As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, it has reached the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar. Containing the virus is a complex challenge due to the population density in the camps.
When the coronavirus was identified as a global pandemic, BRAC began emergency response efforts throughout Bangladesh, Cox’s Bazar, and our 10 other countries of operation. In Cox’s Bazar, BRAC is distributing hand washing devices, masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and leaflets with lifesaving information to keep people safe.
As news about the coronavirus spreads throughout the camps, public health awareness campaigns have been rolled out to constrain the spread of the virus, combat misinformation, and prevent the limited health systems from being overwhelmed.
Saikat, a community manager in the camps, and his team disseminate health messages by providing leaflets with information about preventing the virus and practicing healthy hygiene habits. It is working. “People are changing their habits,” Saikat says. “They are changing their way of life.”
People reached through COVID-19 awareness sessions:
Please visit our COVID-19 response website to learn more about our response to the pandemic in Cox’s Bazar and across the country. Thank you for standing with families affected by the crisis. None of this would be possible without your continued support.
More than two years after the onset of the Rohingya refugee crisis, BRAC continues its efforts to support thousands of families. While meeting urgent, immediate needs is still a priority, we are also working to build long-term resilience and sustainable livelihoods for refugees and host communities affected by the crisis — including people like Rabiya, a member of the local host community.
When Rabiya was offered the opportunity to learn home gardening, she was eager to participate. After the training, BRAC equipped her with the inputs and tools to get her garden going, including seeds, manure, and tools such as a watering can, spade, and hoe.
Through ongoing training and mentorship from BRAC field experts, Rabiya has expanded her vegetable garden. Today, it is thriving.
“I produce vegetables in my own garden now,” she shared. “We eat them, sell them, and I can use the extra money for my children’s education.” She said that her family of 11, including her children and grandchildren, love the garden and enjoy helping her take care of it.
This season, the produce from Rabiya’s garden was significant. She harvested several pounds of local vegetables, including calabash gourds, bitter melon, and red amaranth, selling the excess in her own produce stand.
Having found success with her garden, Rabiya is also sharing what she has learned. “When I have spare time, I help my neighbors to set up and expand their gardens,” she said.
Rabiya’s family is one of more than 3,000 in the host community that BRAC has helped establish home gardens, bringing fresh, healthy produce into the homes and markets of Cox’s Bazar.
And in addition to home gardening support, our team of more than 2,500 expert staff and 5,000 volunteers are supporting thousands of refugee and host community families like Rabiya’s with a suite of critical services and support. To date:
None of this would be possible without your continued support. Thank you for standing with families affected by crisis.
Gender-based violence is an ongoing challenge in the camps and settlements of Cox’s Bazar. According to a BBC study late last year, unhealthy practices persist in the community around gender and marriage, including child marriage and intimate partner violence.
But that is changing -- and a new program aims to involve men as part of the solution.
Working together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), BRAC is spearheading a new initiative in the camps and settlements to engage men as leaders in the fight against gender-based violence.
Leveraging an internationally recognized model used to combat gender-based violence, known as the Bystander to Role Model approach, men are equipping each other with the tools and knowledge they need to act as role models to the wider community and stop gender-based violence.
The program includes more than 100 men who are taking the lead in fighting sexual and gender-based violence, speaking weekly about a variety of topics including positive masculinity, child marriage, and polygamy.
Built on a community-based model, the men in the program first undertake a series of trainings that equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to educate other men about gender-based violence. They then go on to become role models to other members of the community.
The overall goal is to enable young men to move from passive bystanders to empowered role models, who can confront abusive peers, support people who are abused, and ultimately stop gender-based violence in the community.
Maulana, a Rohingya man and member of the role model program, reflects upon the progress that he has seen:
“I have witnessed first-hand how child marriage has decreased in the camps, along with domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence.”
