Donors lose interest in Rohingyas: WFP

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12:00 AM, February 14, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:43 AM, February 14, 2018

Donors losing interest in Rohingyas: WFP

Chief of the UN body tells Hasina; PM urges development partners to invest in rural economy

World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley has said donor agencies are gradually losing their interest in providing food assistance for the displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh.

He made the comment during a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her hotel suite on Monday evening (local time).

The WFP is playing a leading role in feeding one million Rohingyas living in Bangladesh, Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque told reporters quoting David as saying.

According to the WFP chief, the UN agency distributed food items worth $80 million among the Rohingyas in last six months.

As per the agency's assessment, he said, some $20-25 million was needed to feed the Rohingyas a month.

“He [David] informed the prime minister that the interest of the donor agencies to feed the Rohingyas was decreasing and the WFP was trying to keep the interest alive among the donor agencies under the UN system. But it is very difficult for them to keep it up,” Shahidul said.

The WFP chief also expressed concern over the possibility of mudslides in the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar during monsoon.

“He drew the prime minister's attention to the matter [mudslide]. The prime minister said some Rohingyas would be shifted temporarily to Bhasan Char [an island in Noakhali] if needed,” the foreign secretary said.

David apprised Hasina about various campaigns the WFP was carrying out in the international arena over the Rohingya issue. He said he briefed the US president twice on the issue.

David said the WFP thought that the international community would take steps against the atrocities that took place against the Rohingyas in Myanmar's Rakhine State.

During the meeting, Hasina focused on her five-point proposal she had placed in the last UN General Assembly in New York for solving the Rohingya crisis permanently.

She said a bilateral agreement has been signed. She requested the international community to continue putting pressure on Myanmar for successful implementation of the agreement.

The WFP is implementing 13 projects in Bangladesh worth about $343 million for the 2017-2020 period.

Later, the honorary consuls of Bangladesh in Rome called on the PM at her hotel suite.

Hasina urged them to work sincerely to protect the interests of the Bangladeshis living in Italy.

INVEST IN RURAL ECONOMIES: PM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday called upon the development partners to invest in sustainable rural economies to ensure resilience to agricultural crisis as the inclusive and sustainable rural transformation hold the key to eliminate poverty and hunger.

“The development partners have to be a little more generous in order to eliminate poverty and hunger. The world appears to me to be ready now for it. I would like to urge you for investing in sustainable rural economies,” she said.

Hasina was delivering her keynote speech at the 41st Session of the IFAD's Governing Council at the headquarters of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome, with its President Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo in the chair.

The theme of the session was “From fragility to long-term resilience: Investing in sustainable rural economics”.

Hasina said investment in rural economy is a key factor in ensuring resilience. “This, we believe, cannot be achieved without global partnership and cooperation."

She said a comprehensive sustainable rural economy “requires investment in the development of the rural social fabric and climate resilience”.

Focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030, the PM said, “Inclusive and sustainable rural transformation is the key to reaching the goals of poverty elimination, hunger elimination and leaving no one behind.”

She said Bangladesh was poised to achieve the SDG goals well ahead of 2030 and it estimated that poverty would be eradicated altogether by 2024.

But the country faces other formidable challenges as it is likely to lose 40 percent of its productive land by 2080 if sea levels rise 65 centimetres only, she pointed out.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley calls on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her hotel suite in Rome on Monday. Photo: BSS

“Changes in crop production due to the impact of climate change will increase the number of people living in poverty. Therefore, significant resources must be tapped in order to ensure better adapted and resilient agricultural practices.”

About Bangladesh's remarkable achievements, Hasina said the country has been very lucky with stable governance for almost a decade. “We formulated our strategy of socio-economic growth very carefully over a period of about four years. And then we tried to implement it in the last nine years.”

Fortunately, she said, the development partners came forward with eager and generous hands and jointly made the progress.

She said IFAD's model of mutual help and partnership was very different from that of other UN agencies and organisations. “We sincerely believe that this ideal model will work in the promising future that is before mankind now.”

Citing the World Economic Forum report, she said the world's population was projected to surpass 9 billion by 2050 and there would be a huge strain on declining global arable land, forests and water.

She said rise in sea level would heavily reduce arable land in many countries and Bangladesh would be its victim again without contributing to sea level rise at all.

“Global food demand in 2050 will increase by at least 60 percent over the 2006 levels and food prices are likely to increase by at least 84 percent.”

The PM mentioned the success story of Bangladesh regarding its response to such adverse developments. “First of all, let me tell you that the natural resilience of Bangladeshi people to any crisis did not allow the build-up of a food crisis in a year of climatic vagaries and reduced food production in the country.”

She said the resolve of Bangladeshis to tighten the belt, encounter difficulties with confidence and seek alternative ways of meeting the crisis enabled the country to overcome and succeed.

“Bangladesh had about a decade of self-sufficiency in food and then this year there was an unexpected shortfall due to untimely and recurrent flooding. Some adjustment in import policy immediately made food readily available to the consumers.”

She mentioned that Bangladesh increased its food production from 11 million tonnes in 1971 to 39 million tonnes in 2017, although one third of the arable land was lost in the meantime.

“From 2008 it has been an increase of 9 million tonnes. This was possible as we reached agri-inputs to the farmers with heavily subsidised prices, and soft and collateral-free loans were made available to the landless farmers.”

Hasina said Bangladesh used all options that ICT could offer to overcome the crisis. At present, ICT is helping the country to accelerate the efficiency and precision of research, particularly on issues related to climate change, she added.

Noting that Bangladesh is the fourth largest producer of sweet water fish in the world, she said the total fish production reached up to 41.34 lakh tonnes in 2016-17 due to fisheries-friendly policies. “This has contributed to self-sufficiency in fish production.”

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