By Tom Spies
In the second week of December, BGR made emergency donations to the World Food Program USA to provide assistance to two communities facing severe food shortages. An emergency donation of $8,000 will help the World Food Programme provide aid to the people of Yemen; the other donation, of $4,000, will provide food assistance to the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar now living in displaced persons camps in Bangladesh.
In Yemen, over the past two years a sustained air assault by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia has left tens of thousands of civilians dead and millions of people internally displaced. An outbreak of cholera, the worst in the world, has affected hundreds of thousands of people, 30 percent of them children. One child in Yemen dies every 10 minutes due to preventable diseases.
As a result of the conflict, tens of thousands of Yemenis are enduring famine conditions, while half of Yemen’s 28 million people are on the brink of starvation. A U.N.-brokered ceasefire agreement was signed in early December and on December 13, the U.S. Senate voted 56 to 41 to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen. However, in November, the House of Representatives already voted to block the passage of a bill that would have ended U.S. military support for the coalition.
The conflict has been particularly destructive in the port city of Hodeidah. The WFP is working around the clock to provide emergency rations to people fleeing violence. Many people have been displaced from their homes to different parts of the city without income or means of survival except for WFP food aid. The agency provides families with food including beans, peas, and fish. Any disruption to the functioning of the port in Hodeidah will hamper critical commercial and humanitarian flows of food, fuel, and medicine.
This year, WFP began a school meals program in Yemen to provide nutritious, ready-to-eat food to 140,000 school children. WFP hopes to scale up aid to assist 600,000 students a month. WFP will also begin providing cash assistance in areas where markets are working well to allow up to 1 million people to have greater choice of food.
Over four decades, Rohingya refugees have been fleeing to Bangladesh from Rakhine State, Myanmar, where they have faced discrimination and targeted violence. The largest and fastest Rohingya refugee influx into Bangladesh began in August 2017. Approximately 800,000 refugees have fled to Bangladesh, bringing the total number of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar to nearly 920,000. Over 80 percent of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are women and children.
The refugee population is highly dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic food needs, while over 38 percent of the local host community are vulnerable to food insecurity, with households that are headed by women being even more vulnerable. WFP provides life-saving assistance to refugees through in-kind food distributions of rice, pulses and fortified oil. Entitlement size is adjusted as per family size. Nearly 650,000 refugees are benefiting from monthly food distributions.
Nutrition programs are implemented in refugee camps and host communities. A nutritious supplementary food (fortified wheat soya blend) is distributed to pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under the age of five years. The program also provides nutrition assessments, growth monitoring counselling, behavior change communication sessions on nutrition, health and hygiene and the preparation and conservation of the monthly ration of supplementary food.
WFP distributes micronutrient fortified biscuits to all primary school children from the local host community and in learning centers for refugee children. Over 258,000 children benefit from this daily snack, which helps allay hunger and supports them to learn better. The biscuits are locally produced in Bangladesh.
Tom Spies is executive director of BGR. Information in this article has been taken from the website of the World Food Programme.