GENEVA (16 February 2023) - UN experts* today warned about catastrophic consequences for Myanmar Rohingya refugees living in camps in Bangladesh if life-saving food aid is slashed, and issued an urgent plea for donations to the UN World Food Programme Rohingya Refugee Response.
“The planned rations reductions are the devastating consequence of the international community’s failure to provide funding for initiatives that address the fundamental needs of Rohingya refugees. Rations will be slashed for Rohingya refugees starting in a few weeks, just before Ramadan. This is unconscionable,” the experts said.
The World Food Programme indicated that it would reduce rations for Rohingya refugees by 17 per cent in March and warned that if no new funding commitments were made by April, a new round of deeper cuts will have to be made. It is appealing for $125 million in funding to avoid ration cuts.
"If these cuts are made, they will be imposed on vulnerable people who are already food insecure. Acute malnutrition levels remain high, and chronic malnutrition is pervasive among the Rohingya refugee population in Bangladesh, with more than a third of children stunted and underweight," the UN experts said.
“The repercussions of these cuts will be immediate and long-lasting, as refugees remain almost entirely dependent on this assistance for their nutritional needs,” they said.
“The most vulnerable, including children under five, adolescent girls, and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, will be particularly exposed,” they said.
“The Rohingya, survivors of genocidal attacks by the Myanmar military, are now further victimised by the failure of the international community to ensure their basic right to food.”
Reductions in vital food assistance can make refugees more desperate, which could fuel further violence and unrest in the camps. This could also lead to a myriad human rights concerns, such as a heightened risk of human trafficking, particularly of children and girls, and more refugees embarking on perilous boat journeys,” the experts said.
“While many States have called for justice and accountability for the Rohingya, those in the camps need more than words and statements of solidarity. Rohingya refugees need immediate action from the international community to ensure that these cuts – and their generation-spanning consequences – are avoided. The stakes could not be higher,” they said.
*The experts: Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food;
Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, Andrews is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and an Associate of Harvard University’s Asia Center. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network and has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide.
The experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent human rights monitoring mechanisms. The Working Group reports to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. The experts are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
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