The United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated $8 million to provide support to almost a million Rohingya refugees staying in camps in Cox’s Bazar district and on the island of Bhasan Char. The funding allocation to Bangladesh is a part of the CERF initiative to support underfunded humanitarian operations in 14 countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East.
Commenting on the allocation, the UN humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, said: “It is a cruel reality that in many humanitarian operations, aid agencies are scraping along with very little funding right at a time when people’s needs compel them to scale up. Thanks to the generosity of a vast range of donors, we can count on CERF to fill some of the gaps. Lives are saved as a result. But we need individual donors to step up as well – this is a fund by all and for all.”
In Bangladesh, under the leadership of the country’s UN Resident Coordinator and in consultation with the government of Bangladesh and local NGOs, the funding allocation will support priority programmes for refugees and host communities, who do not have any other source of support. Humanitarian agencies have appealed for $876 million this year to assist around 1.47 million people, including Rohingya refugees and local Bangladeshis. However, as of 6 September, funds for the Joint Response Plan only reached 30.6 per cent of this appeal.
“The UN in Bangladesh welcomes the decision of the Emergency Relief Coordinator to provide funding to the severely underfunded Rohingya Response to support refugees and the host community. This allocation is especially important in light of the funding shortfall in the humanitarian support for the Rohingya refugee response. The refugees remain entirely dependent on international community funding and are in need of help,” said the UN Resident Coordinator, Gwyn Lewis.
The CERF allocation announced today will also help scale up humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan and Yemen ($20 million each), Burkina Faso ($9 million), Mali ($8 million), Myanmar ($9 million), Haiti ($8 million), Venezuela ($8 million), the Central African Republic ($6.5 million), Mozambique ($6.5 million), Cameroon ($6 million), the Occupied Palestinian Territories ($6 million), and Malawi ($4 million).
In addition to Bangladesh, the allocation will also support refugee operations in Uganda ($6 million).
23 Aug 2023 – The UN and partners call for renewed commitment from the international community for financial support to sustain the humanitarian response and political support to find solutions for nearly one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
25 August marks six years since over 700,000 Rohingya women, men and children from Myanmar fled to Bangladesh. They joined hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya who had previously sought refuge in the country.
As the humanitarian condition in the world’s largest refugee settlement worsens, the challenges surrounding this protracted crisis continue to increase. Steep funding decline forces humanitarian actors to focus on the most critical and life-saving needs. For the first time, it has led to the reduction of refugees’ food assistance, raising concerns about cascading dramatic consequences: rising malnutrition, school dropout, child marriage, child labour and gender-based violence.
With their strength and resilience, the Rohingya refugees have formed the backbone of the humanitarian response over the past six years and supported the communities hosting them.
UN and partners urge support to enable Rohingya refugees to benefit from education and skills development, vocational training, and other forms of capacity-building. This will equip refugees for their eventual return and ensure their dignity, safety, and productivity in Bangladesh. This can empower them to address some of their needs, as the refugees do not wish to rely on diminishing humanitarian aid.
A dignified and sustainable return to Myanmar remains the primary solution to this crisis. Rohingya refugees continue to tell us they want to return to Myanmar when it is safe to do so voluntarily. The international community must renew its efforts to make that possible. As the United Nations remains ready to support efforts to create conditions conducive to sustainable return, the UN and its partners need to be provided unimpeded, meaningful, and predictable access in Rakhine State in Myanmar, including assisting, and monitoring the return of refugees.
The collective goal should be to ensure Rohingyas’ voluntary return to Myanmar — to their places of origin or choice, being able to move freely and access documentation, citizenship pathways, services, and income-generation opportunities to rebuild their lives.
Until they can return, they remain in refugee camps in an area off the coast of the Bay of Bengal, which is extremely vulnerable to cyclones, flooding, landslides, fire outbreaks and the impacts of climate change. These devastate the congested camps, and their frequency barely leaves time to rebuild shelters made of bamboo and tarpaulin before the next disaster strikes. UN continues to prioritise a climate action strategy, advocating for weather-and fire-resistant refugee shelter materials to save millions of dollars in maintenance and rebuilding costs.
