Bangladesh: Humanitarian aid for refugees
Since the large-scale refugee movement in 2017, hundreds of thousands of people from Rakhine, Myanmar, have been living in crowded camps in Bangladesh's densely populated Cox's Bazar region. As they have no legal status in Bangladesh, not being allowed to work, they continue to depend on humanitarian aid. The German Red Cross is improving their living conditions with projects on water and hygiene as well as safe shelter and disaster preparedness, thereby supporting people throughout the region.
In Cox's Bazar there is the world's largest refugee camp "Kutupalong". Simply constructed bamboo huts, covered only with tarpaulins, are lined up close together. Since August 2017, more than 740,000 Rohingya people have found refuge in the border region after fleeing violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar.
In total, Cox's Bazar is currently hosting more than 900,000 people from Myanmar in 34 overcrowded camps. More than half of them are women and children, often having experienced terrible things during their flight.
The return to their home country is still unclear for the refugees. In extremely difficult and cramped living conditions, they suffer from poverty, instability and threats to their health.
The camps that have been created mean additional challenges to the existing communities in Cox's Bazar, as the region is already one of the poorest and most disaster-prone areas in Bangladesh.
During the cyclone and monsoon seasons, people live in constant danger of suffering from damage due to landslides and floods. In addition, the situation has been exacerbated extremely by the Corona pandemic.
Needs to be appeased
The situation of the people – both the refugees from Myanmar and the Bangladeshi population – is still precarious. It requires a longer-term and broad-based humanitarian intervention.
The makeshift tent camps constructed from bamboo and plastic sheets offer insufficient protection against heavy rains and recurring storms.
The hygienic conditions are alarming: many sanitary facilities in the camps – often emergency toilets without washing amenities – are dilapidated. In addition, there is often a lack of adequate lighting, leaving women and children in particular not feeling safe there.
Since the water supply in the camps is not developed with blanket coverage, the people are often forced to collect water from contaminated sources, which leads to diarrhoea and other diseases. At the same time water treatment in households is inadequate: Chlorine tablets are often not used properly and are not sustainable. It is therefore necessary to test alternative forms of treatment and to change the hygiene behaviour of those affected in the long term.
GRC assistance for the refugees
As a long-standing partner in emergency relief and disaster preparedness, the German Red Cross has been supporting the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) since the beginning of the large-scale refugee movement. It is present on the ground with international and local staff.
The activities aiming to support refugees and host communities focus on strengthening shelters in the face of extreme weather as well as on maintaining and improving water and sanitation services.
In addition, the German Red Cross is engaged in building and expanding the local capacity of the BDRCS and targets to strengthen the cross-country cooperation with the Red Cross in Myanmar.
Jointly the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and the German Red Cross are supporting more than 120,000 people in camps, host communities and schools in Cox's Bazar. The three projects involve refugees as well host communities to promote social cohesion.
Water and sanitation
- care and maintenance of water facilities
- construction of hand washing stations
- construction of deep wells
- construction and repair of latrines and adequate lighting
- sewage disposal and purification risk
- education on diseases caused by polluted water
- hygiene promotion campaigns and training of multipliers
- distribution of 96,000 hygiene kits (soap, toothpaste, shampoo, detergent) for 30,000 people annually
- distribution of Corona protection masks
- support for waste management
- training in the construction of safe shelters
- individual support by local carpenters to repair the shelters
- distribution of household goods, building materials and tools for renovation and construction of storm-resistant shelters
Disaster Risk Reduction
- extension of water drainage system to prevent landslides and soil erosion; construction of 10km drainage system
- provision of latrines and construction as well as protection materials to prevent flood and landslide damage at 20 sites
- workshops, trainings and drills for Rohingya volunteers in camps, refugees and residents in host communities and schools to prepare for extreme weather
- distribution of personal protective equipment for volunteers
Current projects in Cox's Bazar
Water, sanitation, hygiene & disaster preparedness
Region: Cox's Bazar
Project volume: 2,339,376 €
Duration: 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021
Funding by: German Federal Foreign Office, German Red Cross/Donations
Partners: Bangladesh Red Crescent
Support for refugees and host communities
Region: Cox's Bazar
Project volume: 1,262,745.02 €
Duration: 1 January 2019 to 31 October 2021
Funding: German Red Cross/Donations
Partner: Bangladesh Red Crescent
Strengthening resilience, disaster risk reduction, income-securing measures
Region: Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh and Rakhine, Myanmar
Project volume: 2,908,708 €
Duration: 1 September 2019 to 31 December 2023
Financing: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, German Red Cross/donations
Partners: Bangladesh Red Crescent, Myanmar Red Cross