The Rohingya refugee camp near Cox’s Bazaar
The Rohingya refugee camp near Cox’s Bazaar in eastern Bangladesh is home to more than a million people, most of them having fled across the border from Rakhine State in nearby Myanmar since 2017 to escape persecution and violence.
Conditions in the camp are very challenging and the refugees (who are labelled as ‘forcibly displaced persons’ by the Bangladeshi government) rely heavily on humanitarian aid from the UN and other NGO’s including Christian Aid (CAID). The camp is divided into 34 administrative units and CAID have been mainly involved with Jamtoli Camp (No.15) and Hakimpara Camp (No.14) where more than 100,000 people live in flimsy overcrowded tarpaulin shelters in an area of less than one square mile.
Guernsey’s Overseas Aid Commission donated funds to Christian Aid and the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) at the start of the crisis and in February 2020 Dr Nick and Claudine were granted privileged access to the camp to see at first hand the work being done there in partnership with local charities Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) and Dushtha Shasthya Kendra (DSK). They were very impressed with everything that has already been achieved but it was obvious a lot more still needs to be done to improve both the infrastructure and the facilities. A staggering 60,000 new babies are born inside the camp each year and it is now the most densely populated refugee camp anywhere in the world.
The relief aid from Guernsey was initially spent on blankets, tents and shelter kits but it has gone on to provide 55 latrines (each serving at least 20 people) and 5 deep tube wells supplying vital clean water. It has also helped to establish two Emergency Health Posts where a dedicated team of local doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers care for the refugees as best they can in very basic conditions and with a very limited supply of medicines.
The hilly landscape means that there is a high risk of landslides during the rainy season and work is being done to install proper drainage and pathways around the camp. CAID has also set up handicraft training centres which double up as safe spaces for the many traumatized women, hygienic food processing outlets, homestead vegetable gardens, early learning centres and child care facilities. There is an ongoing programme of sanitation works including plans to develop a series of faecal waste management plants.
During their visit Dr Nick and Claudine were shown the efforts being made to vaccinate all the children for fear of measles breaking out in such an overcrowded conditions but shortly after they left events were very much overtaken by the start of the global Covid 19 crisis. An urgent appeal via the Guernsey Press over Easter raised funds that were sent straight to the medical team in Camp 15 to help purchase additional life-saving equipment and medicines (see our news page).