Hosting nearly one million Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh has demonstrated humanitarian commitments and a generosity that must be acknowledged through continued investment in Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi host communities. The international community must step up to share responsibility for the response. Stakeholders are encouraged to expand their support and commitments through pledges in support of the Rohingya situation at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva in December 2023.
Humanitarian agencies have appealed for $876 million this year to assist around 1.47 million people, including Rohingya refugees and local Bangladeshis. However, as of mid-August 2023, funds for the Joint Response Plan only reached 28.9 per cent of this appeal, dismally highlighting the need for consistent and predictable financial backing to prevent a broader humanitarian crisis.
A Landmark Step Towards Accessible and Informed Medical Care
In an event held today, the Rohingya refugee community witnessed a monumental stride towards accessible and comprehensive healthcare with the introduction of the General Health Card. The initiative promises to improve healthcare services for thousands living in the camps, facilitating a seamless flow of medical information and enhancing overall well-being.
The Health Sector Lead agency, WHO, spearheaded the development of the General Health Card, an effort that underscores collaboration between healthcare providers, refugee communities, and international organisations. The event, attended by the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC), marked the culmination of meticulous planning and dedicated work.
Designed to consolidate individual medical information, the General Health Card is poised to transform healthcare delivery within the camps. It enables doctors and health care providers to access a patient’s complete health history, including treatment received, surgical procedures, medical investigations, and more – all in one place.
The introduction of the General Health Card carries far-reaching benefits, including:
Immediate Accessibility: Medical information is readily available whenever needed, eliminating delays in diagnosis and treatment.
Informed Care: Healthcare providers better understand patients’ health history, leading to tailored treatment plans.
Continuity of Care: Medical records are portable, ensuring consistent and well-informed care during transitions.
The development of the General Health Card was made possible through funding and support from the UNHCR, IOM, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO.
General Health Cards will be distributed at designated health facilities within the camps. Community Health Workers will guide residents through the process, ensuring a smooth and organised distribution.
The introduction of the General Health Card signifies a monumental step towards empowering Rohingya refugees with accessible and informed healthcare. By providing an avenue for individuals to actively engage in their healthcare journey, this initiative is poised to positively impact the lives of thousands.
The United Nations and its partners in Bangladesh appealed for USD 42.1 million today for the Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi communities in Cox’s Bazar who are facing the devastating impact of Cyclone Mocha. The cyclone severely affected all 33 refugee camps and surrounding Bangladeshi villages, leaving thousands desperately in need.
The urgent appeal includes USD 36.5 million under the Rohingya Refugee Response to benefit refugees and Bangladeshi communities. Additionally, the UN and its partners seek USD 5.6 million exclusively for Bangladeshi families in Teknaf. The appeal focuses on the urgent needs to replenish contingency stocks, prepare ahead of the monsoon season, and use weather and fire-resistant materials for shelters and facilities that are critical in saving lives.
Cyclone Mocha struck the Bangladesh-Myanmar border on 14 May, bringing heavy rains and strong winds. Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis and Rohingya were impacted by the cyclone. Shelters built of bamboo and tarpaulin were damaged and destroyed. Many more lost access to clean drinking water and other water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. Key facilities for education, nutrition, protection, and more were damaged or destroyed.
“The cyclone has taken a huge toll on Bangladeshi and refugee communities, even if we missed the eye of the storm,” said Gwyn Lewis, the UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh. “What we need to do is to build back better with weather and fire-resistant materials. Many refugees lost their homes in March due to devastating fires and had just begun rebuilding their lives. They are now rebuilding their shelters once again following the cyclone and are bracing for the monsoons that are around the corner.”
Rohingya refugees are particularly vulnerable this year because the 2023 Appeal seeking USD 876 million dollars is only 17% funded as of mid-May. Funding shortfalls, resulting in two ration cuts in March and imminently in June 2023, will decrease food assistance by 33.3%. Other critical programmes and activities are also being cut.
“Refugees are not allowed to work and are completely reliant on the international community.” said Lewis, “We desperately need USD 56 million to restore the full food rations of refugees. Now we also need additional support to rebuild the camps after the cyclone and prepare for the monsoons.”
