Concern responds to worsening Rohingya refugee crisis

September 19, 2017
Written by Kristin Myers
Photo by Bijoy Krishna Nath

Concern Worldwide has launched an immediate response as hundreds of thousands stream into Bangladesh seeking safety.

UPDATE: Approximately 436,000 Rohingya have now crossed the border of Myanmar into Bangladesh. Cross-border movement has slowed in the recent days, but the lack of space at refugee camps — already at capacity — have forced the Rohingya to leave and create makeshift settlements elsewhere.

There is limited access by road to these camps, making aid distribution to all the sites and settlements difficult. As more and more Rohingya flee violence in Myanmar, the need for basic necessities like food, toilets, shelter, and clean water continues to grow.

Concern will initially provide approximately 31,000 Rohingya refugees in the Cox’s Bazar area with food assistance. Concern is working to increase its response and mobilize additional resources to ensure life-saving nutrition support for children, and pregnant and new mothers from the Rohingya communities.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have crossed the border of Myanmar into Bangladesh since August 25, fleeing ethnic violence in Rakhine State in the country’s southwest. That’s more than a third of the country’s Rohingya population of roughly 1.1 million people.

Camps at capacity

Refugee camps in the area of Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh are at capacity as thousands of new arrivals make their way into the country seeking safety. Many are seriously injured, and urgently need water, food, shelter, and medical care. Concern plans to work with local partners in Bangladesh to assist 40,000 people in need.

People are arriving wounded, many with bullet wounds in their arms, every day.”

“Concern will mobilize resources to support shelter, water, sanitation, and nutritional assistance to the Rohingya population,” said Concern’s Bangladesh Country Director A.K.M Musha.

Cox’s Bazar Bangladesh

Women gather at a Concern distribution in Cox’s Bazar District, in Bangladesh, following Cyclone Mora earlier this year. This region is now experiencing an influx in Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Photo credit: Concern partner YPSA

“The humanitarian need in the Cox’s Bazar area is huge and there are not enough resources to cope with the ever-increasing numbers,” Musha explained. “Many have taken refuge in makeshift camps, host communities, and anywhere they can get shelter. People are arriving with injuries, many with bullet wounds in their arms.”

Who are the Rohingya?

Often described as the “world’s most persecuted minority,” the Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, mostly concentrated in Rakhine, one of Myanmar’s poorest states. The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations, many migrating from Bangladesh during British rule. After gaining independence, Myanmar, a majority Buddhist nation, refused to acknowledge the Rohingya as citizens, rendering them a stateless people.

“The Bangladesh government cannot deal with the huge influx of refugees — many of whom are in a desperate situation.”

Without recognition as citizens or permanent residents of the country, the Rohingya have limited access to education, jobs, and health services, resulting in chronic poverty and marginalization. Violence targeting Rohingya over the last several decades has driven hundreds of thousands to neighboring countries.

Growing needs

Bangladesh is currently assisting thousands of people affected by last month’s monsoon floods which impacted eight million people and left many vulnerable families homeless.

With resources stretched thin, Concern’s A.K.M. Musha says support is desperately needed.

Flooding in Bangladesh

People in Lalmonirhat district, in Bangladesh, move to the nearest flood shelter. Heavy rain triggered deadly flooding in 14 districts of Bangladesh last month — damaging bridges and power lines, and washing away thousands of homes. Photo credit: Kazi Altab, Concern partner ASOD

“The Bangladesh government, local communities and local NGO partners, international NGOs and the UN are supporting as best they can,” he said. “But they are also coping with the humanitarian problems following last month’s rains, floods, and mudslides, so the situation will get worse if they don’t receive adequate support.”

Brid Kennedy, Concern’s Regional Director for the Middle East and Asia, echoed the sentiment. “The Bangladesh government cannot deal with the huge influx of refugees — many of whom are in a desperate situation,” she explained. “The government requires increased support from the international community to help with the response.”

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