Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)– The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has extended its current refugee operations for two more years to provide support to 31,000 food-insecure refugees in Cox’s Bazar of Bangladesh at a cost of nearly US$11 million.

This extension will enable WFP to continue its operation to improve food security and reduce malnutrition among registered refugees living in Kutupalang and Nayapara in Cox’s Bazar until the end of 2012.

These refugees came to Bangladesh in 1991 following religious and ethnic persecution in Burma, officially known as Myanmar.

“The two-year extension of our ongoing program will strengthen the food and nutrition support base and help reduce levels of malnutrition among children and women, as well as increase access to education for refugee boys, girls and adolescents,” WFP Representative in Bangladesh Christa Räder said.

A recent nutrition survey shows that although the global acute malnutrition rate has improved since the previous study, the current level of 15 percent remains a cause for concern.

WFP will undertake an analysis of the factors contributing to these high levels of malnutrition in the first quarter of 2011, a WFP press statement said on Wednesday.

Under this new phase of the operation, WFP will continue existing activities including general food distributions, a school meals program and targeted nutritional support for acutely and moderately malnourished mothers and children.

The WFP remains committed to providing a full food ration to refugees, who are not permitted to work and whose livelihood opportunities are very limited.

The design of the new phase of the program has drawn on the recommendations of a UNHCR-WFP Joint Assessment Mission undertaken in 2010 with the participation of the Government of Bangladesh. WFP supports the efforts of UNHCR to find longer-term solutions for this population.

The WFP’s assistance to the Myanmar refugees, which is being carried out at the request of the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), is a part of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework for Bangladesh (UNDAF 2006-2010).

BBN/SSR/AD-12Jan11-3:34 pm (BST)