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Assisting refugees as well as host communities

Published on Tuesday 24 April 2018

Since the influx of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh in August 2017, NGOs have been working hard to help them. SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has been present in Cox’s Bazar district since 2010, and works with both refugees and host communities.

By Cristina Thevenot, Head of Operations in Asia.

Teknaf area was already vulnerable before the arrival of more than 700,000 refugees since August 2017. The area is vulnerable to floods, cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis… These climatic risks necessarily have consequences on the level of food security of the populations living in this region. Their water resources are also limited, and the increasing influx of refugees into the region only increases the pressure on these resources.

Through the different waves of refugees, host communities have always been at the forefront of welcoming their neighbours. Despite difficulties such as language barrier and the pressure on natural resources, they have always volunteered to help refugees out of pure solidarity.

A community approach…

The vulnerability of populations initially present in Teknaf area is the reason why SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL teams work with both host communities and refugees. They help both populations, whether in terms of access to water, sanitation, etc.

In addition, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL sets up protection activities for both populations, which consist in identifying, referring and following up vulnerable people, victims of violence or people affected by illness. Of course, the vulnerability of refugees is exacerbated, but that of host communities is still existent.

… to promote inclusion

Our teams also try to promote cohesion between the two communities, for example by organizing community sporting or socio-cultural events. They also ensure that information shared with one community is known by the other, in order to avoid any risk of misunderstanding.

Furthermore, when we set up water management committees, for example, representatives of the two communities are included, not only to ensure better water management, but also to promote dialogue between the two communities.

All these subtleties are necessary to ensure good relations between refugees and their hosts.

  • 156.6 million inhabitants
  • 31,5% poverty rate
  • 142nd out of 188 on the Human Development Index
  • 491,818 people helped

The threat of the rainy season

With the recent influx of refugees, the area’s vulnerability to natural disasters is reinforced: with density, the need for wood increases and thus exacerbates deforestation, which weakens the hills with soil erosion.

As the rainy season approaches, studies have been carried out to anticipate the consequences: about 30% of the area of the big camp in Cox’s Bazar district is expected to be flooded. However, due to the lack of mapping, it is difficult to predict the impact the rainy season will have on host communities. Nevertheless, it is foreseeable that it will be significant in terms of shelter destruction, health risks, food security, and access to safe drinking water. Our teams are currently doing everything possible to prevent these risks, without leaving one community behind.

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© Prince Naymuzzaman Khan / SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL