25 August 2022 marks 5 years since a military crackdown in Myanmar forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee their homes to reach Bangladesh.
Today, nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees continue to live in difficult conditions, entirely depending on humanitarian aid. They live in the world’s largest refugee settlement in Bangladesh’s southeastern district of Cox’s Bazar.
The EU continues to support the Rohingya refugees with humanitarian projects focused on food, nutrition, protection, and health care, among others.
Already present in the area for over a decade, the EU, together with its humanitarian partners, has provided vital support to both Rohingya refugees and host communities since the beginning of the crisis.
To date, the EU has allocated over €320 million for the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh, Myanmar and the region.
Meet some Rohingya refugees who are benefiting from humanitarian projects funded by the European Union.
Access to food is a challenge among Rohingya refugees living in the Cox’s Bazar camps, who remain fully dependent on aid to meet their needs.
With EU humanitarian funding, World Food Programme (WFP) provides food assistance to the refugees through e-vouchers. This modality gives them the freedom to choose their preferred food at a network of WFP outlets in the camps.
With e-vouchers, refugees can purchase common staples such as rice, fortified cooking oil, eggs, and lentils.
They can also use their monthly entitlements in fresh food corners with a selection of seasonal and local fruits and vegetables, like chicken and fish.
This assistance also provides substantial economic opportunities for the host community.
The influx of refugees has exacerbated the already dire nutrition and food security situation< in Cox’s Bazar, one of the country’s poorest districts.
Low food security and unhygienic living conditions have resulted in drastic levels of malnutrition amongst the refugees.
The EU and WFP ensure vulnerable people, especially children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, meet their dietary needs through various actions, including the provision of special nutritious food and targeted supplementary assistance to treat women and children who are identified as malnourished.
Children and adolescents make up over 50% of the Rohingya refugee population in Cox’s Bazar.
Almost 2 years of schools’ closure during the COVID-19 pandemic have created a very concerning learning gap and dropout which is especially affecting girls.
The EU works with partners, including Norwegian Refugee Council, to set up learning centres and provide essential education continuity for Rohingya children. These centres also serve as a safe space for children who are at increasing risk of exploitation.
In addition, a pilot programme enabling digital learning has been introduced. This initiative gives older students, such as single mothers who have not had chances for education for many years, an opportunity to study.
Following the successful launch of the Myanmar curriculum pilot and scale-up, Rohingya refugee children can now study the national curriculum of their home country.
“We are studying history under the new Myanmar curriculum,” says 13-year-old Jashim who is attending a class at one of the EU-funded UNICEF learning centres. “I love learning about the history of my home country.”
Thanks to EU humanitarian funding, UNICEF also has trained some 80 teachers to help with their lesson planning and delivery.
Protection is a key need for Rohingya refugees in the region. With no legal protection mechanisms currently in place, the Rohingyas are considered ‘illegal migrants’ and are at risk of arrest, arbitrary detention, exploitation, and deportation.
The EU funds International Rescue Committee (IRC) to strengthen the protection of refugees through various initiatives, including monitoring and analysing the environment in camps and disseminating information on protection and availability of services.
Tracing and reunification of families is one of the main objectives of the EU protection assistance which, together with Save the Children, works to reunify lost children with their families.
Through networks in the camps to find and protect the children, Save the Children has created foster family’s provision and works closely with them to keep children safe until they return to their original family.
“The day I lost my 4-year-old son was one of the worst days in my life,” says Rohingya refugee Ramiza. “However, staff from Save the Children informed me that they would help me. After some time, I got my son back thanks to their suport. I won’t let him go alone anywhere now.”
Mostly living in dilapidated and overcrowded conditions, Rohingya refugees are exposed to numerous health risks. Yet, they do not have access to reliable health care.
The EU funds partners like Save the Children to provide necessary health services to vulnerable Rohingya refugees. This includes improving access to primary health care, addressing specific health needs of women and girls as well as including reproductive services.
"I went there when I had pain. On the following day, my baby was born,” says Jannat recalling the time her daughter was born. “If Save the Children hadn't come and taken me, I wouldn't have had my baby, I wouldn't have hoped to live," Jannat said.
*Names have been changed for protection reasons.
Story by Mallika Panorat, Regional Information and Communications Assistant for Asia and the Pacific, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.
Publication date: 25/08/2022