The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has launched an appeal for 8.3 million dollars to aid some 1.2 million vulnerable Rohingya refugees as well as host populations in Bangladesh at the onset of the cyclone and monsoon rains season, FAO said on Friday.
“FAO is extremely concerned that if we don’t invest in environmental recovery efforts now, this situation may have both short and long-lasting impacts and only worsen an already devastating human tragedy,” said Peter Agnew, FAO emergency coordinator in Bangladesh.
The scale of the refugee crisis – nearly 900,000 refugees, more than double the local population of Cox’s Bazar – has placed significant pressure on host communities as people compete for already scarce natural resources, food, fuel and work.
“We are seeing food prices going up and daily wages going down from 6 dollars to 2 dollars, and intense competition for firewood and food. Host community members tell us that this situation is creating great strains on their families," said Agnew.
The increasing need to cut forest for firewood for the refugees has been depleting the environment, intensifying the risk of deadly landslides and flash floods during this year’s monsoon season, FAO warned.
"There is just not enough work and resources for everyone. We need to create opportunities for people to rebuild their livelihoods and ease growing social tensions, or we might soon be faced with an additional crisis within the crisis,” added Agnew.
The 8.3 million dollars FAO is seeking will help protect and restore the livelihoods of populations at risk, build their resilience, ease social tensions and longer-term measures to aid environmental recovery and agricultural production efforts, the UN agency stated.
To date FAO has only received 1.5 million dollars out of the total 9.8 million dollars that it urgently requires this year, the agency underlined.
The funds will enable FAO to set up nurseries and rehabilitate degraded forest areas to curtail further environmental degradation and restore the natural resource base; provide jobs for host communities in environmental rehabilitation activities; training, seeds and tools to keep helping host communities increase their food output and to improve nutrition.
FAO is working with its partner the UN migration agency the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to better conditions for both refugees and host communities. As host communities boost their food production, this will not only cover their own food needs but provide them with an extra income as surplus production can be purchased for distribution to the refugees, FAO said.
To help local communities cope better during the cyclone season and monsoon rains, FAO has been distributing food safety kits, which include 60-litre, 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, FAO noted.