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Published: November 16th 2018
November 12, 2018 (Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh) A mass human migration began on 25 August 2017 following retaliation by Rohingya Arsa militants who launched deadly attacks on more than 30 police post. Rohingyas began arriving Cox's Bazaar district of Bangladesh that borders Myanmar after troops, backed by local Buddhist mobs, burned their villages, attacked and killed civilians. Nearly 7,000 Rohingya (including more than 700 children under the age of five) were killed after the violence broke out, and there was widespread rape and abuse Rohingya women and girls reported. Nearly 300 villages were partially or totally burned down in northern Rakhine. Satellite images show many places where Rohingya villages were burned down, while nearby ethnic Rakhine villages are intact. This began a massive refugees escape, reaching Bangladesh with barely any belongings. Happening during the rainy season, they sought shelter in wooded areas south of Cox's Bazar , setting up camp wherever possible in the difficult terrain and with little access to aid, safe drinking water, food, shelter or sanitation facilities.
Facing genocide and as a result they left in haste with very little but the clothes they were wearing. Life prior to leaving was oppressive even before becoming life threatening, so in many ways they were existing under chronic psychosocial stressors before migrating. The size, uncertainty and demands of the migration are an incredible story - as told to us Monday evening by Mr. Salam- BRAC’s Head of Humanitarian Relief Program. It was during the wet monsoon weather when 500 people an hour started showing up. Salam, who had previously played a key role in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, was called to organize BRAC’s response the first day of the migration started. In incredible fashion, BRAC was able to mobilize a team immediately and begin the relief effort. The “host” population had welcomed the refugees
, providing them with water and food
in the short term, but as numbers grew so rapidly, the need for sanitation and shelter were paramount. BRAC mobilized 250 personnel the first days. They began building toilets - pre-designed five 3-ft diameter rings of concrete stacked on top of each other with a top slab with a seat on it: 11,000 toilets the first week.
As depicted in this short film
, an ongoing challenge is the refugees are seen as "temporarily" displaced people, as designated by the government of Bangladesh. Thus they are restricted as to what they can do, where they can go, and limitation on traditionally available services. They are not allowed to build permanent structures on the camps so all the structure of buildings are made of temporary materials (bamboo, tarpaulins, mud, tin). There is no electricity and many rely on solar lanterns
(the clinic relies on generator power) and clean water is available at water stations, but there is no running water in the shelters.
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