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UNHCR-WFP Joint Assessment Mission Report Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, July 2021

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JAM 2021 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Joint Assessment Mission (JAM) 2021 for Cox’s Bazar Rohingya refugee operation was conducted between April and July 2021, two years after the first Cox’s Bazar JAM (2019). With a general objective of reviewing the areas of cooperation outlined in the UNHCR/WFP Memorandum of Understanding (2011), this JAM aims to review the food security and nutritional situation of the Rohingya refugee population established in Ukhia and Teknaf megacamp, including the evaluation of the adequacy of WFP and UNHCR programmes, and the identification of appropriate interventions. An internal evaluation of the 2019 Joint Plan of Action informed the specific objectives of this JAM 2021. The methodology comprised secondary data review, primary qualitative data collection and joint strategic discussions between UNHCR and WFP on the different thematic areas of cooperation.

Summary findings and recommendations of the 2021 JAM
Food security and socio-economic status

Between 2019 and 2020, vulnerability and food security indicators deteriorated, partly attributed to the COVID 19 related restrictions. By November 2020, 96 percent of refugee households were moderately to highly vulnerable and 58 percent had unacceptable food consumption, which confirmed the need of continuing blanket food assistance. The e-voucher modality scaled up from 65 percent in 2019 to all refuges in 2021, who can redeem their vouchers in 21 outlets, including 16 fresh food corners. Although WFP tops-up the e-voucher of the most vulnerable with an additional 3USD per month, 49 percent of households were not able to cover the Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) and in 63 percent of households monthly food rations did not last till next distribution cycle, mainly due to the limited portion size. In this situation, the persistence of refugees selling part of their food assistance, although reduced from 53 to 32 percent between 2019 and 2020, reflects refugees’ need of additional assistance to cover their basic needs. Refugees, especially the most vulnerable, expressed their preference for cash assistance in addition to e-vouchers to cover other needs.
Recommendations include the revision of the e-voucher value considering the future updated MEB; the continuation of the expansion plan for e-vouchers outlets and fresh food corners; the increase in household’s ability to cover basic needs by scaling up self-reliance programmes and exploring feasible assistance alternatives, as well as sensitization to optimize the use of assistance provided and generation of further evidence on food needs coverage at individual level.

Nutrition status and underlying causes

Although the nutrition status of children under five years has improved since 2017, malnutrition levels remain high. Overall global acute malnutrition (GAM) significantly reduced from 18.2 to 11.4 percent in 2020, but it is in the “high” category, while stunting prevalence (34.1 percent) continues in the “very high” category. The prevalence of anaemia among children 6-23 months (55 percent) is particularly concerning considering the public health thresholds of 40%. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, GAM slightly increased in Nayapara up to 14.8 percent, close to the emergency public health threshold of >15%.
The key determinants of malnutrition in the camps are inadequate dietary diversity, poor maternal and childcare practices, diseases, low birth-spacing, early pregnancy, and non-optimal hygiene practices. The development of a joint multisector SBCC strategy to improve dietary diversity, address the high malnutrition rates, improve WASH practices and health seeking behaviours as well as a strategy for the reduction of anaemia is recommended.