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WFP appeals for $320m to help most vulnerable in Bangladesh

This recently taken photo shows day labourers spending free time at a bus stop in Khulna city, in absence of work due to the soft shutdown that is in effect to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic Dhaka Tribune

The funding will ensure food security for families in rural areas, urban slums, as well as day labourers

World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that Covid-19 threatens to reverse development gains made by Bangladesh in the last 50 years and has appealed for $320 million to help the most vulnerable.

“The WFP for its part, issued an urgent call for $320 million to provide food and cash transfers to the most vulnerable families in Bangladesh in the midst of the pandemic,” Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, said, reports UNB.

Some $200 million of this funding is required for the agency’s Covid-19 response in Bangladesh and the remaining $120 million is needed to help the mainly-Muslim ethnic Rohingya for the next six months, according to the United Nations (UN).

“Lockdowns and restrictions in movement are affecting livelihoods of millions across Bangladesh, especially daily wage earners like rickshaw drivers, day labourers who now find themselves unable to meet their basic needs,”WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said.

Under WFP’s scheme, the funding will ensure food security for families in rural areas and urban slums, as well as day labourers.

In the meantime, the agency has maintained national distributions of fortified rice, cash transfers and nutrition programs, to complement government assistance.

It has also begun building storage areas for food and non-food items necessary for the Covid-19 response, including personal protective equipment, and is helping other humanitarian agencies by moving supplies into and around Bangladesh.

This coming August marks three years since the mainly ethnic Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar fled violent persecution in neighbouring Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

Last year, 16,000 people were affected in a single 24-hour period during one of the heaviest downpours.

To help, the WFP is busy clearing drains and stabilizing slopes that have the potential to give way in heavy rain.

After confirmation that the first cases of Covid-19 infection have been identified in a vast and overcrowded Rohingya camps in Cox’s  Bazar, UN humanitarians on Friday announced additional measures and appealed for funds to prevent the disease from spreading.

In Geneva, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic relayed government confirmation that one Rohingya had tested positive for the new coronavirus, in the Kutapalong settlement in Cox’s Bazar, along with an individual from the local Bangladeshi host community.

“There are serious concerns about the potentially severe impact of the virus in a densely populated refugee settlement, sheltering some 860,000 Rohingya refugees”, he said, speaking via videoconference.

“Another 400,000 Bangladeshis live in the surrounding host communities. These populations are considered to be among the most at risk globally in this pandemic.”

 Concerted UN action

UN agencies have already put in place a series of concerted Covid-19 contingency measures in Cox’s Bazar, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

It has provided upgraded triage areas in 35 primary care facilities along with three isolation and treatment centres.

Also nearing completion is a quarantine centre, large enough to accommodate 465 people and 250 beds for people suffering from severe acute respiratory infection,

Although the arrival of the pandemic was expected, it adds further pressure on extremely vulnerable individuals preparing for the approaching monsoon season.

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