Bangladesh | Cyclone Mocha leaves fear and anxiety in its wake
Following the passage of Cyclone Mocha, Humanity & Inclusion's teams in Bangladesh have already provided psychological first aid to 1,682 people in 19 camps throughout Cox's Bazar. Among those helped are 359 people with disabilities and 220 children.
Mohammad Sajjadul Hassan, Mental Health & Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Officer, HI Bangladesh:
As I’ve worked in Rohingya refugee camps for five years, I have faced several emergencies. I’ve provided mental health and psychosocial support services in fire incidents, flash floods, and more.
HI teams have been providing our MHPSS services in both phases of Cyclone Mocha–prevention and response.
We faced a range of questions before and after the incident. Before the cyclone hit, many of the people we serve were concerned about the potential scale of the damage: “How big will it be?”; “What would we do if the damage extended far beyond what we’ve predicted"; "We are terrified."
People were concerned about their houses, as they are not built with strong materials, and can be damaged at any time. Also, they felt helpless, especially families with children or with members with disabilities. They were worried about how their family would relocate to seek safe shelter.
Following the cyclone, our teams met with affected populations again. They were keen to understand: “How much time will we need to recover from the event and the damage it caused?”; “Do we have anything more to be afraid of?”
Farhana Naznin, Mental Health & Psychosocial Support Technical Specialist, HI Bangladesh:
Over the past two years, I have experienced different kinds of emergencies in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, including a massive fire, flash floods and landslides.
In the wake of any disaster, such as Cyclone Mocha, psychological first aid is crucial in addressing the immediate emotional needs of individuals.
Climate disasters can cause severe destruction and loss and make people directly experience trauma, fear and anxiety.
Psychological first aid is crucial to help people cope with this immediate psychological impact and prevent more severe mental health issues from developing in the following weeks and months.
This is even more important when we provide support to individuals like the Rohingya refugees, who have already experienced multiple, cumulative trauma, including violence, persecution and forced displacement. Security and climate incidents affecting the camps bring additional trauma. Our support helps them feel recognized, valued, and safe again.
“If I had stayed in my shelter, I would be dead”
Cyclone Mocha hit Bangladesh and Myanmar on Sunday, 14 May. Our teams are currently assessing the damage and needs in Cox's Bazar refugee camps.
Abdur, a 57-year-old Rohingya refugee, still hasn't processed what happened on Sunday. Hours before the super cyclone slammed into the hills of Cox's Bazar, HI staff evacuated him to a safer place. He returned after Mocha had passed through to find his shelter totally destroyed:
"I’ve lost everything. With my wheelchair, I can’t access anything, not even the toilet," he says. "I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. If I’d stayed in my shelter, I’d be dead now. I don't know how I'm going to feed myself or move around the camp, I'm stuck here.”
In response to Abdur's distress, our teams have assured him that they will provide him with all the necessary support and his shelter will be rebuilt.
Humanity & Inclusion helped to relocate nearly 600 people to safety before the cyclone hit, including 112 people with disabilities. We also provided them with 4,000 liters of water and 500 dry food kits. According to Bangladeshi authorities, almost 200,000 people had to flee their shelters before the arrival of the super cyclone.
However, some refugees did not want to leave their makeshift shelters for fear of never returning home. Rajesh Chandra, Director of Humanity & Inclusion's program in Bangladesh, explains how the worst was avoided:
"Until the very last moment, our teams were delivering prevention messages, going door to door, explaining to people where to go to be safe while the cyclone and violent winds passed through, and how to protect their property," he says. "This effective preparation and coordination between the different actors undoubtedly helped us save many lives. We were prepared for a nightmare, but fortunately, Mocha changed course before hitting our coast. The wind speed dropped to less than 100km/h and the refugee camps were spared the worst.”
It is now time to assess the needs. Since dawn on Monday, Humanity & Inclusion teams have been mobilized in the 26 camps in Cox's Bazar where we have a base, assessing the damage and the needs of the people we serve, whether in terms of psychosocial support or rehabilitation or directing them towards services that can help them repair their shelters, prioritizing children and adults with disabilities whose shelters have been damaged or destroyed. HI's response will therefore focus on the needs of each person directly affected by the cyclone.
As things stand, in the 26 camps in which HI works:
- At least 21,000 people have been directly affected by Cyclone Mocha, although this figure may change in the coming hours;
- 3,900 shelters have been partially damaged by falling trees, especially their roofs;
- 306 shelters have been totally destroyed;
- No deaths or missing persons.
For Chandra, the main worry now is people’s psychological and emotional state.
"The Rohingya refugees have been facing growing insecurity in the camps and a reduction in their food aid," he says. "In addition to this, the recent massive fire and flooding have put great pressure on the most vulnerable among them, weakening them further. Providing protection and psychological support to these people is our priority.”
