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US seeks urgent support for Rohingya refugees, host communities in Bangladesh

Staff Reporter:

US Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture Ambassador Jeffrey Prescott has called on the international community to continue their support for the Rohingyas and their Bangladeshi host communities as the refugee crisis shows no sign of abating.

He made the call following a week-long tour in Bangladesh when he visited projects of the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Some of the challenges Prescott witnessed firsthand include the poor living conditions in the Rohingya refugee camps as well as continued restrictions on their movement and job opportunities.

The camps are highly susceptible to hazards such as fires and climate shocks such as floods and cyclones deepening the population’s vulnerability. In addition, in 2023, humanitarian assistance was scaled back for the first time due to a lack of funding, resulting in cuts in food rations, said a press release of the WFP.

Prescott invited a team of international and local journalists to join his Bangladesh tour. Together, they witnessed the works of the three UN agencies on the ground, including WFP’s food aid delivery to the nearly one million Rohingya people.

In an upcycling centre in the camps, they observed how vulnerable Rohingya men and women are trained to repurpose wrappings of nutrition products into other useful products including seedling bags for vegetable gardening.

In Cox’s Bazar, the US-led delegation observed how WFP and FAO are collaborating to enhance the livelihoods of local Bangladeshi communities by sourcing fresh produce from them for WFP’s food distribution in the Rohingya refugee camps.

At a primary school, they learned about the comprehensive support provided by both the UN agencies in school feeding, health, literacy, and gardening.

The school feeding programme in Bangladesh has been generously funded by the US Department of Agriculture through the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program for nearly two decades.

They also visited a crab hatchery financed by IFAD as part of its long-lasting solutions plan to develop climate-resilient, local food production infrastructure and value chains for empowering poor, rural, small-scale farmers.

At the Rohingya Culture and Memory Centre, Rohingya artists and volunteers curated a poignant exhibition for the delegation, showcasing the rich cultural heritage and identity of the Rohingya people.

“It is humbling to witness the unimaginable scale of this crisis and the concerted humanitarian efforts undertaken by the government and its humanitarian partners. Many of the programmes we visited are designed not just to alleviate immediate hardships of the refugees but also to extend the positive impact beyond the camps, playing a critical role in building the resilience of host communities.”

“The United States is fully committed to supporting our partners on the ground, and we call on others to also step up and join us,” Ambassador Prescott said.

The United States is the single largest donor to the ongoing refugee crisis in Bangladesh, committing $2.4 billion since August 2017, of which nearly $2 billion has been provided for Rohingyas and host communities.

“We are delighted that Ambassador Prescott has had the chance to meet Bangladeshi rural women and men, and hear from them how our investment and support have helped them build better lives and livelihoods,” said IFAD Country Director Arnoud Hameleers.

“We showed the ambassador [Prescott] and the delegation some of our major initiatives in Cox’s Bazar, particularly in the areas of homestead gardening, aggregation centres, and tree plantation sites. We eagerly anticipate continued collaboration with USAID and our sister UN agencies to further expand our interventions in food and agriculture in Bangladesh,” said Dr Jiaoqun Shi, a FAO representative.

“While the situation remains precarious in the camps, we are fortunate to have the steadfast support of the United States and the rest of the international community. Starting in June, we will increase the ration again partially, from $10 to $11. We thank Ambassador Prescott for choosing Bangladesh for his first field mission, and the media for shedding light on the urgent needs and resilience of the Rohingya and their host communities,” said WFP Country Director Dom Scalpelli.

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