In a devastating blow to the international community's resolve to stand by victims of violent persecution, or at least the perception of its resolve, the UN announced cuts in food aid for all the Rohingya refugees living in the camps in Cox's Bazar. Starting from March 1, the UN's World Food Programme will have to reduce its General Food Assistance voucher value from $12 to $10 per person per month, due to a $125 million funding shortfall. It is the first such cut, announced nearly six years into the Rohingya refugee crisis.

With the support of donors and partners, WFP has been providing food, nutrition and other critical assistance to Rohingya men, women and children since their exodus from Myanmar in 2017. Today, nearly 1 million Rohingya living in the camps receive food assistance via the vouchers currently valued at $12 per person per month. With that, families can choose from over 40 dry and fresh food items at WFP outlets throughout the camps.

Despite that, 45 percent of Rohingya families are not eating a sufficient diet and malnutrition has been widespread in the camps. The Global Acute Malnutrition rate for children stands at 12 percent - just below the WHO's 'Emergency' threshold of 15 percent, but still categorised as 'Serious'. Some 40 percent of children have stunted growth and 40 percent of pregnant and breastfeeding women are anaemic - and this is all set to get worse following the ration cut.

"With each ration cut, malnutrition will certainly rise. With each ration cut, families will increasingly resort to dangerous strategies to cope. Sadly, women, adolescent girls and children will be the worst affected. We must do everything possible to keep the vital humanitarian assistance they depend on intact," said Domenico Scalpelli, the WFP's country director in Bangladesh.

Without an immediate funding boost, further ration cuts to the blanket food assistance programme are also imminent for the remainder of the year, Scalpelli warned. It is no secret of course, that funding for the Rohingya refugee population - who have limited employment opportunities in the camps where they are now fenced in, therefore relying almost entirely on humanitarian assistance to meet their food and other essential needs - has been dwindling under the donor community's Joint Response Plan. Bangladesh has in fact been flagging the issue in international forums for a while now - but seemingly to non avail.

The UN humanitarian agencies and the government of Bangladesh sought $881 million from various donors across the world in 2022. But less than half that amount, a total of just $431 million, was raised, according to UN data. In 2021, the donor countries provided $680.9 million, which was 72 percent of the $943 million - sought by the humanitarian agencies.

In 2020, they received $630 million against a requirement of $1,003 million.

Some analysts suggest the fall in funding was caused by mobilisation of resources to other refugee settlements, especially to support the Ukrainian refugees in Europe. But the amounts involved, less than a billion dollars even, should make the so-called donor nations blush. It is a rather damning indictment of the international community's commitment and resolve to stand by a historically persecuted people. And when we put it beside the seemingly blank check in military aid for the Ukrainians defending their land against Russia, it does beg the question: isn't injustice anywhere, a threat to justice everywhere in the world today?

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