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Dhaka Tribune

US urges continued support for Rohingyas, host communities in Bangladesh

It is humbling to witness the unimaginable scale of this crisis and the concerted efforts by the government and humanitarian partners in response, Ambassador Prescott says

Update : 16 May 2024, 04:07 PM

Ambassador Jeffrey Prescott, the US representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, has called on the international community to continue its support to Rohingya refugees and their Bangladeshi host communities for a crisis that shows no signs of abating.

He made the call after a week-long mission in Bangladesh, visiting projects of the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“It is humbling to witness the unimaginable scale of this crisis and the concerted efforts by the government and humanitarian partners in response,” Prescott said.

“Many of the programs we visited are designed not just to alleviate immediate hardships but also to extend 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.”

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.

Some of the challenges the ambassador witnessed first-hand include the poor living conditions in the camps and continued restrictions on movement and job opportunities.

The camps are highly susceptible to hazards such as fires and climate shocks such as floods and cyclones, which deepen the population’s vulnerability each time they strike, according to the WFP.

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.

The ambassador invited a team of international and local journalists to join the trip.

Together, they witnessed the work of the three agencies on the ground, including the WFP’s food assistance 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 useful products, including seedling bags for vegetable gardening.

In the Cox’s Bazar community, the delegation observed how the WFP and FAO are collaborating to enhance the livelihoods of local communities by sourcing fresh produce for the WFP’s food distribution in the camps.

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

The school feeding program 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 to develop climate-resilient, local food production and value chains for 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.

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

Dr Jiaoqun Shi, FAO representative, said they showed the ambassador and the delegation some of their 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,” Shi said.

Dom Scalpelli, WFP country director, said while the situation remains precarious in the camps, they 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 Scalpelli.

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