Problems of access to basic needs for people with reduced mobility are also a concern for HI teams.
Image: Abdur, a 57-year-old Rohingya refugee, lost everything during cyclone Mocha ©HI 2023
Bangladesh | Volunteers evacuate people with disabilities ahead of Cyclone Mocha
Cyclone Mocha is approaching the world's largest refugee camp, bringing with it destructive winds, storm surge, and the potential for landslides. With 550 staff and volunteers at Cox's Bazar—home to nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees—in Bangladesh, Humanity & Inclusion teams are preparing right now.
A Category 4 storm, this cyclone would be the most powerful to hit Bangladesh since 1991. It is expected to make landfall Sunday, bringing with it strong winds, heavy rains and the potential for landslides.
"Once, I lost everything to a massive act of violence. Once again, we will have to leave our homes. When would life have mercy on us," asks Setara, a Rohingya refugee living in Cox's Bazar. She shared with HI volunteers that she does not want to leave her shelter despite the cyclone's threat.
Volunteers are helping families, children and people with disabilities evacuate to safe shelters. They are also going door-to-door to people who do not want to leave their homes, raising awareness on safety measures that can be taken before, during and after the storm.
“Our volunteers are engaged in evacuation, especially for persons with disabilities," explains Farhana Akhtar, HI Project Manager. "The challenge we are facing is that people are not really willing to go to a safe place for now."
HI's warehouses are stocked with emergency supplies—such as hygiene kits, shelter kits, wheelchairs and crutches—for distribution once the storm passes.
“Our warehouse is prepared for safeguarding the stocks," says Dipak Gomez, HI's Atlas Logistics Manager. "We are preparing our support to Save the Children and other NGOs for transportation of early recovery items to the camps."
Photos from HI's evacuation and awareness-raising activities
Bangladesh | Teams provide emergency aid in Cyclone Mocha's path
Category 5 Cyclone Mocha slammed the coast of Bangladesh on May 14, bringing with it destructive winds, heavy rains, and the potential for landslides.
With 550 staff and volunteers at Cox's Bazar—the world's largest refugee camp—Humanity & Inclusion teams are responding right now. The impact could be devastating: flash floods bring the risk of drownings, injuries due to debris and building collapses, and the spread of infectious diseases. People with disabilities are especially vulnerable when disasters like this strike.
Our local teams are mobilized and preparing to respond. Ahead of the storm, they evacuated the people we serve to safe shelters and assessed available stocks so they'd be ready to distribute emergency supplies, wheelchairs, crutches and other items in the storm's aftermath.
"Our main concerns are related to the risk of injuries as impacts of debris and bamboo from fragile shelters, which won’t be able to withstand the wind, landslides, and flash floods."
—Rajesh Chandra, HI's Program Director in Bangladesh
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Bangladesh | Devastating monsoon hits Rohingya refugee camps
Following severe floods and landslides on July 27, Humanity & Inclusion is assisting people in Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Humanity & Inclusion is helping thousands of people in need following a powerful monsoon in Bangladesh, a situation complicated by a spike in Covid-19 infections. Eight of the 16 camps where Humanity & Inclusion teams are present are currently affected.
"As I speak, at least eight of the camps hosting refugees—members of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar—are literally drowning. They’ve been devastated by severe floods. Many makeshift shelters and huts, roads and facilities are under water. Several landslides have also been reported," says Rajesh Chandra, Humanity & Inclusion’s program manager in Bangladesh. “On top of this tragic situation, the Covid-19 pandemic is gaining ground: there has been a 20 percent increase in cases over the last two and a half months. The country is in lockdown, which is making it even harder for organizations like ours to provide emergency response.”
According to an initial estimate by Humanity & Inclusion’s teams, several dozen people participating in the organization’s ongoing programs, including people with disabilities, have already been directly affected by the disaster. A flash flood and landslide has caused a critical situation in one of the camps. It is impossible to reach some camps and the situation may spread to others if heavy rain continues.
Humanity & Inclusion teams have worked in the Rohingya refugee camps since 2017 and are actively working to respond to severe flooding affecting thousands of people, including people with disabilities, the elderly, women and children. The organization has deployed its mobile emergency teams in coordination with other actors in the camps. Staff are providing appropriate assistance to affected and injured people, including emergency rehabilitation care, such as care management, physical therapy, the supply of mobility aids and assistance with everyday tasks, as well as emergency psychosocial support and referral to protection services.
Teams are making a rapid assessment to determine the need for food, shelter, and the other essentials. Humanity & Inclusion will continuously adapt its actions to provide targeted and useful assistance to people with disabilities, aging people and the injured by providing them with personal protection or other assistive equipment.
