Forgotten crises: Support for the Rohingya

Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, © Ute Grabowsky / photothek.net

22.10.2020 - Article

Almost a million Rohingya have fled from Myanmar, many of them to Bangladesh. Germany is supporting a project run in Kutupalong refugee camp by the charity CBM (Christian Blind Mission) and has pledged 33 million euro at a donor conference.

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh: the world’s biggest refugee camp

Simple bamboo huts with plastic sheets for roofs in all sorts of shapes and colours as far as the eye can see. More than 850,000 people living in very close proximity. There is no adequate healthcare system or water supply; there are hardly any education opportunities, and food shortages are common.

This is Cox’s Bazar in southern Bangladesh – the world’s biggest refugee camp. When the violent expulsion of the Rohingya from Myanmar began in the summer of 2017, hundreds of thousands of people fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. They lost their property, their homes, their livelihoods. However, they had already lost their established place in the interplay between the many hundreds of ethnic groups in Myanmar long before then. Even before the expulsions, many Rohingya suffered huge discrimination.

When Myanmar gained independence in 1948, the military repeatedly carried out operations against the Muslim Rohingya minority. The nationality act introduced by the military government in 1982 and still in force today makes it difficult for the Rohingya to acquire citizenship of Myanmar. There followed decades of simmering conflict, statelessness and uncertainty, which culminated in brutal expulsions in 2017.

Support from the international community

Bangladesh took in just under a million displaced Rohingya and did its utmost to provide them with accommodation and food. In time, however, Bangladesh – itself having to cope with floods, humanitarian crises and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – reached the limits of its possibilities. The situation in the refugee camps remains precarious; the inhabitants require psychological support to overcome their trauma; and feuds arise between gangs in the overcrowded camps. The Rohingya therefore urgently need support from the international community to help establish the conditions for a life in dignity.

Germany is supporting a health project for people with disabilities in Cox’s Bazar

For this reason, Germany has in recent years provided its partner, the charity CBM, with two million euro for a project offering inclusive health services for 30,000 people with disabilities in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. This project enables refugees and particularly children to access health services and thus also to participate in care services and social life in the camp. A child-friendly space has been set up where children can play and learn, but also work through their traumatic experiences.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, CBM has also been working to prevent the spread of the virus. Ariful Arman, a 24-year-old CBM staff member in the camp, said: “I am very happy that I can help people with disabilities. Seeing the progress they make with my help is very motivating.”

International donor conference: Germany is making available 33 million euro

To draw attention to this crisis and muster support, the United States, the United Kingdom, the EU and the UN Refugee Agency are today holding a virtual donor conference. The aim is to support Bangladesh as the prime host country for Rohingya refugees and to gather funding to help it manage the crisis.

Germany is also taking part in the conference and is making available an additional three million euro. This takes total German humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya to 60 million euro since 2017. The Federal Government has in addition pledged a further 30 million euro for development cooperation.


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