Rohingya refugee communities working together in Cox’s Bazar for World Refugee Day

This World Refugee Day on June 20, Caritas Australia celebrates the Rohingya refugees working together to improve living conditions and community safety in Cox’s Bazar, the largest refugee camp in the world. Recent research by Caritas Australia and local partner, Caritas Bangladesh, has found that community-based programs in the camps have had a significant positive impact on the wellbeing of women and children. 

Cox’s Bazar is home to nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees, who live in cramped informal housing with limited access to clean water, health care and income opportunities after fleeing the conflict in Rakhine state in Myanmar in 2017.  

In addition to these challenges, in March this year, a massive fire swept through Cox’s Bazar, destroying health centres and other facilities and leaving approximately 45,000 people homeless. 

Yet many Rohingya have been fundamental in helping themselves and their communities prepare for the pandemic and improve safety in their communities.   

“We know that community members are the best placed to lead initiatives to improve wellbeing, because they know what the problems are and already have great ideas for how to solve them,” said Bernice Sarpong, Caritas Australia’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Asia.  

“When it comes to complex or sensitive issues like prevention of violence, mental health or early marriage, we listen to the people we work with so we understand the barriers, and work with communities to find the right solution for that context, rather than coming in with a predetermined idea about what communities should do.” 

“Cox’s Bazar in particular presents a lot of challenges: unemployment, violence, physical or mental health issues and child protection are all concerns where you have so many people living in close proximity without access to many of the essential services that a citizen enjoys. But it doesn’t mean that people can’t work together to make their communities healthier, safer and happier.” 

Every year on June 20, Caritas Australia celebrates the courage and strength of the people who have been forced to flee their home countries due to conflict or persecution.  

Caritas Australia works with displaced communities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.  

Visit or call 1800 024 413 toll free to provide much needed support.   

Media contact: Jessica Stone or 


Bernice Sarpong, Caritas Australia’s Humanitarian Program Coordinator for Asia is available for interview. 

Marcel Ratan Guda, Project Director at Caritas Bangladesh is available for interview from Bangladesh.