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Updated On: Sunday, 27 May 2018

FAO Aiding Rohingya Refugees

Content by: South-South News

9 May 2018, New York, USA | South-South News — The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched an $8.3 million appeal to support Rohingya refugees and host populations in Bangladesh, as the onset of the cyclone season and monsoon rains is putting already vulnerable communities at even greater risk.

FAO said the appeal aims to support some 1.2 million people as nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees, more than double the local population of Cox’s Bazar, have placed significant pressure on host communities with people competing for already scarce natural resources, food, fuel and work. FAO said the increasing need to cut forest for firewood has been depleting the environment, intensifying the risk of deadly landslides and flash floods during this year’s monsoon season.

Peter Agnew, the Emergency Coordinator in Bangladesh for the FAO, said, “These people that lived here before, had a very nice life where they were able to sustainably harvest from the forest. They were making livelihoods after selling things from the forest including firewood. Now that you can see that, that forest is gone, it is kilometres away from here now. So, the people who used to do that are competing with an enormous population. And this population has lots of resource needs: land, water, firewood, food; there simply is not enough management capacity for us to take this overnight.”

Agnew said food prices were going up and daily wages were going down from $6 to $2 in Cox’s Bazar. He said there was simply not enough work and resources for everyone adding that if opportunities were not created for people to rebuild their lives, the area might soon face an additional crisis within the existing crisis.

“You know what is often overlooked in emergencies is the agricultural element of the livelihoods of the existing population,” he said, “So, one of the first things that are lost in any emergencies is peoples’ capacity to produce. They are just too occupied and too overwhelmed. But losing that production base can set you back by a year or two years, because seasonality is a huge issue when you are doing agriculture. If you miss a crop season, you miss your livelihood, and you miss your food production for an entire year.”

FAO said it has been distributing food safety kits, which include 60-liter, water-proof storage containers where people can safely store their food stocks, seeds and valuable items, such as personal documents. The kits also include tools, seeds and fertilizer so that family can grow vegetables and eat highly nutritious food.

The Organization said it had also provided training in better agricultural production; facilitated access to markets; and built the capacity of farmers’ groups to produce and market their products.

Nur Bahar and her two children spent 11 days crossing from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Her husband died 10 years ago from a disease. She witnessed armed men abduct and killed people in Myanmar and said the dreadful memories often come back when she goes to sleep. Currently residing in Kutupalong camp, she planted crops with the seeds, spade, and water pot she received.

“When the spinach grows, I will cook it into a stew and feed my children, it will improve their nutrition and also strengthen their health,” she said.

FAO said it was partnering with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to improve conditions for both refugees and the host communities. It said as host communities increase their food production, this will not only cover for their own food needs but provide them with an extra income as surplus production can be purchased for distribution to the refugees.

To date, FAO said it had only received $1.5 million of the total of $9.8 million it urgently requires for 2018. The funds would enable FAO to set up nurseries and rehabilitate degraded forest areas to curtail further environmental degradation and restore the natural resource base; provide employment opportunities to host communities in environmental rehabilitation activities; continue supporting host communities to increase their food production by providing them with training, seeds and tools; and improve the nutrition of refugees and host communities.

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