Hamida Begum in her vegetable garden | © Franca Roiatti / Helvetas
23. August 2022

5 Years After Fleeing, Rohingya in World's Largest Refugee Camp Suffer From Malnutrition

© Franca Roiatti / Helvetas

The displaced Rohingya who live in the world's largest refugee camp in Bangladesh are suffering greatly from the food crisis. Nearly one million Rohingya refugees still have no prospects, no access to education and inadequate health care. Helvetas is on the ground supporting both refugees and host communities.

August 25, 2022, marks the fifth anniversary of the expulsion of the Rohingya from Myanmar. In the world's largest refugee camp near Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, more than 929,000 Rohingya live in precarious conditions with no prospect of returning home to Myanmar in the near future. A solution to their situation has become even more unlikely following Myanmar’s military coup in early 2021.

The refugees are not allowed to work in Bangladesh, and young people have no access to a formal education. Malnutrition – especially among children – is acute in the camps. People remain highly vulnerable to fire outbreaks and flooding in the makeshift shantytowns. Domestic violence and human trafficking also occur. Health care is inadequate.

Massive increase in food prices

The food crisis has worsened the situation. Prices for rice, eggs, salt and lentils have risen; so have wheat prices – partly as a result of the Ukraine war and the associated global price hike. In Bangladesh, inflation in July 2022 was the highest it has been in the last eight years. Compared to June 2020, the price of a typical food basket is now one-thid higher. This increases the risk of further malnutrition among Rohingya and poor Bangladeshi families.

Helvetas helps in the fight against malnutrition

Helvetas, the Swiss development cooperation and humanitarian aid organization, is supporting both the Rohingya refugees, who are still heavily dependent on humanitarian aid supplies, and the host community families in Cox's Bazar.

With Helvetas' help – thanks in part to funds from Swiss Solidarity – refugee families are learning to grow space-saving and climate-resilient vegetable crops next to and on top of their simple, cramped huts. This enables them to eat healthier and earn a small additional income, and also provides them with employment.

At the same time, Helvetas also supports local Bangladeshi families, many of whom are very poor and also suffer from food shortages; they have lower crop yields due to the rapid and massive immigration of refugees. Helvetas helps them to grow vegetables more productively and to sell them at fair prices on the market. This strengthens cohesion between the Bangladeshis and the Rohingya, who have to make do with little in a confined space.

Helvetas also helps young people living in the camp learn tailoring skills or how to repair solar panels. Furthermore, Helvetas has trained more than 43,000 Rohingya in fire prevention and helped to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by the monsoon storms in August 2022.

For more information or interviews with experts, please contact Katrin Hafner, Helvetas Media Officer, at katrin.hafner@helvetas.org.