Since the 1970s, the Rohingya people of Rakhine State, Myanmar have been subjected to systemic discrimination and targeted violence. In 2018, Marzuki Darusman, Chair of the UN fact-finding mission to Myanmar declared the repression of the Rohingya people to be an “ongoing genocide”.
A Muslim minority in a majority Buddhist state, many Rohingya have escaped to neighbouring Bangladesh, which now houses the largest refugee camp in the world – Kutupalong. Serried rows of tarp and thatch roofed shelters lie sprawling across 13 square miles; a makeshift city 600,000 people now call home.
In response to the influx of refugees, Bangladesh has given generously. At the height of the refugee crisis in 2017, the then Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said ‘‘If we can feed 160 million people, we can feed 700,000 more”. Local Bangladeshi villages too, welcomed the vulnerable Rohingya people.
However, the vast numbers of refugees traversing the border into Bangladesh still demands humanitarian assistance. While the Bangladeshi government continues to offer valuable support, further help is needed.
Rohingya people in Rakhine State
The 2021 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya crisis, which brings together over a hundred UN agencies, local and international NGOs has identified 1.36 million people in need of aid, including those from host communities. Of the refugees living in the camps, more than half do not have access to adequate water.
Moreover, there does not seem to be a permanent resolution to the crisis in sight. According to OCHA, “The root causes of [the refugees’] plight in Myanmar have not been addressed and their future is yet uncertain”.
Writing for the New Humanitarian, one Rohingya refugee said “we suffered in Arakan – what we call our homeland in Myanmar. We found shelter in Bangladesh, but we are still not safe”. In overcrowded, unsafe conditions, disaster can easily strike. In March of this year, a devastating fire tore through Balukhali refugee camp, destroying thousands of homes and resulting in over a dozen deaths.
There seems to be no easy answer to the plight of the Rohingya refugees. With the prospect of targeted violence merely a stone’s throw across the border, many Rohingya are faced with little choice but to remain within the wire fences of the refugee camps.
The theme of this year’s Refugee Week is ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’. In response to crises such as that happening in Myanmar, collective action is our greatest strength. By reaching out to those in need, listening to one another, and sharing support, a better future can be built.
To learn more about Refugee Week, click here.
Our new fundraising initiative ‘Walk for Disaster Relief’ is an opportunity to walk together with your colleagues, and to raise awareness of the hardships Rohingya refugees must endure. By signing up, participants will log each mile walked, raising money with each step through sponsorships from friends and family.
At the end of the walking challenge, participants will be offered the chance to join our Disaster Relief Workshop – an interactive simulation based on the Rohingya refugee response. This will be a chance to experience a day in the life of an aid worker responding to the crisis unfolding in Myanmar and Bangladesh.
To learn more about Walk for Disaster Relief, and to sign up, click here.