Home Today's Paper Most Popular Video Gallery Photo Gallery
Subscription Blog Signin Register
Logo
Wednesday, June 20, 2018 11:35:37 AM
Follow Us On: Facebook Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter

An unfolding humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh

By
13th-Oct-2017       
Comments
Share your thought
Post a comment »
Read all () »

Poppy McPherson :
In mid-September, several days after arriving in Bangladesh from conflict-torn Western Myanmar, 18-year-old Rashida Begum sat with her baby by the side of the road, under the shade of a tree. She had lost her brother and sister somewhere in the crowd as they fled. Now in Cox's Bazar, she was alone in a sea of thousands. "I have no house, I live in the street like this," she said, as her four-month-old crawled in her lap.
They were waiting not for aid distribution from international agencies - like many Rohingya interviewed by Devex, they said they had received nothing - but for scores of trucks manned by Bangladeshis who tossed snacks and shoes to Rohingya refugees waiting with outstretched arms. The roads were lined with families nestled under tarps. Trampled clothing lay on the ground: the new arrivals needed food, water, and shelter, not T-shirts.
Now, nearly six weeks on from the start of the crisis, conditions in the camps are still being described as chaotic as thousands of exhausted, traumatized Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority, continue to pour in daily, and aid agencies struggle to handle the influx.
While United Nations officials and international NGOs cite the urgent need to "scale up," staff on the ground say the humanitarian response has been hampered by funding shortfalls and bureaucratic obstacles that have left agencies without approval to work and vital supplies stuck in transit.
At a press conference in Cox's Bazar on Tuesday, Mark Lowcock, the U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator, said aid agencies had delivered 9 million food rations over six weeks and inoculated more than 100,000 children, but conditions continued to be "terrible." Now, aid workers fear an outbreak of cholera - endemic in Bangladesh - may be imminent. "We need to do a lot more to scale up beyond what we have done so far," said Lowcock.
"It's an immediate wave, an injection of hundreds of thousands of people in very few days and in an area that is relatively deprived."
An 'unprecedented' crisis
This is a humanitarian crisis that has happened faster, on a greater scale, than most aid workers can remember.  
After August 25, when Rohingya militants attacked police posts across Myanmar's northern Rakhine state and the army responded with a brutal crackdown, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya crossed the border within days. Since then, Rohingya have continued to flee what Amnesty International is calling a "scorched earth campaign" by Myanmar's military, who are accused of mass arson, indiscriminate killings, and rape. The army insists Rohingya militants are urging the exodus as a way to generate sympathy for the population.
More than 500,000 Rohingya are now in Bangladesh, adding to an existing population estimated at more than 300,000.
"This crisis has been one of the fastest displacements that I can remember," said Paolo Lubrano, Oxfam's regional humanitarian manager for Asia. "It's an immediate wave, an injection of hundreds of thousands of people in very few days and in an area that is relatively deprived."
"Back in June I was working on South Sudan, where a million people crossed in two to three years," said Kyle Degraw, Save the Children's global emergency and humanitarian communications manager. "It does feel like a unique crisis just because there are so many people in such a short period of time."
A large proportion of the new arrivals - about 60 percent - are children, many of whom were already severely malnourished before fleeing.
"The humanitarian response has been inadequate, but this crisis is in many ways unprecedented, particularly in the scale of refugee movement in such a short period of time," said Matt Wells, Amnesty International's senior crisis adviser. "The Rohingya are also an extremely vulnerable population, due to the systemic discrimination in Myanmar that has long affected their access to food and medical care, and the fact that many refugees have gone days without eating while hiding and fleeing from the army's attacks," he said.
Challenging logistics
