Montreal, August 23, 2018 – One year since the start of a mass exodus of Rohingya people fleeing violence and persecution in Burma (also known as Myanmar), there are now nearly one million refugees in neighbouring Bangladesh - and the crisis is far from over.
Refugees are living in extremely precarious conditions, and the monsoon is worsening their situation. Development and Peace – Caritas Canada, whose actions have reached nearly 100,000 Rohingya refugees, is encouraging Canadians to be in solidarity with this stateless population – the largest in the world – by continuing to be generous in their support of the needs of refugees and the poor Bangladeshi communities hosting them.
Officially denied the right to work, most refugees depend on humanitarian aid for food, water, basic necessities, and access to healthcare. Their suffering is exacerbated by bad weather and the prevailing heavy rainfall in Bangladesh. “Water, hygiene, and sanitation are critical issues in camps where hundreds of thousands of people are crammed and where the spread of disease could lead to serious consequences, especially for the most vulnerable, such as children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities,” says Dominique Godbout, Humanitarian Aid Program Officer at Development and Peace – Caritas Canada.
Since the beginning of the crisis, Development and Peace has distributed food to 25,000 refugees who have arrived in Bangladesh. During the last year, the organization has extended the scope of its aid program to include:
- The construction of 905 temporary shelters;
- The distribution of non-food items (umbrellas, solar lamps, mosquito nets, and cookstoves with gas cylinders) and hygiene kits (soap, detergent, towels, diapers, and brushes);
- The construction of drinking water stations, latrines, and safe shower spaces for women and girls; and
- Education sessions, particularly for women and young girls, on hygiene and protection.
These actions have reached nearly 100,000 refugees in Cox’s Bazar District.
Urgent action needed
In response to the effects of the monsoon, Development and Peace and its partner Caritas Bangladesh have built 905 reinforced shelters in Kutupalong camp, which became the largest refugee camp in the world in a matter of months. Families whose makeshift hillside shelters were under threat of collapse have been relocated to safety. “These reinforced shelters are intended for the most vulnerable refugees so that they can survive the monsoon and beyond, restoring dignity to people who have lost everything,” explains Dominique Godbout.
Calling on Canada to play a leading role
One year after the crisis, a safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees is still not feasible. While negotiations continue between Burma and Bangladesh on the repatriation of Rohingyas fleeing the latest wave of violence, Development and Peace wishes to remind the Canadian government of the necessity to:
- Support initiatives that encourage the social cohesion and autonomy of Rohingya refugees as well as of host communities welcoming them in Bangladesh;
- Ensure that the Burmese government allows continual humanitarian and media access without obstacles to Rakhine State in Burma;
- Support grassroots organizations working for peace, democracy and human rights;
- Call for an international impartial investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity in order to end impunity; and
- Contribute to an inclusive peace and reconciliation process that responds to the root causes of the forced displacement of the Rohingya people and find a durable solution to this crisis.
With the crisis far from over, it is critical to maintain and strengthen aid for Rohingya refugees, especially for women and girls, and to host communities in Bangladesh, who are themselves facing extreme poverty. It is not too late to make a donation to Development and Peace for aid efforts.
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