UN initiative to improve environment, life in Cox’s Bazar

Three United Nations (UN) agencies along with the government of Bangladesh on Sunday launched the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy Plus Livelihoods (SAFE Plus) project to mitigate deforestation and improve livelihood opportunities in Cox’s Bazar.

SAFE Plus is a joint project among the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the World Food Programme (WFP) to address environmental degradation through avenues such as distribution of Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) and stoves, reforestation, and improved access to food production through livelihoods programming.

The LPG stove and gas distributions lessen the need for people to collect firewood, causing further damage to the environment, said the UN agencies mentioning that the reforestation activities rehabilitate unique forest reserves and protect natural resources.

The livelihoods and self-reliance programming bolsters food production and business opportunities for the host community through which they can benefit economically.

The three-year project was designed in partnership with government agencies to increase collaboration between several sectors.

“My ministry is delighted to be working with the UN to address the environmental issues in Cox’s Bazar, and we urge development partners to further support this,” said Senior Secretary at Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Md Shah Kamal.

At the agreement signing ceremony, the Additional Secretary and UN Wing Chief at the Economic Relations Division (ERD) Sultana Afroz reconfirmed the support of the government for the SAFEPlus project as it addresses the priorities of the government in Cox’s Bazar.

Additional Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Md. Mizanur Rahman stressed, “SAFEPlus programme should continue as long as Rohingyas are residing in Cox’s Bazar.”

FAO Representative in Bangladesh Robert Simpson said SAFEPlus capitalises on the technical capacities of the three UN agencies and government partners to meet the evolving needs of the people of Cox’s Bazar.

“It’s expected to have significant multiplier effects — from improved food and nutrition security, to sustainable management of natural resources, increased livelihood opportunities, and strengthened social cohesion.”

Chief of Mission of IOM Bangladesh Giorgi Gigauri said they are delighted to announce SAFEPlus as a programme that addresses both the human and the environmental needs of the refugees and host community. “In addition to cutting household expenditures, SAFEPlus promotes smokeless homes, making them healthier and safer.”

Country Representative for WFP Richard Ragan said protecting the environment and improving livelihood opportunities are keys to ensuring food security for people in Cox’s Bazar.

“By working together with other UN agencies, we’re ensuring we’ve a comprehensive and well-rounded programme that addresses the underlying causes of environmental degradation whilst simultaneously improving livelihoods opportunities for people in Cox’s Bazar.”

Throughout this year, SAFEPlus will reach households in the host community with a livelihood programme while technical support will be provided to farmers to increase the production of high-demand vegetables, and reforestation activities will continue.

source: UNB