|Refugee Nutrition Information System (RNIS), No. 27 - Report on the Nutrition Situation of Refugee and Displaced Populations (UNSSCN, 1999, 78 p.)|
An estimated 22,500 refugees from Rakhine state in Myanmar live in two camps in southern Bangladesh (UNHCR - 06/99). They were among the 250,000 people who originally fled Myanmar in 1992, claiming widespread human rights abuses. Repatriation began in 1992 and by April 1997 some 230,000 refugees had been repatriated. However, the repatriation programme was suspended in mid-1997 and, although a list of 7,000 refugees who wish to return from Bangladesh has been approved by the Government of Myanmar, no schedule has been set for their return.
The Government of Bangladesh does not allow the refugees to undertake employment or income-generating activities. WFP food aid is thus the primary means of meeting the basic nutritional needs of this population. UNHCR continues to supply other non-food items to the refugees such as soap, kerosene, plastic sheeting and clothing. The sanitation facilities in the camps are adequate and average water use is 21-22 litres/per person/day (UNHCR - 06/99).
A nutrition survey completed in March 1999 by UNHCR revealed an increase in the prevalence of acute wasting from 11.5% in February 1998 to 14.3%, with 0.7% severe wasting (see Annex). Oedema was reported in 0.2% of the population. The explanations given for the level of wasting found included: a monthly average under-distribution of food of 5-7%, selling of rations, certain food items such as pulses or blended foods were sometimes not available in the ration and were substituted with other items and the coverage of the supplementary feeding programmes was not complete. In addition it was suggested that the population may not have been adequately informed by the camp health workers about how to best cook and eat the food types given to them (UNHCR - 14/06/99, 28/06/99).
As part of a response to these findings, consultations between UNHCR/WFP and the NGOs have resulted in the abolition of the wet feeding programmes. Instead, the undernourished children are given High Energy Milk twice a day at the feeding centre twice a day.
Priorities and recommendations
· Assess the causes for the increase in the prevalence of wasting seen.
Overall, the refugees in Bangladesh are not considered to be at heightened nutritional risk (category IIc).