One year into the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh

25 August 2018
One year passed since the beginning of the exodus of an estimated 706,000 Rohingya refugees from Rakhine
State, Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh following what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called a
“textbook example” of ethnic cleansing. The newly arrived Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar have joined hundreds of
thousands who were part of previous waves of displacement from Myanmar. The 20th and 21st centuries have
seen multiple waves of movement of Rohingya from Rakhine State to Cox’s Bazar and back, but the 2017 exodus
was by far the largest.1
The pace of new arrivals has made this crisis the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world and resulted in
settlements with the highest concentrations of refugees in the world. Moreover, the Cox’s Bazar area is comprised
of local communities with high poverty rates that have also been greatly impacted by the refugee crisis.The
people and the Government of Bangladesh have welcomed the Rohingya refugees with generosity and open
borders. The Government’s generosity in hosting over one million refugees is exceptional and is particularly
laudable in a time where refugee protection is eroding, and many countries are building barriers to prevent
refugees from seeking both the assistance they require, and the protection guaranteed under international law.
The speed and scale of the influx has been met with strong support from the humanitarian community – today
over one hundred local, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are responding to
the crisis alongside the Government and UN agencies. They are delivering protection, food, water, shelter,
healthcare and other life-saving assistance. However, one year into the crisis, the humanitarian community is still
delivering emergency aid largely in the framework of “temporary” assistance, which considerably falls short of
meeting minimum international humanitarian standards (Core Humanitarian Standard and Sphere).
The only way to end this crisis is to find a
political solution in Myanmar and ensure
conditions for safe, dignified, voluntary
and sustainable return of refugees to
Myanmar. “I want to go back in
Myanmar if possible. If the United
Nations and others come forward and
help resolve the unrest and killings, and
help us go back with proper identity and
dignity, then I will go back. We want to
be assured by them that they won’t
assault us anymore.” Noor Kajol3
While refugees await desired return
home, the response to their basic needs
in Bangladesh is only 34% funded4. It is
December 2017.
Interviewed by Evelin Jaita Karmakar and photo taken by Nusrat Daud Pritha, both from CARE Bangladesh.
Source: citing the level of funding of the Joint Response Plan for Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis
targeting 1.3 million refugees and host communities in Bangladesh for the period March-December 2018.
essential that the government and people of Bangladesh are supported to provide both short and medium-term
assistance to Rohingya and their host communities. At the same time, all stakeholders in the humanitarian
response in Bangladesh must step up efforts in meeting minimum international humanitarian standards in both
refugee protection and humanitarian assistance.
Going forward into the second year of the response in Bangladesh, the overarching priorities of NGOs active in
the response include:
(1) Respecting and upholding the rights of refugees coupled with meeting their protection needs;
(2) ‘Putting people first’, that is making refugees and host communities in Bangladesh participate in constructing
safe and dignified outcomes for their future;
(3) A whole-of-society approach to ensure that the humanitarian community, including local organizations, can
use their expertise to maximize impact now and in future.
Realizing these priorities will require in particular:
✓ Considerable increase in funding of the crisis by donors – governments, private sector, NGOs, individuals –
worldwide. Approx. USD 630 million is needed by the end of the year, for both critical aid to refugees, and
also to affected host communities and environmental restoration.
✓ Strengthened efforts in accountability to affected populations, including improved quality, effective
communication and feedback mechanisms, as well as ensuring aid is delivered in a safe and dignified manner.
✓ Widening humanitarian space by the Government of Bangladesh to further enable operations of NGOs
delivering life-saving assistance to refugees and their host communities. Reducing delays in granting
permissions for humanitarian projects, in registering NGOs and in granting visas for humanitarian workers,
coupled with simplified and consistent government procedures relevant to the implementation of
humanitarian activities will greatly improve the quality of the response.
✓ Review of the humanitarian response and its coordination architecture over the past year. This review
should consider how the coordination mechanisms have performed given the complexity and scale of the
response, which was designated by both NGOs and UN agencies as a Level 3-type emergency, in order to allow
learning from the past and improving for the future. This should be done in a participatory manner and in
consistence with IASC guidelines and best practices.
✓ Allowing both humanitarian and medium-term interventions that will continue to meet basic needs and also
include giving every refugee child free and adequate education, access to livelihood opportunities including
vocational training.
✓ Granting freedom of movement, enabling refugees to live with dignity.
✓ Scale-up of assistance to host communities. The response must mitigate the impact of the refugee influx on
the Bangladeshi communitiesand improve their ability to cope with the strains of hosting nearly a million
people who are forced to rely upon humanitarian aid for their basic needs.
We remain committed to work with the Government of Bangladesh and the rest of the humanitarian community
in country. At the same time, following the will of refugees we assist, we urge the Government of Myanmar to
create conditions for their safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable return.
NGOs in Rohingya response in Bangladesh:
Detailed in COAST, op.cit.


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