#SaferTogether against COVID-19: protecting the Rohingya in Bangladesh
The Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar is the largest in the world. Cox’s Bazaar is a port city, located along Bangladesh’s south-eastern coastline. Many of the Rohingya refugees arrive there by boat with nothing but the clothes they are wearing. Thanks to EU funding and the work of EU partners in the region, when the refugees arrive, they have access to health care, mental health support, food, and clothing. They have a safe place to stay, and life can continue.
Bangladesh has long provided safety for Rohingya escaping the discrimination and violence in Myanmar. But the pandemic brings with it multiple crises: extensive medical needs, closed schools, increasing domestic violence and suicides. The country does not have the resources to protect so many vulnerable people during a global pandemic, and so many lives are at stake.
Strategic funding from the EU has filled this gap. EU contributions totalling €24.5 million in 2021 provide much-needed humanitarian aid for refugees like Jaan and her family. In partnership with the World Health Organization, the EU supports numerous programmes that directly limit the impact of COVID19. Teaching people how to avoid getting sick, personal hygiene strategies — along with COVID-19 tests and treatment — are all critical in preventing viral transmission in the camps.
Escaping violence in Myanmar
Jaan is 18 years old. She is an orphan and a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar. Jaan takes care of a disabled brother and two sisters in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh where they now live. Unable to work and take care of her siblings at the same time, she relies on EU humanitarian aid to stay alive.
Jaan and her siblings are among the more than 860,000 Rohingya refugees who have poured into Bangladesh from Mynammar. They are fleeing the brutal violence against them by Myanmar’s government. Tens of thousands of people have been killed.
When the Rohingya arrive at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazaar, they are tired, traumatised, and desperate. Many of them have lost family members in the killings in Myanmar, or while fleeing. The scale of need among the people at Kutupalong is devastating.
When the coronavirus arrived in 2020, things got even worse.
Preparing for the longer term
Although they have escaped the daily discrimination, threats to their security and fierce discrimination in Myanmar, the Rohingya in Bangladesh live in a state of constant risk. The burden of the pandemic on nearby communities and the country threatens the very essential services that these people rely on.
Working closely with local authorities in the country, EU humanitarian funding ensures these services remain strong. This helps the Rohingya and the local communities while also reducing the impact of the pandemic, far beyond the country’s borders.