FOUR out of five of the Rohingyas living in shelters in Cox’s Bazar — after fleeing persecution by Myanmar’s military forces in their homeland of Rakhine State — standing the chance to face food insecurity is telling. This is so because this warrants a few issues for Bangladesh, which has provided a persecuted community fleeing genocide and ethnic cleansing by Myanmar with ways to live without fear, to attend to, nationally and internationally. The world Food Programme of the United Nations in a study, The Rohingya Emergency Vulnerability Assessment, released on Friday, said that while 80 per cent of them may face the insecurity for their incapability to buy food and lack of coping strategies, more than a half of them, 57.2 per cent to be precise who mostly constitute the old arrivals, are highly vulnerable to food insecurity. Most of them lack the capacity to buy food as many of them fled Myanmar with what they could readily grab — some money and jewellery. They are reported to be struggling to survive on what they have and to be trying to change their food consumption behaviour by depending on less preferred food, reducing the number of meals and restricting consumption by the adult and women.
Seven out of 10 households are already reported to have adopted one or more food-related coping strategies. Once their coping strategies fail, which might soon, they will be at further health risk. The World Food Programme reports has so far detected 80 per cent of the households having at least one of the family being ill. Coupled with that, congestion in the camps, lack of proper sanitation and hygiene and shortage of safe drinking water are only likely to add to the health risks of the Rohingyas. What more of the inconvenience the Rohingyas are facing is poor shelter, lack of clothes and inadequacy of firewood, which is used in more than 90 per cent of the Rohingya households for cooking. Almost all Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar, as is reported, receive emergency food assistance, which provides the needed basic calories, but a limited access to a balanced diet with dietary diversity is a strain on the food and health situation. The situation as it is, therefore, warrants a more close monitoring on the food security status of the Rohingyas. While Bangladesh has already been into negotiation with Myanmar on the repatriation of the Rohingyas — more than 6,56,000 after August 25, 2017 added to the already more than 4,00,000 living in squalor since the 1980s, Bangladesh should also step up its monitoring to afford the Rohingyas a liveable life without fear and uncertainty that they had been in Myanmar.
Bangladesh, under the circumstances, must inform the international community of the reality about the Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar shelters and step up its efforts, diplomatic and otherwise, at regional and international forum for more aid to head off any disaster. While it so does, Bangladesh must also carry on with its efforts for a peaceful, sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas, involving the international community so that the process remains under a broad watch and cannot go awry.
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