Rohingya Struggle to Meet Their Nutritional Needs with Latest Food Ration Cuts

Rohingya Struggle to Meet Their Nutritional Needs with Latest Food Ration Cuts

By Syed Md Tafhim

Faced with a global funding shortage, the World Food Programme recently implemented a new round of food ration cuts for Rohingya refugees living in the world’s largest refugee camp.

Rukhsaira is currently limited to eating only cucumbers and fish twice a day along with her children. Photo © ISCG, Arjun Jain


The nutrition and health consequences stand to be devastating, particularly for women and children and the most vulnerable in the community.

Among those affected is 27-year-old Rukhsaira, who arrived from Burma (Myanmar). Her husband tragically passed away two years ago due to illness. Now, she is trying to raise her two children on her own. She said-

“Just six months ago, three meals per day were provided to us. Our plates were filled with a variety of nutritious options, including rice, bitter gourd, potato fry, eggs, sweet pumpkins, and ladies’ finger, accompanied by small fishes. Now we can only eat twice a day with my kids with only cucumbers and fish”

Due to a massive funding shortfall, drastic measures were taken. WFP was forced to cut the value of food vouchers for camp residents for the second time in three months at the beginning of June. From receiving $12 a month at the beginning of the year, refugees saw their rations cut to $10 in March, and now to just $8, or 27 cents a day.

With rations reduced, Rukhsaira and her children were left with only two meals each day. Their diet was now limited to cucumbers and fish, lacking the diverse range of nutrients they had previously enjoyed.

The consequences of these cuts have been severe. Previously, each person received approximately 2100 kilocalories (KCal) per day, ensuring sufficient intake for their well-being. However, the current ration provides less than 1700 KCal, exacerbating issues of malnutrition and hunger among the refugees.

The effects have been particularly pronounced among the most vulnerable individuals—children and the elderly. Their weakened immune systems have made them more susceptible to illnesses, resulting in prolonged struggles for recovery.

In addition to the physical challenges, the emotional toll on the refugee community has been substantial. Feelings of abandonment and insignificance have permeated throughout the camp as refugees face increasing anxiety and the reality of uncertain mealtimes. The burden weighs heavily on their minds, compounding the stress and anxiety already inherent in their displaced lives.

This photo illustrates the stark consequences of the Food Ration Cut. Rukhsaira’s family, who once enjoyed three meals a day with an intake of 2,100 Kcal, now struggle with less than 1,700 Kcal per person per day. Photo © ISCG

Despite these hardships, Rukhsaira considers herself relatively fortunate compared to others in the camp. As a single female head of household, she has been granted the opportunity to work in a Jute Production Centre, earning a modest income that helps meet the urgent needs of her family. Unfortunately, the vast majority of families lack this privilege, further exacerbating their precarious situation.

Rukhsaira, a single mother, finds employment through UNHCR-supported national NGO named NGO Forum, enabling her to purchase additional food from the market. Photo © ISCG


They continue to live in dire conditions, struggling to feed their children while witnessing the further deterioration of their already fragile health. Each day is a battle for survival, characterized by limited resources and an uncertain future.

Their hope now lies with the international community, as the United Nations and its partners fervently appeal for assistance and support to ensure that no one within the refugee camp goes hungry.


Media Contacts:

In Dhaka: Igor Sazonov, UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, [email protected], +8801321169633

In Cox’s Bazar: Syed Md Tafhim, Inter Sector Coordination Group, [email protected], +8801850018235 and Faik Uyanık, Inter Sector Coordination Group, [email protected], +8801847421667

    Bangladesh: ‘I am Yakub, a Rohingya refugee. I am asking the world not to forget us’

    Bangladesh: ‘I am Yakub, a Rohingya refugee. I am asking the world not to forget us’

    Author: WFP | As told to Atanu Sarma. Edited by Antoine Vallas


    Mohammed Yakub is 25 and has a 18-month-old son, Hujaifa Islam. WFP/Antoine Vallas Photo: WFP/Antoine Vallas

    Four years into the Rohingya displacement crisis, 96 percent of the refugees in the Cox’s Bazar area of Bangladesh depend entirely on humanitarian assistance. That’s close to 900,000 people, 600,000 of whom live in Kutupalong, the largest refugee camp in the world, having fled violence in Myanmar.