The Resident Coordinator acknowledged the Government’s leadership in implementing its sophisticated disaster preparedness and response systems that has saved countless lives in the past years and during Cyclone Mocha.
In Myanmar, the humanitarian community also launched today a USD 333 million Flash Appeal to assist 1.6 million people affected by Cyclone Mocha.
In Dhaka: Igor Sazonov, UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, [email protected], +8801321169633
In Cox’s Bazar: Syed Md Tafhim, Inter Sector Coordination Group, [email protected], +8801850018235 and Faik Uyanık, Inter Sector Coordination Group, [email protected], +8801847421667
On a remote island in Bhasan Char, UNFPA is meeting the critical Sexual and Reproductive Health and Protection needs of refugees
Halima*, a pregnant refugee, arrived at the health post five months pregnant and feeling unwell. The midwives at the facility provided her with antenatal care, conducted regular health checkups, to ensure the well-being of her newborn. Life on the island, Bhasan Char was tough, but Halima knew she and her baby were in good hands. She was grateful for the health post, established by UNFPA – one of the few organizations that had responded quickly to the crisis and provided essential sexual and reproductive health services to women and girls living here. She was one of the many women who are receiving essential antenatal care, regular health checkups, and guidance on recommended actions from the midwives present in the health facilities.
“I learnt about the do’s and don’ts during my pregnancy from apa (the midwife), and now I am feeling much better.” – says Halima
With UNFPA’s support, the island saw 2,850 antenatal care visits, 99 facility-based deliveries, 348 postnatal care visits, 4,440 family planning consultations, and 2,960 counseling on family planning and discussion sessions. UNFPA’s efforts have played a crucial role in making Sexual and Reproductive health services available to women and girls, while providing a sense of safety and protection for women and adolescents on the island. Consequently, UNFPA is also providing support in line with the local health system by training midwives, making the essential commodities available and thus strengthening the capacity of health facilities. Moreover, UNFPA established a women-friendly space that provides a secure environment for women to gather, connect, share experiences, and learn new skills. The space offers GBV, SRH, PSEA awareness and information sharing sessions, and skill development on stitching, embroidery, and weaving mats and handicraft items, enabling women and adolescent girls to learn different life skills. Alongside, through the GBV prevention activities women, men, girls and boys are engaged in GBV awareness, PSEA, and referral pathway sessions. Additionally, UNFPA is rolling out the SASA! Together- a structured community mobilisation approach that supports communities to create positive and sustainable changes around norms that perpetuate violence against women. Through the integration of Sexual and Reproductive health and Gender Based Violence, women can access services both in the health post and the WFS where pregnant mothers are provided with essential services to fulfill their reproductive health care needs. The women are also taught about modern methods of contraception so that they can make informed decisions based on their individual needs.
“One of the women who regularly visit the women-friendly space stated – Being in this place gives me a sense of comfort and protection.
Living on an island, with limited options, many adolescent boys and girls struggle to pursue their dreams and lack access to information that could help them make informed decisions. UNFPA also recognizes the importance of giving adolescent boys and girls chances to reach their goals and dreams, especially in the face of limited learning resources. Therefore, the established Adolescent and Youth Centre, offering MHPSS and essential information about gender-based violence and reproductive health issues. Through structured sessions tailored for boys and girls, the adolescents can make informed decisions about their reproductive needs and learn to identify potential risks associated with gender-based violence and at the same time develop some self-reliance skills.
One of the adolescent boys who frequents the A&Y centre was delighted to contribute to the space’s decoration with his drawings and art. He expressed his joy about having a dedicated centre for him and his friends from the community. Such centres provide them with the hope for a better future despite the challenges they face.
“He shared, I drew many things to decorate our rooms, and I loved the opportunity to have a space where I can learn new things, share with others my age, and come with my friends.”
However, to continue providing life-saving integrated Sexual and Reproductive health and Gender Based Violence services to women, men and adolescents and youth (both girls and boys), securing additional funding is critical. UNFPA is grateful to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the Government of Japan, and Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) for supporting the response in Bhasan Char, and together, we are ensuring that no one is left behind. UNFPA’s efforts have made a significant impact in meeting the urgent needs of Rohingya refugees on the island, providing them with the necessary life-saving services to have a better future.