The conditions in Cox's Bazar district, a hilly region prone to landslides and about to enter cyclone season, have presented a unique set of challenges for aid distribution. Last month, a truck carrying relief supplies crashed into paddy field, killing nine Red Cross staff.
There is no single entry point into Bangladesh for Rohingya refugees, who have been arriving overland and by boat.
Groups are spread across a huge area of land. "One of the elements is that most of the displaced people are living in hard-to-reach places and we're just coming out of the rainy season, so logistics is quite challenging," said Lubrano of Oxfam.
The Bangladesh army plans to move more than 800,000 Rohingya into a 3,000-acre "super-camp" currently under construction. The government has signed an agreement with Myanmar to repatriate those who have fled, but expectations are low.
"What for me is important is really raising awareness in the international community of the magnitude of this crisis," said Lubrano. "We have no idea for how long the Rohingya refugees will be in Bangladesh. We have no idea how this response could be sustainable in the long run."
Rohingya refugees crowd the road in Coz's Bazar waiting for food distribution. Photo by: Poppy McPherson
NGO access delayed
For years, Bangladesh has tightly controlled humanitarian access to the Rohingya, who have arrived in waves since the 1970s. They are not officially recognized as refugees, and so the agency tasked with leading the humanitarian response is the International Organization for Migration.  
Since the latest crisis began, scores of agencies have applied to the government for permission to help in the camps, but authorization has been slow to come, meaning some international NGOs have been unable to start work. Medicine and shelter supplies have been stuck in offices and staff grounded.
Dominic Bowen, response and team leader at Medical Teams International, said they had been forced to operate on verbal agreements with government, which could cause problems if staff were stopped at a checkpoint and asked to produce a permit.
"The biggest thing slowing us down is everyone is talking about, 'Are you registered? Can you distribute?'" he said. "And that just prevents NGOs from going larger. It discourages our fundraising departments from going all-in and raising money."
One of MTI's partners had money and shelter for some 4,000 families but are unable to distribute it because official permission has not come through, he said. "They're literally just sitting on their hands," he said.
The delays have mostly affected smaller agencies, but even large NGOs were waiting for approval as recently as this week, Lubrano from Oxfam said. Oxfam was given access in early September, he added, raising funding shortages and capacity as other obstacles. "Visas to work in Bangladesh are one month and there's a bit of turnover that doesn't help the consistency of the response," he said.
On Wednesday there was a meeting between the Inter Sector Coordination Group (which represents UN agencies leading the response) and Bangladesh's NGO Affairs Bureau where the issue of authorization was raised. "The NGO Affairs Bureau has committed to speed up the approval for a number of agencies," said Lubrano.
The bureau did not respond to a request for comment and phone calls to their office went unanswered.
"Historically, the number of registered humanitarian actors in Bangladesh has been limited," said Wells of Amnesty.
"This needs to be scaled up, given the enormity of what Bangladesh and the humanitarian community are responding to. Donor countries should also increase their support and engagement.
"Otherwise, the warning signs are there that this humanitarian crisis will continue to worsen, with a devastating impact on people who have already gone through so much; doctors were already telling me several days ago that they're seeing a spike in serious illness."
The specter of a cholera outbreak now looms large over the camps, where clean water supplies are scarce and many families are drinking out of muddied holes. The U.N. has shipped 900,000 cholera vaccines set to arrive next week, said Jean-Jacques Simon, UNICEF's regional communications chief. But additional doses are needed.
"The biggest need now is definitely water and sanitation and also health care because you've seen over the last few days that there were many thousands of cases of diarrhea, and we are just hoping it will not transform into cholera," he said. "That's the biggest fear in the camps today."
Additional reporting by Belal Uddin Joy.

