November 17, 2022
Environmental Health Risks in the Philippines
An estimated 10,000 people were killed in the violence, with thousands more injured and sexually assaulted. The attacks prompted nearly 1 million people to flee Myanmar across the border into Bangladesh to seek safety.
While the Rohingya refugees have escaped persecution from the Myanmar forces, life is difficult in the refugee camps in Cox Bazar and Bhasan Char. With 773,000 Rohingya located in Cox Bazar, and more than 30,000 in Bhasan Char, the scale of the influx of refugees has put a serious strain on services. Now in 2023, the situation is getting more dire due to the protracted nature of the humanitarian crisis and decreasing funding.
Rohingya’s refugees are currently the world’s largest stateless population in the world, and most of them are still without formal refugee status. In Bangladesh, many are unable to access education or are able to earn an income, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and serious protection risks. Living in refugee camps, they depend entirely on humanitarian aid.
Bangladesh is recognized as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world: the climate crisis has further exacerbated the risk of natural hazards like cyclones, floods, landslides and earthquakes. Bangladesh has done a lot to mitigate the risk of climate disaster through the development of emergency preparedness mechanisms that have already saved countless lives during major disasters. Nonetheless, the frequency, severity and unpredictability of these disasters will only continue to increase as global warming, environmental degradation and population growth continue to escalate. This leaves the Rohingya population in the country at extreme risk and humanitarian needs are only going to continue to grow
Doctors of the World has been active in Bangladesh since 2017, working alongside local organizations to provide access to healthcare and psychosocial support in the camps.
Doctors of the World’s activities currently reach an estimated 2,177 households in the Kutupalong refugee camp.
Our team also trains young adults from the Rohingya community to take part in community outreach and health awareness projects. These young adults specifically focus on connecting children and teenagers in need to vital health services.
We also work on providing information to the community on a variety of health issues such as the importance of vaccination, how infectious diseases are transmitted, family planning, pregnancy, childbirth, and disaster preparedness.
Shortly after the massive influx of Rohingya into Bangladesh in September 2017, Doctors of the World (DotW) began medical treatment in camps. Our efforts have focused on strengthening the capacities of local associations with the aim of improving access to mental health and psychosocial care services and to better support victims of gender-based violence. We have provided training to the staff of numerous associations working in Cox’s Bazar.
Since 2018, when the emergency response took hold, our support has shifted to outreach to people who need medical care but cannot get to clinics to help them access healthcare. We have also been working on awareness raising activities for disease prevention and health maintenance / promotion in the community, and nurturing community support mechanisms. DotW works with Rohingya volunteers so that they educate and empower their peers themselves.
With many Rohingya struggling with trauma from their experience in Myanmar and many struggling with gender-based violence, our humanitarian mission has focused heavily on creating safe spaces that can provide healthcare as well as psychosocial support. Currently, four Community Resource Centers (in the camps and for the host populations) have been built: they constitute spaces of confidentiality and work to build trust and support people with specialized healthcare and mental health support.
Furthermore, during Covid-19 epidemic, DotW and its partners put in place responses to the humanitarian emergency in Bangladesh, by organizing massive information and awareness campaigns for host populations.
Through our work at Doctors of the World we have:
Nonetheless, there are still larger, more complex issues that are preventing Rohingya people from settling. Many cannot see clear prospects in their future and are spending their days in limbo, still longing to return home. Without a clear documentation status the Rohingya population is unable to leave the camps, receives education or finds work.
We spoke with Ms. Kwihyang Ku, the Project Coordinator for our Bangladesh project about the conditions in the camps.
“For many Rohingya, this is a place of relief that is protected from violence, however they cannot escape from the aftereffects of the violence and trauma they witnessed in Myanmar. Even in this physically distant land, the persecution they underwent in Myanmar is still very present in their memory.
About 60 babies are born every day, but most refugees cannot conceive of a future for their families. As negotiations continue, their anxiety grows. Yet, they keep smiling and keep kindness in their heart, and that makes us strong.”
Six years after the campaign of violence, the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar are still housing thousands of people in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions that are extremely detrimental for their long term health. In addition to living in unsanitary conditions, the future for many families remains unclear, as government’s in Bangladesh and Myanmar continue resettlement negotiations.