DHAKA, Bangladesh — For the past three years, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have flooded into Bangladesh, fleeing violence in Myanmar. During this time, there have been countless stories of the tragedies these refugees have faced. The root causes of what forced them to leave their homes include the severe discrimination and violence they faced. Many also lived in poverty, with their homes being burned down. Since Myanmar refused to acknowledge their existence, these individuals have zero proof of citizenship and lack access to schools and hospitals. However, there are some stories of hope during the Rohingya refugee crisis.
Volunteering in COVID-19 Camps
Rohingya refugees have stepped up as volunteers in camps during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, there has been an 80% reduction in humanitarian aid workers. With support from NGOs, the Rohingya refugees formed a community-based protection model. Many volunteers are working to reduce the risk of viral transmission. Despite living in crowded conditions in the camp, the community volunteers have ensured fewer than 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases among the Rohingya refugee population of about 860,000. This story shows just a glimmer of hope during the Rohingya refugee crisis.
Improving the Roles of Women
The role of women and girls have greatly improved. The UNHCR has been working to change the traditional roles of women and encourage them to be community outreach members. They include the women in programs such as film, painting, theatre, English, reading classes and more. Additionally, COMs began a campaign called “Peace in the Home,” which includes women and their families to have a conversation about peace within their families.
Organizations Helping the Refugees
As of 2017, Bangladesh hosts nine out of ten Rohingya refugees registered in the Asia-Pacific region. The majority of refugees have fled to Bangladesh, a country that is committed to protecting Rohingya refugees. BRAC, an NGO founded in Bangladesh, has 1,300 staff members directly helping those in Cox’s Bazar. Additionally, many of the staff are locals who speak a dialect easily understood by the Rohingya refugees. This group is taking great strides in incorporating sustainable ways for the refugees themselves to act on their resiliency and courage. As a result, they have trained more than 800 Rohingya refugees as volunteers.
U.N. Response Groups
Many Rohingya refugees took lead during the seasonal monsoons. This is a time where flash floods and soil erosion made living conditions in the camps much more difficult and dangerous. However, the refugees in the camps worked together to improve and rebuild the infrastructure, perform water rescues and evacuate people from weak structures.
The U.N. is currently creating groups in response to the most important needs in the refugee camps. These include protecting victims of sexual and gender-based violence and abuse, water sanitation and hygiene facilities. They are also constructing safe facilities and infrastructure. These groups are necessary in order to ensure the safety of the Rohingya refugees. They are also important for refugees training to be volunteers.
Though these are just a few of the stories of hope during the Rohingya refugee crisis, they are essential in the discussion about the experiences of Rohingya refugees. Not only do they depict the resilience of these people but they also show the critical need for outside aid and groups. This ensures that the refugees themselves have leadership and volunteer positions. Despite the unimaginable tragedies and difficulties that caused the Rohingya refugees to leave their homes they continue to hope, work, lead, and heal themselves and each other.
– Naomi Schmeck