One year on | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 02, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:25 PM, September 02, 2018

Rohingya crisis

One year on

Working to improve the lives of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Since 25 August 2017 extreme violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people from their homes and across the border into Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

This created the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world with 919,000 Rohingya refugees stuck in camps on the border.

Conditions in the camps are incredibly difficult. With limited medical facilities, people are sick and continuously at risk of contracting serious diseases. A year later, refugees now face additional threats. The camps are ill-equipped to handle the monsoon rains and there are limited options for evacuation.

Over the past year Christian Aid has raised nearly £9 million. With this it has worked with local partners to improve food security, health, access to safe water and sanitation, protection, shelters and communication with communities.

Since September 2017, Christian Aid supported the distribution of 67,000 children's winter clothing kits, blankets for 9,500 families and floor mats for 11,500 families. 15,500 households received shelter upgrade kits and training to strengthen their homes to withstand high winds and heavy rains. We relocated 319 shelters that were identified to beat risk from flooding or landslides. 10,539 families received food packages containing rice, lentils, oil, salt and sugar. Christian Aid has supported 3 health camps, 7 'pop-up' clinics and 1 primary care clinic in Jamtoli, Balukhali, and Thangkhali. 138,084 health care consultations have been conducted, while 75,100 referrals for further treatmentwere provided.

Christian Aid operationalised 8 women & child centres and 6 community kitchens which serve as safe places for Rohingya women to be together outside of their homes. They allow women to meet, chat, share stories and challenges as well as cook for their families. Gas and basic supplies are provided and it reduces the need for women to collect firewood from the forest which can be hard work and dangerous. Our partners also provide psycho-social counselling and sessions on gender-based violence, and health and hygiene. 22,384 families received water and sanitation kits. These kits have improved health and hygiene, helping to prevent the spread of disease. To support this, 11,828 health & hygiene sessions have been delivered to women and adolescent girls. 16 gravity water system service points have been installed to address the problem of water access at high elevations in the camps.

Hundreds of Rohingya community volunteers have been trained in emergency preparedness and response, particularly life-saving skills and knowledge ahead of the monsoon and cyclone season. We trained 20 cyclone preparedness programme volunteers, 64 safety unit volunteers, 48 psycho-social support volunteers and 198 first aid, search and rescue, early warning and firefighting volunteers.

The humanitarian community has faced many challenges in communicating effectively with the Rohingya people due to high illiteracy rates, no standard written script for the Rohingya language, cultural customs and the lack of existing research or knowledge about the community due to their isolation in Myanmar. Christian Aid organised 108 camp committees, 4 community radio 'Listener Groups' and 1 info hub all of which strengthened the communication between the Rohingya people and humanitarian organisations, ensuring their voices are heard and needs met.

Christian Aid, as the Site Management Support Agency for Camp 15 has introduced a governance mechanism to ensure community-based governance system for unified and standardised services for affected populations. In camp 15, representatives from all sections of people selected through consensus formed block development committee (BDC) for each of the 8 blocks. The committee members included men, women, adolescents, disabled and elderly persons. Having represents from each BDC, one camp development committee (CDC) was formed to ensure accountability and greater coordination among all actors.

BDC members have been instrumental in establishing complaint mechanism in protection issues; supporting Christian Aid and other actors to identify at risk households; and participating in the Disaster risk reduction committee, Safety committee, Graveyard committee and Cyclone preparedness program committee.

As the cultural practices of Rohingya communities encourage women to keep silent and do not include them in decision making process, BDCs become a platform for Rohingya women to speak up and talk about their protection and other needs. 

While ensuring services for the refugee population was of utmost importance, Christian Aid, with its community-based and localised governance mechanism focused on enabling this unheard population, whose plight continues even after one year of the exodus.

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