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Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

by Concern Worldwide US
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Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Handwashing in Cox's Bazar
Handwashing in Cox's Bazar

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached the Rohingya camps of Bangladesh, where more than 900,000 refugees, including nearly 500,000 children, live on a site spanning less than 10 square miles. With a population-density far higher than Manhattan, physical distancing and self-isolation is almost impossible to put into practice and there is a huge risk that COVID-19 will spread rapidly through the community.

To compound the problem, over 10% of Rohingya refugee households have at least one individual above the age of five with a disability or chronic illness. Cholera, chicken pox, and diphtheria have previously broken out in the camp and there is high number of existing respiratory infections — 174,000 since January 2020 — leaving those affected extremely vulnerable to coronavirus.

Concern is doing everything it can to continue operation while also respecting government-mandated restrictions. Double rations — enough to last an extra month — were distributed in advance of the shutdown and food stocks have been pre-positioned for distribution by Concern’s volunteer network within the camp to stave off the chronic threat of malnutrition.

The Concern team has also been working to make sure that those living in the camps have the facts about how the virus is spread and its effects, using nearly 250 trained Rohingya volunteers to counter dangerous misinformation.

A Concern-led consortium, designed to improved essential healthcare for disadvantaged communities, has moved quickly to create a simple and effective screening solution: an all-in-one mobile diagnosis and sample collection service.

Patients arriving at the mobile center receive free masks and hand sanitizer and are directed to a booth for consultation with a doctor via video call. If the patient is suspected of having COVID-19 symptoms, they are registered and referred to the sample collection booth. Trained staff then take a swab for laboratory testing. Currently the screening capacity is 150 samples per day and patients receive results within 48 hours. The service is provided free of charge.

Hasina Rahman, Concern’s acting Country Director in Bangladesh, says that this could be a very effective way to ramp up COVID screening across the country, especially in rural areas. “We are glad that we have been able to step up during this unprecedented crisis to support the government.” Given the population size and some of the access challenges, the task is enormous and the stakes are high.

Your support has helped Concern play a critical role in stemming the spread of COVID-19 among this particular vulnerable population. Thank you.

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"Arshia and Baby Aklima." Darren Vaughan (Concern)
"Arshia and Baby Aklima." Darren Vaughan (Concern)

For this report, I’d like to share another story from one of people at the heart of Concern’s Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh. Reported by Concern’s Tony Cuddihy, the following story captures the incredible impact your support is having on these vulnerable families:

In Bangladesh, Concern is working closely with the Rohingya people within the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Mum-of-two Arshia is one of more than one million who have crossed the border from neighbouring Myanmar since August 2017, and knows first-hand the impact our team of nutrition experts can have when it comes to improving quality of life.

Seven months pregnant when she was forced to leave her village and journey by foot for almost two days, Arshia spent an entire month on the banks of a river without regular access to food before swimming over to Bangladesh.

“I was pregnant at the time. I had a plastic water container to keep me afloat,” she says.

When our outreach team visited the family’s two-room shelter in Cox’s Bazar, Arshia’s daughter Aklima – by now seven-months-old – was severely malnourished.

“The family were very worried about Aklima,” says 30-year-old Arshia. “She was very ill and was taken to hospital. She had a severe fever and wasn’t able to eat at the time. I was concerned for her health.”

Arshia and her family now receive rations of 30 kilos of rice, 15 kilos of lentils and 3 litres of oil and little Aklima’s health is improving. Having only weighed seven and a half pounds, she is now gaining weight and is well on the road to recovery.

As part of our emergency response to the Rohingya crisis, we are delivering life-saving nutrition services to young children under the age of five.

Concern volunteers - comprised largely of people from the Rohingya community - conduct house-to-house visits over difficult geographical terrain in eight camps in Cox's Bazar to screen children for malnourishment. The cure rate for treatment of children under the age of five with severe malnutrition at Concern's Outpatient Therapeutic Programmes (OTPs) is 97% on average.

We sincerely appreciate your generous support, which is what makes all this possible. Thank you.

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Amir in Bangladesh. Photo: Sabrina Idriss (2019).
Amir in Bangladesh. Photo: Sabrina Idriss (2019).

Dear Generous Supporter,

For this months's update, I'd like to share with you a story about a Rohingya refugee, one of the tens of thousands supported by Concern in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. But this refugee is special because he went from being a recipient of humanitarian assistance to a full-fledged humanitarian himself.

The story below was written by Concern's Clare Ahern and is evidence of the incredible impact your support has, but also of how Concern's staff of nearly 4,000 humanitarians worldwide all have their own inspiring stories.

TRAGEDY AND LOSS

At home in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, Amir* never imagined he would one day become a refugee. In mid-2017, his wife had just given birth to their first child, a little baby boy. Life was relatively good and they were discovering the joy of parenthood. However, that joy was to be short-lived. In August of that year, as part of a major escalation of racial tensions, their village was attacked and they were forced to flee.

Amir’s mother, wife, and son managed to make it to a boat making towards Bangladesh. He and his father became separated and were taken captive, but managed to escape separately. Amir was badly injured. “They stabbed me in my back and my leg to ensure I could not leave.”

Amir and a group of his fellow captives eventually found a way to escape from where they were being detained. Heroically, they risked their lives to rescue others before they fled. “We knew that they were not going to spare a single female, no matter what age she was,” he says. “So we tried to get the females out first. No matter if it cost our lives.”

Tragically, Amir would learn that the boat carrying the rest of his family capsized. In agonizing pain from his stab wounds and close to unconsciousness, he searched for two days but never found them.

