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This Time Last Year: A Review of the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

 Photo: Sébastien Duijndam for Action Against Hunger, Bangladesh

This time last year hundreds of thousands of Rohingya poured into Bangladesh, fleeing from being persecuted in their homeland of Rakhine state, Myanmar. Today, more than 900,000 refugees are based in Cox’s Bazar, living in overcrowded makeshift camps which have grown to become the world’s largest refugee camp. Action Against Hunger has been working hard to provide basic necessities such as water, hot meals, and psychological support to those in need – if you’d like to get involved, consider donating what you normally would spend on ordering lunch to our #Brownbagit campaign and support our teams in the field to deliver much needed aid and support.

 

Targeted Violence

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority originally from Western Myanmar, have endured ongoing discrimination and persecution from the Burmese armed forces and government since the 1950s. Unrecognized by the State, the Rohingya are not considered citizens of Myanmar and thus considered stateless, imposing restrictions on their access to basic services and the right to move freely.

In August 2017, an attack led by some rebel Rohingya against the Burmese police stations triggered a new wave of unprecedented violence and repressions against the civilians. The stories shared by survivors are spine-chilling; burnt villages, murders, rape and other crimes forced the Rohingya to seek refuge. Within a few months, nearly 700,000 people (half of them children) fled Rakhine, walking for days to cross the border into Bangladesh.


 Photo: Sébastien Duijndam for Action Against Hunger, Bangladesh

Cox’s Bazar

The escaping men, women, and children – considered “Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals” and not refugees by the Bangladeshi government – joined approximately 200,000 Rohingya who were already there, displaced by violence in previous years.

Based in a natural forest reserve, the makeshift shelters where the Rohingya now live are constructed of bamboo and plastic sheets upon hilly terrain, constantly subjected to the harsh elements including incessant rain, landslides and flooding. Although humanitarian aid has improved access to basic services, latrines, water, food, and medical care over the past year, the conditions remain particularly appalling in the rainy season.

Such rudimentary foundations, including overcrowding, poverty, lack of access to resources, and deplorable sanitary conditions are conducive to diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, respiratory illness, and malnutrition. Nutrition surveys show that 38% of refugee children in the mega camp of Kutupalong Balukhali suffer from stunted growth, and 12% are being treated for severe malnutrition.

Action Against Hunger’s Response

Since the arrival of the first influx of people in August 2017, Action Against Hunger has responded to the most urgent needs: mobile distribution of hot meals, water and psychological support.

Today, we employ nearly 900 employees and more than 1300 community volunteers from the Rohingya community, working day after day to support the camps’ most vulnerable people. In the past year, more than 700,000 individuals have benefited from Action Against Hunger support in the form of nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, mental support and care practices, food security and livelihoods.

Facts & Figures

  • Every day, more than 11,000 meals are served. Our teams, aided by Rohingya volunteers, run 10 community kitchens, 18 mobile healthcare centres, and 5 healthcare centres that operate 24/7.
  • More than 18,500 infants suffering from severe acute malnutrition are being treated.
  • 19,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women have benefited from medical assistance and advice on taking care of their and their children’s health.
  • More than 350,000 people have received mental and psychological support to treat stress and overcome the traumas they have experienced.
  • 38,200 emergency kits for building shelters have been distributed, as well as nearly 24,000 hygiene kits containing soap, detergent, toothbrushes, and menstrual hygiene products.
  • More than 230 drinking water points and a thousand latrines have been installed.
  • In addition to individual services, our teams have been in charge of certain areas of the camp and have performed nearly 200 interventions to help ensure the safety of the people: construction of stairs and bamboo bridges, strengthening areas prone to landslides, and providing awareness and relocation of families under threat.

 

 Photo: Sébastien Duijndam pour Action Contre la Faim, Bangladesh
 

A Faltering Future

On the 6th of June, 2018, the Myanmar government signed an agreement with the United Nations authorising them to come and inspect Rakhine and work jointly on the repatriation of the Rohingya. More than two months since the signing of their Memorandum of Understanding, international agencies have yet to visit.

“We have been told that the repatriation process is going to start shortly,” says Mahadi Muhammad, program director for Action Against Hunger work in Cox’s Bazar. “The international organizations are waiting for access to be granted on the other side of the border. Repatriation has to comply with international standards, under a voluntary basis and guaranteeing complete safety. For us, the emergency is now: people are still suffering, the camps are in bad shape and only 25% of global humanitarian aid has been secured.”

When asked about repatriation, the displaced Rohingya all respond with the same answer: “We are not returning without the guarantee that we will no longer be persecuted.”

What You Can Do

If you’d like to get involved, consider donating towards our #Brownbagit campaign. Donate what you normally would spend on ordering lunch to Action Against Hunger, and support our teams in the field to deliver much needed aid and support.

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