The difficult political situation in Myanmar continues to make it impossible for hundreds of thousands of displaced Rohingya to return. Four years ago, they fled to Bangladesh. COVID-19 and the monsoon are exacerbating their already difficult situation in the world's largest refugee camp. Helvetas supports the Rohingya and advocates for acceptance of the refugees in Bangladesh.
August 25 marks the fourth anniversary of the expulsion of the Rohingya from Myanmar. The prospect of return is more hopeless than ever for the nearly 900,000 people living in the world's largest refugee camp near Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. They exist in precarious conditions and without real security, dignity or social justice. For the last six months, the homeland of the persecuted minority has once again been under the power of the military; a peaceful and dignified life there is currently unimaginable. No solution is in sight. The Rohingya refugees are dependent on humanitarian aid.
In particular, the nearly half a million Rohingya children could become a "lost generation." The girls and boys have no access to formal and accredited education in the refugee camp, and their parents cannot make a living.
Monsoon and Coronavirus worsen the situation
COVID and the monsoon further complicate the lives of the Rohingya. In the last week of July, heavy rains caused floods and landslides that claimed more than eleven lives. The monsoon completely destroyed some huts.
Together with partner organizations, Helvetas provided emergency aid to over 1,350 households that were particularly badly affected. The households received blankets, lamps, food, clothing and hygiene materials. In addition to this emergency aid, Helvetas supports the prevention of other disasters. For example, Rohingya volunteers are being trained to build and protect the necessary infrastructure—paths, walls and drainage, a system of ditches or pipes to drain the soil—or plant hills to prevent erosion.
Economic support promotes peace
Helvetas also supports vegetable cultivation in the Rohingya camp, partly with funds from Swiss Solidarity. Refugees grow vegetables between the huts. This enables them to eat healthier and earn a small additional income from vegetable sales. A total of 15,000 households and 75,000 people benefit.
The rapid, massive immigration of refugees is also affecting local Bangladeshi families: Their crop yields have dropped, food shortages have grown, and tensions toward the Rohingya receiving food essential for survival have risen in recent months. COVID has made the humanitarian crisis even more complex. Helvetas is therefore also supporting local families—for example, in agriculture and by giving them access to the market, while raising awareness of the problems refugees are suffering.