Thank you for your commitment to building long-term skills, resilience, and knowledge for displaced Rohingya people. Your ongoing support powers innovative new solutions to persistent challenges faced by Rohingya refugees in the camps and settlements of Cox’s Bazar, like gender-based violence. Together, we can ensure Rohingya women and girls live in a safe, healthy, and dignified community.
Shamim* is a 21-year-old refugee who fled his home in Myanmar in 2017. Now he lives with his older brother in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in the largest refugee camp in the world. Known by his friends and peers for his positivity, he always has a smile on his face.
Shamim believes that education is one of the most important things in life, and compares the lack of one to having a head without a body. Because of this belief, he provides free, private tutoring to young Rohingya men in his community during his spare time.
Shamim’s story is just one of nearly 900,000 unique stories of hope and resilience in Cox’s Bazar, many of which have gone untold.
“Rohingya people have seen so many things and our situation is so different,” said Hasina,* a 22-year-old Rohingya woman, when asked about her experience as a refugee. “I want to be understood from my own words and photos. I have so much to share about my people.”
To ensure these stories do not remain untold, BRAC partnered with the World Food Program to train young Rohingya refugees on digital communications. Through the Storytellers project, 30 Rohingya women and men participated in trainings on storytelling principles, digital photography, social media, and filmmaking with mobile phones.
Now, Rohingya youth like Hasina and Shamim can share their stories and experiences from their own perspective. The initiative enables trainees to amplify their voices and the voices of others in their community, all while developing valuable technical skills in communication.
Training youth as digital storytellers is just one way BRAC is supporting people affected by the crisis. What began as a lifesaving emergency in Cox’s Bazar has transitioned to a humanitarian intervention for the more than 500,000 refugees that BRAC now supports. With new skills that can help build sustainable livelihoods, BRAC aims to develop individual resilience and strong communities.
For example, a new artisan tailoring training program connects Rohingya and host community women to Aarong, a BRAC social enterprise and leading lifestyle brand that stocks ethically-made products. Thousands of Rohingya men and women are being trained in demand-driven skills, which also include solar installation and mobile phone servicing.
Last month, the international community marked World Refugee Day. By the end of 2018, a record number of people — 70.8 million — had been uprooted from their homes due to war, persecution, or violence. It has never been more critical to stand with refugees.
Thank you for your continued support of communities affected by crisis. With every dollar you donate, you create opportunity for people like Hasina and Shamim to learn new skills, share their stories, and rebuild their lives.
*Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.
Monsoon season is approaching in Cox’s Bazar, which means the arrival of strong winds, heavy rainfall, and powerful cyclones. Our staff are working around the clock to prepare for this dangerous weather through comprehensive, multi-sectoral disaster reduction work.
To keep families safe, we have reinforced nearly 8,000 shelters to make them more resistant to damage from torrential rains and landslides. We also continue to relocate households that are at risk of landslides or flooding, and we are piloting transitional shelter options, such as flat pack shelters and stilt homes. Should disaster strike, we have also developed evacuation schemes to help people leave affected areas quickly and safely.
A trained and dedicated team of 1,000 Rohingya community mobilization volunteers spends every day traveling door-to-door in the camps, delivering messages on monsoon and cyclone preparedness, public health and safety, and more. These volunteers have conducted nearly 10,000 awareness meetings to prepare their community for the monsoon.
We are strengthening the overall camp infrastructure, reinforcing latrines, upgrading facilities, repairing roads, and digging water channels in preparation for heavy rains. To restore the natural environment and reduce the risk of floods and landslides, we have planted more than 140,000 fast-growing and deep-rooted trees, 30,000 shrubs, and millions of grass seedlings. These plants will help stabilize the environment and protect Rohingya and host communities.
We have retrofitted 20 cyclone shelters across the host communities, and conducted nearly 10,000 awareness meetings to prepare families for when disaster strikes.
We are grateful for your continued support. Together, we will ensure that Rohingya families can continue to access the services they deserve, throughout monsoon season.
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