Rohingyas have sought refuge in Bangladesh
Rohingyas live in the Cox’s Bazar camps
of Rohingya refugees are newborns and children
The Rohingya people have experienced decades of systematic discrimination, statelessness and targeted violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar (formerly Burma). Since August 2017, around 744,000 Rohingyas have sought refuge in Cox’s Bazar, southern Bangladesh, fleeing the violence and joining the existing Rohingya communities in the country. There are therefore now over 877,710 Rohingyas refugees in Bangladesh, of whom 860,000 live in the camps of Cox’s Bazar according to the last census.
Almost 877,710 Rohingyas have sought refuge in southern Bangladesh.
The living conditions of Rohingya refugees
The majority of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh live in 34 very overcrowded camps, which make up a “mega-camp”. It is currently the largest humanitarian camp in the world. Despite the humanitarian response provided by around a hundred NGOs, the Rohingyas’ situation is still extremely precarious. The number of refugees in Cox’s Bazar has almost tripled, with major impacts on the environment and the livelihoods of the host communities. This situation is further exacerbated by the location in an area prone to natural disasters, such as cyclones, monsoons and landslides.
A number of attempts have been initiated to return Rohingyas to Myanmar, but they have all been unsuccessful. The future of the world’s most persecuted minority appears more uncertain than ever. Many Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are worried about their future – they would like to return to Myanmar, but only once the issues around citizenship, security, legal rights and access to services and justice have been resolved.
In the meantime, tensions are growing, both among the refugees in the camps and between the Rohingyas and their host communities. Since 2019, Bangladesh has erected fences around the camps and the Rohingyas no longer have the right to have mobile phones or access to the internet.
In addition, Bangladesh has been building new infrastructure to accommodate the Rohingyas. The island of Bhasan Char, a silt island formed less than ten years ago, is situated more than three hours by boat from the mainland. The island is regularly beset by storms and flooding. In December 2020, around 3,700 people were relocated there, despite the fact that the United Nations hadn’t yet been able to carry out a needs assessment or view the facilities available on the island.
Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic turned people’s everyday lives upside down: movement restrictions within the camps and lockdown measures in the Cox’s Bazar region throughout the summer exacerbated inequalities and gender-based violence and disrupted access to essential services.
Our humanitarian support in Bangladesh
Improving physical and psychosocial wellbeing in Cox’s Bazar
Médecins du Monde has been working in Bangladesh since 2017, providing capacity-building support to local organisations with the aim of improving access to mental health and psychosocial support services and offering better support to people who have experienced gender-based violence.
The humanitarian activities developed by Médecins du Monde in Bangladesh include tools and good practice guidance to facilitate a better response to the needs of the Rohingyas, many of whom are traumatised by the extreme violence they witnessed and experienced in Myanmar.
Using these tools it has been possible to train staff from a number of organisations working in Cox’s Bazar. MdM and its partners have provided responses to the humanitarian emergencies in Bangladesh by organising large-scale information and awareness-raising campaigns within the camps and for the host communities outside on Covid-19 and protective measures.
In late 2020 two community resource centres were set up. They provide safe, confidential spaces where people can get help to access specialist mental healthcare and psychosocial support, and care is also provided to victims of gender-based violence.
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