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  • Writer's pictureSahat Zia Hero

WFP increased food rations brings relief and hope to Rohingya refugees

Amidst the dire situation in the Refugee Camp in Cox's Bazar, Rohingya refugees find relief in the anticipation of monthly aid from the World Food Programme (WFP).


Abdu Salam receiving food rations in the e-voucher shop of WFP. Photo by Sahat Zia Hero.

Since 2017, nearly a million Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh, fleeing persecution in Myanmar. Despite the challenging conditions in the world's largest refugee settlement, hope persists among these resilient individuals.


Entering its seventh year, the Rohingya crisis continues to pose noteworthy challenges, with restricted movement, limited job opportunities, and escalating security risks. The year 2023 brought further hardships, marked by recurring natural disasters and a surge in violence and trafficking incidents, prompting thousands to embark on risky boat journeys in search of safety and permanent rehabilitation.


Aftermath the recent tragic fire that destroyed more than 800 shelters and affected around 5000 Refugees. Photo by Sahat Zia Hero

Acute funding shortages forced WFP to reduce food assistance from $12 to $10 per person per month in early 2023, followed by another reduction to $8, exacerbated the already dire situation for Rohingya families. With malnutrition already high in the camps, this major cut has resulted in more hardships for the people.


Abdu Salam's family, like many others, grappled with the consequences of dwindling rations. With six young children and no employment prospects, the $8 allowance provided by WFP barely sustained them for half the month. Days without adequate meals became the norm, forcing Abdu Salam to rely on loans and the generosity of others to feed his family. Many children missed school to work and support their families.


The situation reached a critical juncture when WFP announced a spark of hope: an increase in rations from $8 to $10 per person in January 2024. This crucial change, made possible by a significant contribution from USAID, the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, brought relief to Rohingya families like Abdu Salam's.


Abdu Salam receiving fresh foods and fruits from the fresh food market of WFP with the value of nutrition package on his e-voucher provided by WFP. Photo by Sahat Zia Hero.

Receiving the increased voucher, Abdu Salam felt a renewed sense of hope. The additional funds enabled him to purchase essential food items and alleviate the specter of starvation that had plagued his family. With improved access to nourishment, his children could attend school more regularly, offering a semblance of normalcy amidst adversity.

Abdu Salam buying fresh foods and fruits for his family from the Fresh Food Market of WFP with the value of nutrition package provided by WFP. Photo by: Sahat Zia Hero

"When I saw the amount on the voucher, It was the first time I had felt happiness since the food reduction was announced a few months ago, last year. The starvation nearly claimed the lives of both myself and my children," said Abdu Salam.

According to WFP, yet, there is still a funding gap of almost $0 million to raise the ration to $12.5, which would further improve the resilience and well-being of Rohingya refugees. Adequate food assistance not only prevents malnutrition but also protects women and children from exploitation and trafficking while enabling families to maintain their dignity and health.


Abdu Salam is having dinner together with his wife and children. Photo by Sahat Zia Hero.

Despite the hardships, Abdu Salam remains resolute in his determination to provide for his family. Rejecting opportunities abroad, he finds contentment in their presence, cherishing each moment together.


"My wife has asked me numerous times to go outside of the camp or even to go to Malaysia by boat for the sake of our family. However, I refused because I cannot bear to be away from my children. My happiness is complete as long as I am with my family; I simply cannot imagine being separated from them." said Abdu Salam.

As the international community grapples with the complex realities of the Rohingya crisis, thousands of families like Abdu Salam's one serves as a reminder of the resilience and perseverance that define the human spirit in the face of adversity. They thank the donors for their compassion and generosity but they need them to step up even more as the crisis will soon enter its 8th year.


 

About the author

Sahat Zia Hero is a multifaceted talent—a photographer, writer, human rights activist, and the founder of Rohingyatographer Magazine. In 2023, he received two significant recognitions for his work on this project: the Prince Claus Seeds Award and UNHCR Nansen Refugee Regional Award.


Please support us in our mission to raise awareness about the Rohingya situation and preserve their collective memory through the lens of talented Rohingya photographers.

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