Rohingya crisis: Where are we one year later?
In Bangladesh, more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees are living in congested sites that are ill-equipped to handle the monsoon rains. How does Terre des hommes (Tdh) respond to the top three risks for children, who represent 50% of the camps’ population?
On 25 August 2017, extreme violence against the Rohingya minority broke out in Rakhine State, Myanmar. It drove hundred thousands of people across the border to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, adding up to the refugees who escaped violence of the decades before. Terre des hommes immediately set up an emergency team.
One year later, the displaced population still lives in deplorable conditions. In order to reduce the spread of diseases and to improve their living conditions, Tdh is responding to the three main risks children face in the camps:
Risk one: Malnutrition
One year after the beginning of the response, Tdh is continuing its nutrition activities, as over 15% of the children in the camps are still suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Tdh has been managing seven malnutrition treatment centres in Kutupalong extension camp, targeting over 35,000 children under five years and pregnant or lactating women. We trained 140 community volunteers in the camps on screening children and mothers and detecting malnutrition symptoms. They refer the severe acute malnutrition cases to Tdh treatment centres where they receive appropriate medical attention and counselling sessions. Breastfeeding mothers are made aware on the nutrition needs of babies for their healthy development and 6 months to 5 year old children get therapeutic food, which lasts approximately ten weeks and allows children to receive correct dosage of nutrients to regain their physical strength.
Risk two: Spread of diseases due to the monsoon rains
Through landslides and flooding due to the monsoon rains, the water quality decreases. The Tdh team intensified its efforts to chlorinate water at its sources to ensure safe water supply for Rohingya refugees and to mitigate the risk of disease outbreaks. Additionally, latrines fill up quicker during heavy rains and the risk of contamination and diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera is higher. To address this issue, Tdh has been focusing on latrine rehabilitation, maintenance, decommissioning and desludging. We are working closely with the refugee community to reinforce their hygiene practices by promoting positive hygiene messages through door-to-door sessions and mass events such as plays. So far, Tdh has been covering the water, sanitation and hygiene needs of over 30,000 refugees in Kutupalong extension camp.
Risk three: Non-recovery from traumatic experiences
Tdh has trained around 1200 staff, volunteers, community members and adolescents on child protection practices in order to increase their knowledge and capacity to protect children and youth. In our six child friendly spaces, each of which hosts around 500 children per day, our staff provides a safe space for children to enjoy psychosocial activities that contribute to their emotional, motor skills and creativity development. “Child friendly spaces are essential for children in crisis. It gives them a chance to recover. It’s nice to see how different the energy is here and how happy the children are,” explains Nicola Griffiths, our Child Protection Coordinator. “It also had huge impact on the staff that are working with these children. And this shows that actually children have so much to teach us in terms of resilience, in terms of so many different capacities, capabilities and emotions. We forget that but often it’s them that remind us.”
Outlook: Support in host communities
While the humanitarian aid initially focused on the emergency response for life-saving activities in the camps, we are moving towards more sustainable approaches which mitigate the impact of the refugee influx on the Bangladeshi communities. This is why we opened a new base in Teknaf, where around 130,000 refugees live in camps within the host communities. We will be able to support both host communities and refugees with water facilities, sanitation, a health post and child protection activities.
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Photo credit: © Daimon Xanthopoulos