Rohingya refugees sell aid to fund basic diet
COX'S BAZAR, Feb 12 : Just after midday on a Saturday afternoon Hakim Ali stands calmly by a police checkpoint on the fringes of Bangladesh's main Rohingya refugee settlement area.
He tells a policeman on duty that he needs to see his child, who is in a hospital beyond the checkpoint.
The officer tells Ali he needs an official letter verifying that his child is at the hospital.
But Ali, carrying nothing with him, has no such letter and resigns to the fact he must turn around.
The interaction between Ali and the officer isn't particularly confrontational.
Denied access, Ali turns back towards the Balukhali-Kutupalong settlement area and begins the 45 minute walk back to his makeshift home.
As he leaves, Ali says he did want to visit the hospital, but admits he was ultimately headed to the city of Cox's Bazar to find work so he could afford to buy fish and vegetables.
Ali is one of more than 650,000 Rohingya who have fled Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh since the state launched a brutal crackdown on the minority group last August. The UN has described the crackdown as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing", documenting allegations of widespread killings, sexual violence and other abuse.
Being a fisherman in Myanmar, Ali says he has grown especially weary of his diet in the camps, which consists of primarily of rice and lentils provided by the World Food Programme (WFP).
"I don't like to eat lentils and rice every day," Ali says.
"I like to eat fish or vegetables one or two times a week," he explains.
"I miss the taste of fish," he says, adding that he feels stronger when he eats fish and vegetables.
The restriction on movement and lack of a diverse diet have forced many Rohingya, like Ali, to seek other methods to get the food they want and need.
One of the primary ways they have done so is by selling their WFP food assistance for cash.
The WFP said it reached 882,000 refugees during its latest round of food distributions in Bangladesh.
But the organisation tells Al Jazeera it is aware there are limitations to the variety and nutritional value of their current food baskets.
A survey conducted WFP and other aid groups late last year showed that child malnutrition is particularly worrisome. At least 24 percent of children between six and 59 months old in Kutupalong area were malnourished.
As a result of the findings, the WFP says it is looking to improve the dietary diversity of what they offer to the Rohingya by scaling up of an existing e-voucher programme, which allows refugees to buy 19 types of food through prepaid debit card entitlements.