An update on the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

21 Dec 17
210 201712 Rohingya Update Sciaf (1)
A family in the Kutubalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Photo: SCIAF

A family in the Kutubalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Photo: SCIAF

Here is a first-hand account of what the situation is like in some of the Rohingya camps, as well as how Caritas is helping with the crisis, from Valentine Morgan, Communications Manager for Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF):

On the drive south from Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar airport to the Rohingya camps in the south we swept through scenes of breath-taking beauty. Palm trees, paddy fields and lush green land morphed into mile after mile of picture-postcard beaches which rival any of the world’s top tourist destinations.

But this was no holiday. Before long we started to pass through military check points which searched vehicles moving north to prevent the Rohingya people from dispersing across the country. Paradise soon gave way to a new world of dirt roads, tightly packed mud shacks and bustling street markets.

Soon our Caritas Bangladesh vehicle slowed to a crawl as we entered the camps which are now home to over 858,000 desperate Rohingya, 646,000 of whom have fled Myanmar since the military crack-down there in August.

With support from the Caritas family around the world, including SCIAF, Caritas Bangladesh is providing thousands of refugees with food, clean water, shelter, pots, pans, blankets and sleeping mats.

Caritas is also responsible for the site development of two camps - Zone UU, a camp being set up to accommodate new arrivals and Zone BB, an existing camp in desperate need of upgrading.

Caritas Bangladesh’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Accountability Manager, Maain Golam, explains:

“First comes site development, preparing the land, putting in drainage, water points with hand pumps and fencing to prevent wild elephants from entering.  We also create child friendly spaces where children can play and other community activities can take place such as public education programmes on health, protection, preventing human trafficking and distributing aid.”

The need for child friendly spaces becomes all the more apparent when I found out that 60% of Rohingya refugees are children, including an estimated 12,000 orphans.

In BB Zone I spoke to Caritas Bangladesh engineer Paritash Chakrebahty. He told me how the rapid influx of refugees into the area has led to poor conditions with shelters placed very close to each other and water points and latrines also in close proximity.  The muddy hills that make up the camp will also become very dangerous when it rains unless drainage and steps are put in place. Paritash told me:

“Our role is to improve facilities in the existing BB Zone, which is work supported by UNHCR.  We’re trying to reduce the vulnerability of people, put in drainage, prevent landslides, arrange housing, put in wells and latrines, and private bathing areas for women. My hope for the future is to make the conditions in the camp better for the Rohingya, and resettle people in a more logical way.”

This, and other vital work being carried out by Caritas, is only possible thanks to the kindness of others.

If you would like to donate to help the crisis in Bangladesh, you can do so by donating to our Asia Emergency Appeal.