(Poppy McPherson is a journalist based in Myanmar. She has spent the past five years mainly covering Southeast Asia, most recently focusing on Myanmar and Bangladesh, for the Guardian, Guardian Cities, Buzzfeed, Foreign Policy, Time and others).

Tariff
Add Rate

News Archive

Inside The New Nation

Editorial »

Death of another prosecution witness : Too difficult to accept as an accident


NO sooner had the Eid vacation come to an end but another murder shocked us all. The decapitated body of Sumon Zahid, a witness in a war crimes case and also the son of martyred journalist Selina Parvin was found dead in the capital's Khilgaon the day before yesterday. There ...

Business & Economy »

A delegation headed by Farzana Chowdhury, CEO of Green Delta Insurance makes a courtesy call with Dr. M Khairul Hossain, the newly appointed Chairman of Security Exchange Commission recently. Additional Managing Director and Company Secretary Syed Moinuddin Ahmed and Deputy Managing Director Wafi S M Khan of the company were also present.


Football »

England beat Tunisia 2-1


AFP, Volgograd :Captain Harry Kane came to the rescue with two goals, the second a dramatic injury-time winner, as England began their World Cup Group G campaign with a stuttering 2-1 win over Tunisia on Monday.  Gareth Southgate's men almost paid a heavy price for missing a slew of first-half ...

Football »

Harry Kane : England's new prince


AFP, Volgograd :Harry Kane rose emphatically to the World Cup challenge in England's opening match against Tunisia, scoring a last-gasp winner to give Gareth Southgate's side lift-off in Russia.It was a remarkable World Cup debut for Kane, who bore the added pressure of the captain's armband and the weight of ...

Entertainment »

I`m indebted to J.P. Dutta for life : Pooja Bhatt


Actress-filmmaker Pooja Bhatt said she is indebted to veteran director J.P. Dutta for not only making her a part of 'Border' but also for encouraging her to never change. 'Border' on Wednesday completed 21 years of its release and Pooja took to Twitter to thank Dutta for casting her in ...

International »

US won`t be made a migrant camp


President Donald Trump vowed on Monday that the United States would not become a "migrant camp" as he faced mounting pressure to stop families being separated as a deterrent to illegal immigration."The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility," Trump ...

City »

Pedestrians passing through a muddy road as the authority concerned does not repair the road for long time. The snap was taken from Bibir Bagicha area in the city's Jatrabari on Tuesday.


Editorial »

Save the flood victims and take adequate measures for post-flood rehabilitation


INCESSANT rainfall in the last few days has triggered floods in the country's East and South East districts. Thousands of people of Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Feni and Chattogram districts have been marooned as floodwater crawled to inundate their homestead and damage crops and livestock. The New Nation recently reported that Khowai, ...

Football »

A Mexico soccer fan celebrates her team victory against Germany after their group F match at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia on Sunday.


Sports »

Federer wins 98th ATP title in Stuttgart


AFP, Germany :Roger Federer claimed his 98th ATP title on Sunday with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) defeat of Milos Raonic in the grass-court Stuttgart Cup final.The Swiss great, who will be chasing a ninth Wimbledon triumph next month, beat his Canadian opponent for the 11th time in 14 meetings while ...

International »

US policy on migrant kids `unconscionable`: UN rights chief


AP, Geneva :The U.N. human rights chief is urging the Trump administration to end new policies separating migrant children from their parents after entering the United States from Mexico, saying they've affected nearly 2,000 kids in the last six weeks.Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein says it's "unconscionable" that any country would seek ...

International »

Family separation policy starts dividing Republicans


AP, Washington :The emotional policy of separating children from their parents is also starting to divide Republicans and their allies as Democrats turn up the pressure.Former first lady Laura Bush called the policy "cruel" and "immoral" while GOP Sen. Susan Collins expressed concern about it and a former adviser to ...

City »

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina exchanging pleasantries with diplomats at Ganabhaban in the city on Saturday on the occasion of holy Eid-ul-Fitr.


Editorial »

Eid Mubarak


EID UL FITR is an important religious event celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting (sawm). The Eid (Muslim religious festival) is the first and only day in the month of Shawal during which Muslims are not permitted to fast. The ...

Cricket »

History-making Afghanistan get baptism of fire in Test cricket


AFP, Bangalore :Afghanistan were handed a bruising introduction to Test cricket by India on Thursday as they capped their astonishing rise from war and refugee camps to joining the sport's elite.Afghan skipper Asghar Stanikzai called it a "very proud moment" as he strode onto the field at Bangalore's M. Chinnaswamy ...

 
Items that you save may be read at any time on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices.
 
Are you new to our website? Do you have already an account at our website?
Create An Account Log in here
Email this news to a friend or like someone
Email:
Write a comment to this news