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WFP in Bangladesh: 2017 In Review

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Message from the WFP Representative

2017 marked another year of progress for Bangladesh. The country met the Least Developed Country (LDC) graduation requirements for the first time, meaning that LDC graduation could be formalized as soon as 2021. Bangladesh moved up in the Human Development Index rankings (to 142). GDP growth for 2017 was an impressive 7.3 percent. The Government of Bangladesh has shown strong commitment to development and has the results to show for it, as a member of lower middle-income countries since 2016, according to the World Bank.

Nevertheless, challenges remain to achieving Zero Hunger in Bangladesh. Although there has been significant improvement in Bangladesh’s food security indicators, around 40 million of its people are food-insecure. This includes about 11 million people suffering from acute hunger. Around a third of children are stunted, reflecting poor nutrition early in life.

Much of the country is vulnerable to climate shocks which can destroy family assets and disrupt communities, shocks that are only predicted to get worse. The refugee crisis in Cox’s Bazar, already a very impoverished and food-insecure region of the country, threatens the food security and nutrition status of both the refugees and the host community.

The independent Strategic Review of Food Security and Nutrition in Bangladesh (2016) was commissioned by WFP to identify ways forward to address remaining food security and nutrition challenges. Key findings included the importance of a social protection system that leaves no one behind, recognition of women as the key to achieving sustainable food security and nutrition, and creation and dissemination of relevant knowledge.

WFP Bangladesh began in April 2017 the implementation of a new Country Strategic Plan (CSP) 2017-2020 which builds on these findings and defines how WFP Bangladesh will support the country toward achieving SDG 2 and SDG 17. Our work in Bangladesh recognizes a dual mandate: we continue our longstanding work of strengthening government capacity while providing direct assistance in emergencies and testing innovative approaches for efficiency and effectiveness. The CSP also aligns WFP’s activities in Bangladesh to the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2017-2020 and to the Government’s Seventh Five Year Plan 2016-2020.

Much global attention has been focused on the Rohingya refugee crisis triggered by the outbreak of violence in the Rakhine State of Myanmar in August 2017. This refugee crisis is one of the most protracted in the world, with tens of thousands of Rohingya living in Cox’s Bazar for decades and influxes of refugees joining them, including an influx of over 77,000 in 2016. Now around a million Rohingya reside in Cox’s Bazar, over 80 percent of them women and children. The Government of Bangladesh has shown a tremendous commitment to sheltering this population, as has the local community in Cox’s Bazar. The situation remains critical, with food security and nutrition in crisis for Bangladeshi and Rohingya communities alike. WFP will continue to deliver needed aid in partnership with the Government and our donors, and we implore the international community to continue much needed support.

Looking to 2018 and beyond, there is a need for WFP, UN agencies, donors and the broader humanitarian community to consider medium-term options in Cox’s Bazar. A mediumterm response would allow the refugee community to contribute toward their own livelihoods and would support the most vulnerable members of local communities as they maintain their livelihoods in the face of great pressure and market fluctuations. All children in the refugee and host communities must attend school and women who are pregnant or nursing need specialized nutrition support.

Without these and other needed interventions, we risk losing a generation of Rohingya and eroding hard-won gains for the host community.

Christa Räder
WFP Representative and Country Director