Who are the Rohingya?
The Rohingya are a mainly Muslim ethnic minority group consisting of an estimated 1.1 million people in Myanmar. Around 90–95% of the Rohingya live in northern Rakhine.
According to the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State published in August 2017, some 10% of the world’s stateless people live in Myanmar, and the Rohingya in Rakhine constitute the single biggest stateless community in the world.
The community faces a number of restrictions which affect basic rights and many aspects of their daily lives. Approximately 120,000 people are still left in camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs).
What is happening in Rakhine state?
In the early hours of 25 August 2017, violence broke out in Rakhine State, Myanmar. The extent and implications remain uncertain. It is not known how many more Rohingya are still trapped in conflict zones of Rakhine state, where needs are unknown and access virtually impossible.
ActionAid is especially concerned about the impact of the violence on women and girls, who are in particular need of protection and assistance. The Government of Myanmar has restricted humanitarian access to Rakhine state. This means that UN agencies and NGOs are unable to provide aid and immediate relief to civilians in desperate need.
Who is most affected by the Rohingya refugee crisis?
ActionAid Bangladesh reports that women are heavily affected, also those with disabilities and the elderly. They also note a high number of unaccompanied children arriving in Bangladesh who either have lost their parents during the displacement or were brought over by their extended family members.
ActionAid staff in Cox’s Bazar, the Bangladeshi city and port where most of the Rohingya are seeking shelter having arrived from the Myanmar border, estimate that approximately 70% of refugees are women and children. The most urgent needs are for shelter, food, water, sanitation and hygiene.
During the monsoon season, hailstorms, heavy wind and lightening could have a devastating impact on families living in the refugee camps. Flooding may prevent thousands of refugees from receiving aid and if toilets and wastewater overflow, the risk of waterborne diseases spreading is high.
Farah Kabir, the Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh speaking at Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazar, on 14 September 2017 notes that many thousands of people are living in makeshift tents, made of just a few sheets of recycled plastic and bamboo frames - and they are living with their entire family. There is still limited access to electricity, washing facilities or sanitation.
ActionAid appreciates the Government of Bangladesh for having the border open with Myanmar and encourages it to continue ensuring the safe passage of Rohingya people fleeing the violence, as well as the people of Bangladesh who are hosting and supporting the refugees with food, shelter and other aid upon arrival.
What is ActionAid doing in Bangladesh to help Rohingya refugees?
ActionAid is responding to the crisis in in Mainnerghona refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, where we are delivering a lifesaving humanitarian response to over 70,000 refugees.
Our first response was to deliver emergency food, clean drinking water, and hygiene kits including sanitary protection, soap and clean underwear. We have reached over 40,000 people with food packages, and distributed over 13,000 hygiene kits.
We have given 10,000 people safe drinking water from 20 wells, and built 52 latrines for 6,500 people. In addition 2,000 women and girls have access to 20 bathing spaces, and nearly 11,000 have received information and support in our Women’s Safe Spaces.
Now, with the arrival of the monsoon season, we’re using sand bags and fencing to stabilize areas that are vulnerable to landslides and improving drainage systems to prevent floods reaching shelters, washrooms, and food distribution areas.
We’re helping people in landslide and flood-prone areas of the camp move to better accommodation, as well as implementing a plan to distribute shelter-strengthening materials. We’re also training a network of volunteers in cyclone and flood response, and raising awareness so the community is aware of the risks.
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