DHAKA – A 2 million euro (BDT 20 crore) donation from ECHO, the humanitarian aid department of the European Commission, has allowed the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to move quickly to address emerging hunger in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Food, cash, and a special allowance for seed purchases are now being distributed to support vulnerable people in two very remote areas.
“This very timely donation from ECHO has allowed WFP to provide much-needed food assistance, as well as to boost the food security and nutrition of vulnerable families who are struggling to cope with increasingly difficult circumstances,” said Christa Räder, WFP Representative in Bangladesh.
WFP will be able to provide food assistance to some 6,500 housholds, in Sajek union of Baghaichhori upazila, and in Remakri and adjacent unions of Thanchi upazila. Each household will receive a monthly ration of 50 kg of rice, 3 kg of oil and an allowance of Tk1,200 to cover additional food and household expenditures. Households will also receive a one-off cash transfer of Tk2,000 for seed purchases and agricultural inputs in time for the jhum planting season (May-June). The distributions begin this week and will continue for six months.
In addition, there will be a drive to prevent further malnutrition in women and children. Each month, WFP will provide 3,600 children under the five and more than 900 pregnant and new mothers with 6 kg of wheat-soya blend - a nutritious supplementary food fortified with key vitamins and minerals.
Following reports of growing hunger in Sajek and Remakri, WFP conducted an assessment in March. The findings were dramatic. Communities in these areas have experienced a series of shocks to their livelihoods and food security. A growing population, land infertility, and restrictions on jhum (slash and burn) cultivation have significantly hampered agricultural production.
Herds of wild pigs – what locals call “the pig flood” – threaten the few crops that people manage to cultivate. Many farmers began growing turmeric as a cash crop some years ago, but turmeric prices have dropped dramatically this year and cultivators are incurring significant financial losses. Bamboo collection has also dropped dramatically. Bamboo flowering, which occurs only every 50 years, took place recently, and the plant requires four to five years before it can be successfully harvested again.
The assessment found that there were no significant food stocks and people are relying heavily on jungle foods, such as wild potatoes, to supplement their diet. Most families eat only one or two meals a day, often with no rice. The planting season is fast approaching, but few families can afford to buy seeds as they are already in debt to moneylenders.
The rapid distribution of food, cash, and seed money in time for the planting season will be instrumental in assisting these communities protect and restore their livelihoods. To miss the planting season would be catastrophic for most households.
ECHO has been a key donor to emergency food assistance programmes in Bangladesh and has given approximately US$14.8 million to WFP operations in Bangladesh since 2009.
For more information please contact:
Annica Ojermark, WFP/Bangladesh, Tel. +880 2 8116344 or 8119064 73 ext. 2164, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Farina Noireet, WFP/Bangladesh, Tel. +880 2 8116344 or 8119064 73 ext. 2143, Mob. + 88–01711859476, Email: email@example.com