Since Aug. 25, more than half a million Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh, joining several hundred thousand Rohingya already living in refugee camps there. Amid conditions of extreme hardship, only half of refugees have received emergency shelters from NGOs, yet still another 2,000 Rohingya, including many children, cross into Bangladesh each day.
Handicap International has worked in Bangladesh for two decades, and staff there are alarmed. An additional 200 emergency staff have joined existing teams to bolster the effort, as humanitarian organizations like Handicap International cope with this sudden, serious, and worsening crisis.
The needs of refugees are far from being met at this stage. Almost half are still without shelter and fewer than 20 percent have received food aid.
“They left their villages in haste, taking nothing with them,” explains Gilles Nouziès, Asia Desk Officer, for Handicap International. “We need all sorts of supplies to assist families who are still pouring into the country. We’ve deployed more than 200 people… but clearly that’s not enough.”
Access to humanitarian aid is one of the biggest challenges. Most refugees live along the road bordering the district estuary. The narrow road, where most aid is distributed, is already congested with humanitarian convoys at certain points. Many refugees live further back from the road and find it difficult to access aid distributions. People with reduced mobility, such as older people or people with disabilities, also find it hard to reach assistance.
“We are particularly concerned on the condition of extremely vulnerable individuals, like pregnant women, older people without caregivers, people with reduced mobility, people who are severely sick, unaccompanied and separated children, survivors of violence, and women with young children,” says Reiza Dejito, country director for Handicap International Bangladesh. “The scale of the crisis makes them particularly susceptible to disease, malnutrition, hygiene problems, infections, psychological distress, and they have more difficulty accessing humanitarian assistance they need than others. Handicap International makes every effort to identify them, assess their needs, provide psychological and rehabilitation assistance, meet their basic survival needs through non-food items, or advise and refer them to other appropriate services.”
What’s more, “the rainy season makes travel difficult and our teams find it hard to reach people,” Nouziès says. “We visit the most vulnerable families on foot.”
Handicap International sent a team of logisticians to find solutions, and to help transport of humanitarian aid to these most vulnerable and isolated people.
Already weakened by a series of major crises, Bangladesh will find it hard to access water and food in the very near future, and jobs in the longer term. The country cannot cope alone with a crisis of this magnitude.
ABOUT HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL
Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 35 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. Offices in Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States work constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997; and the winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2011. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task