An estimated 22,260 Muslim refugees from Rakhine state in Myanmar live in two camps in southern Bangladesh (UNHCR - 11/99). 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. The repatriation programme was suspended in mid-1997 and resumed only in November 1998. Since then almost 1,000 refugees have repatriated, out of a list of 7,000 the Government of Myanmar has cleared for repatriation (UNHCR-12/12/99),
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 nutritional needs of this population. UNHCR continues to supply other non-food items to the refugees such as soap, compressed rice husk, plastic sheeting and clothing. The sanitation facilities in the camps are adequate and average water use is 21-22 litres/per person/day.
A nutrition survey completed in March 1999 by UNHCR revealed an increase in the prevalence of acute wasting to 14.3%, with 0.7% severe wasting. As one of the measures to remedy the situation the supplementary wet-feeding programme was replaced by High Energy Milk (2 feedings per day), in addition to full dry rations for all. It had previously been found that parents had kept their children from attending the supplementary feeding programme to receive a dry ration that could be sold. No new information on the nutritional situation of these refugees is currently available to the RNIS.
In September/October WFP 1999 undertook a vulnerability survey, to get a better understanding of the main reasons for the continuing poor nutrition situation in the camps. A report on the outcome of this survey will be made available in the next RNIS.
Overall, the refugees in Bangladesh are not considered to be at heightened nutritional risk (category IIc).