REFUGE AND RECOVERY

In October 2017 Amir reached at Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and was admitted to a hospital to be treated for his wounds. Slowly he began to rebuild his life. He now works as a volunteer in one of Concern’s nutrition centers, which provide recovery support for young children who are severely malnourished.

Visiting households, he screens children and refers those who show symptoms to the nutrition centers.

He says, “I never imagined I could stand back up — I was traumatized from the death of my family. I feel much better now. I like working with the children.”

Amir has since re-married and he and his wife now have a young baby boy. Together, they live alongside his grandmother, father, and younger sister and he finds joy both in his work and spending time with his family. “I lost my own child and then gained another, but I also watch over so many in the camp.”

*Name has been changed for security reasons.

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Reshma, a refugee. By: Abir Abdullah (Concern)
Reshma, a refugee. By: Abir Abdullah (Concern)

Dear Supporter,

Since August 2017, 750,000 Rohingya refugees — including more than 400,000 children — have fled to the Cox’s Bazar camp in southeast Bangladesh to escape violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar. It is now the largest refugee camp on Earth.

Sadly, one in six of the Rohingya children living in Cox’s Bazar are malnourished. That’s over 65,000 children under the age of 5 going hungry and running the risk of effects like stunting that can affect them for the rest of their lives — or even cut those precious lives short.

As the crisis has now reached a grim milestone of two years on, let's take a look back at how it began and what Concern is doing to respond to the latest threats facing refugees today.

Who Are the Rohingya and What Happened in 2017?

The Rohingya are a majority-Muslim ethnic group that has lived in the mostly Buddhist nation of Myanmar for centuries. At the beginning of September 2017, over 435,000 Rohingya poured into the southeastern Bangladesh city of Cox’s Bazar, fleeing violence in their home villages.

On average, most Rohingya refugee families arriving in Bangladesh came with 4 children and spent up to 10 days fleeing to the safety by foot. Many arrived with nothing but their lives and the lives of their children.

What Challenges do the Rohingya Face in 2019?

Flooding

The rainy seasons in Bangladesh have made day-to-day living in the crowded camps even worse.  As of August 2019, floods in Bangladesh have affected 7 million people (primarily in the northeast). The rainy season impacts roughly 60% of the country.

Clean Water

Despite monsoons and heavy rains, many Rohingya only have access to water from rivers and ponds — the same waters they defecate and wash in. Those who have made it to Bangladesh are in desperate need of basic essentials, including food, shelter, and clean water.

Food, Nutrition, and Healthcare

When they arrive into Bangladesh, many Rohingya are already hungry or showing signs of malnutrition. Severe acute malnutrition affects children the most and leaves them more vulnerable to life-threatening diseases like cholera and diarrhea.

Safe Spaces and Resources for Women

Rohingya women traveling alone or with only their children, are vulnerable to gender-based violence and in need of safe spaces, hygiene supplies, and basic items to maintain their dignity.

Housing and Shelter

Many Rohingya are living in overcrowded or makeshift camps in Bangladesh. Others have no option but to be homeless on the streets, while thousands of others are stuck between the borders. What shelters families do have are threatened by rains and monsoons.

A Long Commitment to Bangladesh

Concern has been working in Bangladesh since 1972. In over 45 years, we’ve reached millions of people with lifesaving emergency response as well as longer-term development programs. Concern has worked in the past with the Rohingya, and our current response to this emergency ties directly into our mission of focusing on the poorest, most vulnerable members of our global community.

In 2018 alone, Concern screened approximately 49,500 children across nine refugee camps for signs of severe malnutrition every month, admitting over 6,140 to our outpatient clinics, where we achieved a cure rate of 97%.

Our work in Bangladesh is thanks to your support. We simply couldn't do it without you.

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Dear Supporter,

Thanks in part to your contributions, Concern continues to provide high quality support to vulnerable Rohingya refugees. Most Rohingya refugees are concentrated in the Cox’s Bazar district on the southeast coast of Bangladesh. Cox’s Bazar is best known for its idyllic beaches, however it is one of the poorest district in Bangladesh and the villages where most of the camps are located are among the most socially deprived in the country. The host community in Cox’s Bazar has been generous and gracious in welcoming the Rohingya refugees but they are under increasing strain as the influx continues. The price of basic goods such as firewood has more than doubled due to the increased demand.

What began as a cluster of informal settlements on a hillside in Cox’s Bazar has developed into one of the world’s largest refugee camps, hosting almost a million Rohingya refugees. Concern started working in the camp in September 2017 and was among the first humanitarian responders in the Cox’s Bazar district. Concern’s initial emergency projects responded to the immediate needs of the refugee population by providing much needed food items and later we began distributing non-food-items.

Our services have since expanded and, in partnership with UNICEF, we are now providing nutrition services to women and children in makeshift settlements throughout seven locations. We have screened well over 300,000 Rohingya children under five for malnutrition. The Cox’s Bazar refugee camps are at capacity and as the influx of Rohingya refugees continues, overcrowding is becoming a real issue. The camp’s basic services are under huge pressure and the close proximity of shelters increases the risk of illness and disease. 

Thanks in part to your support we can continue to respond to these pressing needs, and for this we are deeply grateful.

Concern staff conducting assessments.
Concern staff conducting assessments.
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Concern Worldwide US

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @concern
Project Leader:
Conner Purcell
New York, NY United States
$24,736 raised of $30,000 goal
 
212 donations
$5,264 to go
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