At the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh, almost 700,000 people are living in makeshift refugee camps in a location called Cox’s Bazar. These people are Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar in late August due to targeted violence and persecution. Faced with such challenges, various agencies are providing aid to the Rohingya refugees.
The Rohingya are a Muslim population formerly located on the western coast of Myanmar. Myanmar is a majority Buddhist country and the Rohingya are among a small number of people who practice Islam. The minority group has endured prosecution for centuries, but a new wave of violence escalated in the summer of 2017 to levels never before witnessed in the country.
Primarily an issue of land rights, the tension between the Rohingya and the majority of Myanmar’s population has caused thousands of people to flee and cross the border into neighboring Bangladesh. After a treacherous journey across the river, refugees find themselves in a country without persecution but with no place to go.
The refugee camps are not a sustainable solution. Makeshift homes have been created out of primarily plastic and bamboo. Inadequate water and sanitation conditions persist as more and more people flee across the border. The refugees are stuck in limbo as Bangladesh does not have room for an additional 700,000 people and the prospect of going back to Myanmar is off the table for many of the refugees.
In the midst of all of this uncertainty and desperation, many international organizations are working to provide aid to the Rohingya.
Doctors Without Borders
One of the larger organizations providing aid to the Rohingya is Doctors Without Borders. The organization has been present in the camps since the beginning of the crisis in late August. At first, Doctors Without Borders focused on water, sanitation and emergency health care assistance. As the crisis continues to unfold, the organization has been adapting to the needs of the refugee community.
Mental health services have recently been offered as the trauma of the violence continues to haunt many of the Rohingya victims. Additionally, Doctors Without Borders is working with both other aid organizations and the Bengali government to address the crisis and how to proceed.
UNICEF is another organization working to improve camp conditions and provide aid to the Rohingya. The group is looking to move toward a more permanent solution for the refugee population. Mostly focused on proper shelter, adequate food and clean water, UNICEF also has plans to install water pumps in the future.
Another major project for UNICEF is providing vaccinations. In September, the organization set a goal to vaccinate at least 150,00 children against diseases like rubella, polio and measles.
Bracing for Rain
As spring approaches, the Rohingya refugees must brace for a new crisis. Monsoon season in Bangladesh brings the threat of floods and landslides. Cyclones are also a major threat to the area, with their primary season spanning March to June.
The U.N. is fervently working on prepping for the potential crisis. In February, U.N. agencies sent out engineering crews to clear blocked sewage canals that had the potential of overflowing during the monsoon season. Rice husks have also been distributed to refugees as an alternative to firewood.
U.N. agencies are working on relocating 100,000 refugees from the major camp at Cox’s Bazar. As monsoon season quickly approaches, all of the organizations working will need the support of the broader international community to lift up efforts to provide aid to the Rohingya.
– Sonja Flancher