dire. In March 2023, due to shrinking donor funding, WFP had to cut the food-voucher value from US$12 to US$10. In June, it was again reduced to US$8, or less than 9 cents per meal.
It is imperative that we restore the rations to the full amount, to ensure the very survival of the Rohingya, who, six years into the crisis, have no livelihood opportunities and rely entirely on humanitarian assistance, to meet their essential needs.
In May 2023, Cyclone Mocha caused considerable destruction to homes and facilities in all camps in Cox’s Bazar, and in local Bangladeshi communities. More than 28,000 Bangladeshis in the host community received forecast-based cash assistance just days before the cyclone, and 14,000 Rohingya received WFP emergency food assistance. WFP has joined the UN and humanitarian partners in appealing for a collective US$42 million to support the Rohingya and Bangladeshis affected by this latest disaster.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Bangladesh
WFP provides life-saving food assistance to all refugees in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char island. Through food vouchers, refugees receive monthly food rations – including rice, lentils, oil and fresh items such as vegetables and fruits – at WFP assistance sites. WFP also runs nutrition prevention and treatment programmes, school-meal activities and disaster risk reduction programmes for both the refugees and Bangladeshi community in Cox’s Bazar. In addition, the most vulnerable Bangladeshi women in the surrounding communities receive training and support to launch income-generating activities, while refugees participate in WFP self-reliance programmes to enhance their food security and skills development.
Nutrition and gender sensitivity
WFP provides technical assistance and capacity strengthening to some of the country’s largest social safety net programmes. Together with partners, including private sector food producers and processors, WFP works to ensure quality, availability and affordability of safe, nutritious food, with a specific focus on fortified rice uptake both among the population enrolled in social safety nets and through commercial markets. Since 2001, WFP has been a key partner in the national school feeding programme, which has reached over 3 million children throughout the country with fortified biscuits, and in a few districts, hot meals. With WFP’s continued support, the new school feeding programme aims to reach 10 million children in the coming years.
To protect lives and livelihoods from recurrent natural disasters and build resilience, WFP is testing innovative tools, including climate risk insurance and forecast-based financing, implemented in some of the most disaster-prone and poverty-stricken areas in the country. WFP technical assistance in supply chain and information management is also strengthening the capacity of national institutions to implement effective disaster risk reduction and prepare for and respond to climate shocks.
Humanitarian coordination and common services
Led by WFP, the Emergency Telecommunications Sector provides security telecommunications and data connectivity to humanitarian partners in Cox’s Bazar. On Bhasan Char, the WFP-led Common Services Sector provides logistics and telecommunications services, enabling humanitarian access to the island, data connectivity, coordination, security telecommunications and warehouse management.
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