Rohingya crisis two months on: refugees living in appalling conditions

  • Emergency
  • Bangladesh

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since 25th August from neighbouring Myanmar. Handicap International has implemented a series of emergency actions to support Rohingya refugees who, having escaped, now live in utter destitution. Over the last two months, the organisation has already supplied humanitarian assistance to around 20,000 of the most vulnerable people.

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Rohingya refugees in a camp in Bangladesh
Rohingya refugees in a camp in Bangladesh

Seven mobile teams composed of physiotherapists, nurses, psychologists, social workers, protection managers and children’s activity organisers, visit refugee camps to identify extremely vulnerable people - pregnant women, children, older people and people with reduced mobility - and direct them to available services, supply them with immediate assistance, and meet their need for essential items, first aid, rehabilitation care and psychological support. Play activities are also organised to help children overcome their traumatic experiences.

A fully-equipped vehicle is supporting the work of the mobile teams. It contains equipment for physiotherapy sessions and for taking measurements prior to the fitting of orthopaedic devices.

Handicap International has also set up seven welcome points with two functions: as information centres where people can find help and advice on hygiene, cholera prevention and other public health campaigns, the reunion of separated families, and so on, and to supply rehabilitation care in tandem with mobile teams. These welcome points are located in new refugee camps and case-manage 25 people on average a day.

We need to take immediate action

“A very large proportion of these refugees are women and children. They live in appalling conditions,” explains Gilles Nouziès, HI's Asia Desk manager.

“They had to flee their villages in minutes, leaving everything behind them, and under terrifying circumstances. Some have injuries and most are exhausted. When they arrive in Bangladesh, they need everything - food, shelter, drinking water, but also latrines and water points to maintain a normal standard of hygiene.”

“The humanitarian response is gathering momentum but a crisis on this scale is a huge challenge for humanitarian organisations. Although living conditions in the camps are still precarious, we have to deal with a life-threating emergency first - the need to provide access to drinking water, food and care.”

“The diseases spread by poor hygiene and overcrowding can kill, particularly the youngest and the most vulnerable individuals. We’re dealing with people who are exhausted, malnourished and in a state of shock. We need to take immediate action to avoid a disaster,” adds Gilles.

HI's response so far

Handicap International is currently assessing the possibility of setting up a logistics platform to facilitate the transport of humanitarian aid. This platform would be made available to all humanitarian organisations.[1]

Some 100 Handicap International staff members and 200 voluntary workers are currently providing assistance to Rohingya refugees.

Over the course of two months, the organisation has provided more than 1,000 rehabilitation sessions, 4,500 people have received emergency psychological support, 2,000 children and teenagers have benefited from sports and leisure activities, and more than 7,000 extremely vulnerable people have been identified in order to provide them with appropriate care and treatment.


[1] Handicap International set up similar platforms to facilitate the transport of aid and humanitarian services during previous crises in Haiti, following the earthquake of 2010, and in Sierra Leone during the cholera crisis of 2012.

Rohingya emergency appeal

Our teams are taking action to ensure disabled and vulnerable people can access emergency aid. We are also providing people with psychological support, rehabilitation care, and mobility aids. Please donate today

Published 23/10/17

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