As the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh tops 500,000, Handicap International has expressed alarm at the plight of thousands of destitute people arriving in the country every day. Although only half of refugees have received emergency shelters from NGOs in the field, 2,000 Rohingya continue to cross the border daily. Handicap International has sent an additional backup team to help the most vulnerable people access humanitarian assistance.
Since the start of the crisis on 25 August, more than 500,000 Rohingya people have taken refuge in Bangladesh, joining several hundred thousand Rohingya already living in refugee camps in conditions of extreme hardship.
Humanitarian organisations currently have to cope with a sudden, serious and worsening crisis as nearly 2,000 people, including many children, cross the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh every day. The needs of refugees are far from being met at the moment. Almost half are still without shelter and fewer than 20 percent have received food aid.
“We need all sorts of supplies to assist families who are still pouring into the country. They left their villages in haste, taking nothing with them,” explains Gilles Nouziès, Asia Desk Officer, for Handicap International.
“We’ve deployed more than 200 people in the field to meet immediate humanitarian needs, but clearly that’s not enough. The crisis is very sudden and needs are great. The rainy season makes travel difficult and our teams find it hard to reach people. We visit the most vulnerable families on foot, dragging out the time it takes to assess their needs.”
Access to humanitarian aid is one of the biggest challenges of this crisis. Most refugees live along the road bordering the district estuary. A narrow road, where most aid is distributed, it is already congested by humanitarian convoys at certain points. Many refugees live further back from the road and find it difficult to access aid distributions. People with reduced mobility, such as disabled or older people, also find it hard to reach assistance.
Handicap International has responded by sending a team to implement logistics solutions, facilitating the transport of humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable and isolated people.
“We are particularly concerned about the condition of extremely vulnerable individuals - pregnant women, elderly people without caregivers, people with reduced mobility, people who are severely sick, unaccompanied and separated children, survivors of violence, women with babies, single women with more than 3 children under 5 years old. The scale of the crisis makes them particularly susceptible to disease, malnutrition, problems of hygiene, infection, and psychological distress, and they have more difficulty than others in accessing humanitarian assistance they need. Handicap International is making every effort to identify them, assess their needs, provide psychological and rehabilitation assistance, meet their basic survival needs through non-food items, or advise and refer them to other appropriate services,” explains Reiza Dejito, Programme Director in Bangladesh for Handicap International.
Already weakened by a series of major crises, Bangladesh will very soon be confronted by problems with access to water and food, and, in the longer term, access to jobs. The country cannot cope alone with a crisis of this magnitude.
Marlene Sigonney, Handicap International UK
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About Handicap International
Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.