Rohingya Refugee Crisis
OM'S LONG-TERM PLAN
In an area that was once known as the world’s longest unbroken sea beach—120 kilometers (75 miles) in length—the UNHCR has now declared the Rohingya influx of refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, as “the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis and a major humanitarian emergency” (UNHCR, 2017)1.
Between 25 August and 29 October 2017, an estimated 607,000 people from Rakhine State in Myanmar have crossed the border into Cox’s Bazar, and every day more make the journey.
OM has established a partnership team on the ground involved in disaster response efforts in the north of Bangladesh, which has recently been affected by heavy flooding. In that location, the partner is involved in building 200 transitional shelters and organising food distribution.
In Cox’s Bazar, through this same partner, OM plans to provide protection, in the form of establishing Child Friendly Spaces (CFSs), and provide Critical Incident Stress Debriefs for adults and children. The team will also organise sanitation and hygiene training, as well as deliver other non-food items to those in need. They are looking for more mid- and long-term workers to join them in their efforts to meet the needs of the Rohingya.
As of 30 October, an estimated 54 per cent of Rohingya refugees are under 18 years of age. These children have experienced severe trauma and are facing many uncertainties. We desire to create 14 CFSs and train 30 workers to help establish relationships with children ages six to 12, and through them have opportunities to meet with parents, specifically women who were violently targeted.
Four to six of these CFSs would be multifunctional tents, complete with toys and activities to engage the children, as well as a tea corner for parents. The other locations would be dedicated flagged areas in the camp where local teams, in rotation, visit for several hours each week and bring toys and activities to engage a wider audience. Clearly traumatised children and parents, identified by staff, will be referred for further Critical Incident Stress Debriefs. We aim to give a safe place for Rohingya to relax for at least a while and give them a bit of normalcy back. This will also allow staff to build trust with the community, with the hopes of starting school projects at a later stage so the children can have a chance for education.
Other identified needs include providing a safe washing area for women and children to bathe, education about good hygiene and sanitation practices, and non-food items such as kitchen utilities, hygiene packs or mosquito nets. With two pre-existing refugee camps and some makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar that have ballooned and multiplied by more than 280 per cent in the last eight weeks, there are not enough toilets, safe showers, or water sources available. With community involvement, our local partners will identify the best locations for more washing spaces to be built that will ensure the dignity of all users. Providing the Rohingya with education opportunities about hygiene and sanitation will also empower them. Basic information on wound dressing, wound cleaning and other first-aid practices will be given on papers with graphics and pictures to enable families to take care of themselves. And since the vast majority of refugees fled with nothing, we want to distribute items such as kitchen utensils, mosquito nets and their own first aid kits.
In the future, once the immediate needs of the Rohingya are met, OM would like to utilise the local partner’s experience and expertise in providing a more formal education for children and helping to restore livelihoods for adults. This will potentially involve establishing a school, raising up local teachers and providing training opportunities for them, as well as exploring culturally appropriate projects that enable adults to generate an income for their families. These projects are in line with the many years of experience that staff have in other parts of Bangladesh but will need to be developed with lots of other partners and local ownership.
We would like to support this project by raising an estimated 950,000 USD. We would also like to mobilise a qualified project manager, and mid- and long-term workers, to help implement various stages of the work, as well as provide training and support for local workers.