BANGLADESH: Rohingya Crisis
Newly arrived refugees the priority as first phase of relief efforts underway on Bangladeshi border
A recent escalation of violence in Myanmar, characterised by a ‘scorched earth’ policy employed by the country’s military has resulted in an unprecedented influx of refugees on the Bangladeshi border.
This new spike in the ongoing Rohingya crisis in the region has led to an estimated 500,000 refugees fleeing the violence, burning towns and villages of Myanmar. The figure, which was released by the United Nations Refugee Agency, is however, thought to now be much higher. “The numbers are very worrying. They are going up very quickly,” said UNHCR spokeswoman, Vivian Tan.
As more and more displaced people flee the country – with those who remain living in fear and in need of vital assistance – the full-force of the crisis is expected to heighten in the coming weeks. Relief agencies in the border areas of Bangladesh, including the district of Cox’s Bazar and sub-districts of Ukiya are being pushed to breaking point, with more land needed to house and treat refugees flooding into hastily erected camps.
The first phase of Penny Appeal’s response in these areas is to assist newly arrived refugees in four critical areas of care, they are; shelter, medical care, clothes, hygiene products and food items. These four categories aim to reduce the suffering and stabilise the immediate safety of people who have fled conflict, on a harrowing journey that has seen them stumble across the border into neighbouring Bangladesh. Vulnerable groups within the newly arrived influx of people such as women, children and the elderly form the bulk of the initial beneficiaries targeted by the crisis response.
The second phase of the relief operation is expected to focus on the sustainability of the relief effort, however, at the present time; the immediate need of fleeing persons is paramount. This means that shelter and initial medical aid assessments and subsequent referral to regional services take precedent. After the initial ‘shock’ has been absorbed, and more funds and relief is brought to bear, the initiative will shift to a longer-term solution.
With this in mind, initial relief items delivered consist of essentials, such as; tents, larger ‘barrack shelters’, food packs, which include rice, flour, cooking oil, sugar, potatoes, salt and onions. Communal kitchens will be established to serve hot food to newly arrived refugees, blankets, clothing and hygiene kits are being distributed. Water for families and water purification tablets will also be supplied by way of necessity. In addition to this, lifesaving medical assistance to the injured, critically ill and pregnant will be available through medical camps.
The Bangladesh-Myanmar border region is an area that is already fraught with seasonal difficulties, prior to the arrival of the refugees. As a consequence of these underlying issues, the unprepared and dramatically stretched established relief effort, and the urgency with which people have fled from a burning landscape, substantial additional aid is needed. This will help to establish a sense of order and a mechanism to treat and make safe hundreds of thousands of persecuted people who have fled from an already tumultuous area they have hitherto called home.