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Sunday, April 7, 2019

Alarming level of food insecurity for locals.

The Daily Star

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Rohingya influx affecting poor communities in Cox's Bazar

Rohingya refugees queue for aid in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. PHOTO: REUTERS/CATHAL MCNAUGHTON
According to a global report titled “2019 Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC)”, the locals in Cox's Bazar are facing an uphill struggle due to the influx of Rohingya refugees. The poor have lost access to farmlands, fishing grounds and forest resources and many have been forced to opt to work as day labourers. But given the availability of cheap labour from the refugee camps, wage rates have also plummeted and demand for food has pushed up prices. The net result of all these factors is one where locals now have less access to basic services and where staples cost more than what they can afford.

Indeed, we learn that the percentage of households with poor or borderline consumption has jumped alarmingly from 31 percent in 2017 to 80 percent in the last quarter of 2018. Given the very large number of Rohingyas who have now settled on Bangladesh soil, the usage of land has actually shifted away from agriculture to commercial purposes simply because it is more profitable for landowners. Furthermore, large tracts of agricultural land in Teknaf and Ukhia have been occupied by refugees. The presence of such large numbers of people has also depleted forest resources. It is estimated that “around 750,000kg of timber, vegetation and roots are collected daily from the forest for cooking fuel.”

Although the authorities point out that some 300,000 members of the local populace have been included in the Rohingya response plan, it is imperative that tensions do not escalate between the local and refugee populations over resources. Separate food security schemes should be drawn up for the poor and ultra-poor people in the affected areas and efforts must be taken to stop the decimation of forest resources on which locals depend for their livelihoods.

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