    We caught up with Yakub, a resident who is keen for the world not to forget the plight of the Rohingya. Currently, less than half of the US$943 million required for the overall Rohingya refugee response this year has been received. Rohingya communities, which this year alone have suffered unprecedented floods, a consequence of climate change, and devastating fires, need more support than ever. 

    Rohingya refugees arriving in Bangladesh in 2017

    People fleeing their homes in Myanmar reach Cox’s Bazar, in August 2017. Photo: WFP/Saikat Mojumdar

    I am Yakub and I am Rohingya. I am from Rakhine state, Myanmar. Four years ago, in August 2017, our village was attacked, my neighbours’ houses were burned, and then mine. We ran west because there was no other direction. 

    I had no choice but to leave the land where I was born. Heading to Bangladesh took all our energy. We crossed mountains, muddy lands, and swam across streams. 

    Yakub shops for his monthly groceries in a WFP retail outlet. WFP’s outlets are stocked with staple items such as lentils, rice, vegetable oil, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables procured locally. WFP/Nihab Rahman

    Yakub shops for his monthly groceries in a WFP retail outlet. WFP’s outlets are stocked with staple items such as lentils, rice, vegetable oil, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables procured locally. WFP/Nihab Rahman

    While fleeing, we were starving for many days. We ate banana leaves, drank water from canals. We didn’t have any money. The Government of Bangladesh welcomed us, the Bangladeshi people brought us cold water and food, and then NGOs started helping us. When we finally arrived in Kutupalong camp, we cut bamboo and built a shelter with tarpaulin… then we received food from the World Food Programme (WFP). Vehicles started to move and the camp got more organized. Only then did we feel some peace of mind. 


    Kutupalong in early 2017 was known as the ‘makeshift site’.  Photo: WFP/Shehzad Noorani

    I miss the places that made me feel at home in Myanmar. I miss sitting under the shade of the large tamarind trees, chatting with my friends. I miss the picnics in our garden. I miss our mosque, I miss the bamboo bridge that crossed the canal where we used to watch time go by. 

    Four years ago, we were getting rice, lentils and oil from WFP. Now we receive e-vouchers and we can buy fresh fruits, vegetables. Thanks to assistance from Bangladeshis and people from foreign countries, things have gotten better over the years. But life in Kutupalong camp isn’t easy. Our houses are small, the streets get muddy, too many people live here. Everywhere is crowded. [Just this year] we’ve had fires and floods. 

    We never thought we would be living in houses of tarpaulin. Some people are keeping small gardens, the camp is getting greener; I like the fresh air breezing from the trees in the evening. But here will never be like Myanmar. I miss home.

    Yakub, 25, in Cox's Bazar

    Yakub is calling for ‘continued support’. Photo: WFP/Antoine Vallas

    My best memory of my four years in the camps was learning to take pictures and videos with a phone. I had never known how to use a mobile phone before. In 2018-19 WFP organized a storytelling training for a group of us. I have enjoyed capturing interesting and charming scenes from daily life, and looking at them in my free time. I love being able to share the stories of our people, our community, and my own story with the world. I would like to be a renowned journalist one day, and tell the forgotten story of the Rohingya.

    I want to thank the world for helping us in the past four years. We can eat well, but most educational activities are suspended. We need continued support for food and education, and to give us a chance to safely go back to Myanmar. 

    As we start our fifth year in Kutupalong refugee camp, with the same challenges and the same worries, I am asking you not to forget us.                              

    WFP’s food assistance to Rohingya refugees is now delivered entirely through e-vouchers, which can be used by refugees to buy staple foods and fresh local fruits and vegetables from a network of retail outlets across the camps. The programme is funded by generous contributions from Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan, France, the United Arab Emirates, the United States Agency for International Development (Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance), Switzerland, the World Bank, as well as private donors.