Thanks to its contingency stock, Humanity & Inclusion is already distributing kits containing soap, towels, masks and other items to protect people from Covid-19.
Humanity & Inclusion is also sending a team of civil engineers to assess damage to facilities and houses to identify where repairs need to be made and what response is required.
Bangladesh | Response ongoing after fire at Rohingya refugee camp
Humanity & Inclusion teams continue to assist victims of the fire that broke out in Cox's Bazar, a Rohingya refugee camp, on March 22.
The blaze at the camp in Bangladesh affected more than 40,000 people, injured more than 550 people and killed at least 15 individuals. Humanity & Inclusion, which has been working in Rohingya refugee camps since 2013, assessed the needs of victims and launched an emergency response immediately. Read about our response in the first 48 hours after the fire.
Over the last few weeks, more than 1,700 people traumatized by the disaster received psychosocial support from Humanity & Inclusion through individual and group sessions. The teams have also distributed more than 3,000 supply kits with hygiene and cooking items to people in need. Many Rohingya refugees also received physical therapy and replacements for crutches, walkers and other mobility aids burned in the fire. Affected people have also been informed about available services, especially concerning protection for children and isolated women.
Humanity & Inclusion's logistic teams are assisting partner organizations with transport of humanitarian aid supplies. Since the disaster, Humanity & Inclusion has delivered more than 34,000 hot meals to refugees in the camp.
Nepal | Meet Reiza Dejito: Mother and Humanitarian Worker
To mark International Women's Day on March 8, we talked to Reiza Dejito, a strong woman who is deeply committed to both her family and her role at Humanity & Inclusion. Currently serving as the Program Director for Nepal, India and Sri Lanka, Reiza has worked in numerous countries affected by humanitarian crises for two decades.
Why did you decide to join Humanity & Inclusion?
I graduated in science and physical therapy, and I earned diplomas in teaching and then management. I also completed several volunteer missions in the Philippines (my home country) and Ethiopia. And then, three months after leaving Ethiopia, I joined Humanity & Inclusion as a victim assistance project manager in Bor, South Sudan. Since then, I have worked in Kenya, Bangladesh, the Philippines and now Nepal.
Is there one experience that really stands out?
Working with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. They’ve suffered so much. One woman told me how she watched helpless as her husband was murdered and her house was burned down. A 9-year-old child, who was injured in the arm by a bullet after being caught in the crossfire, told me he’d forgiven the attacker for hitting the wrong target. Men, women and children walked for days and days to cross the border with little food and water. Awful.
As a director in the Philippines, I joined the emergency team to help the victims of Super Typhoon Goni. I was extremely impressed by the resilience and generosity of Filipinos. And the commitment of my team and partner organizations to provide assistance to those who needed it most.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
As Program Director, I’m responsible for the security and protection of my teams and ensuring they are safe and sound, and in good health, especially during emergencies, crises and conflicts. In 2016, I had to manage the evacuation of Humanity & Inclusion’s teams in South Sudan following a series of deadly clashes between armed groups. It was the most trying experience of my career.
What's really important when it comes to working with your team?
Trust. Transparency. Empathy. And being able to laugh together.
Humanitarian and mother: how do you strike the right balance?
For many women, achieving this balance is a huge challenge and often prevents them from taking on more responsible positions. I’m extremely fortunate to have a supportive family and a husband who takes care of our child when I’m working. Thanks to their support, I can do the job I do. My family is my biggest incentive. They really inspire me to do better every day.
Is gender equity a challenge in the humanitarian sector?
I’ve been personally fortunate to work with male colleagues and team leaders who are advocates for women's leadership. But while many women work in the humanitarian sector, there are still too few in senior positions. Many organizations have made a lot of progress, but not enough. There is a great deal of work to do before we achieve greater equity. It’s not an easy task, because these inequalities run deep. They’ve been entrenched in cultural, social, financial and political life for generations. It’s not simply a question of empowering women and advancing their rights, but of changing corporate cultures. Men also have a role to play here. I want to see women access positions of responsibility just like men. I think we'll get there...slowly but surely.
Header image: A Filipino woman named Reiza (wearing the blue visor) and another woman carry a tub of supplies after Typhoon Goni in the Philippines. Copyright: HI
Inline image: Reiza squats down to talk with a girl who has an artificial leg at a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, in 2015. Copyright: Xavier Bourgois/HI
Bangladesh | Fire robs refugee child of his wheelchair
Shohelur was speechless when he saw his charred wheelchair among the ashes.
The wheelchair that gave Shohelur independence, the standing frame used for his physical therapy exercises, and his inclusive learning materials were all destroyed as a fire spread through a refugee camp for Rohingya families in southern Bangladesh on the night of January 14. Shohelur and his family managed to escape the flames, but they returned home the next morning to find all of their possessions destroyed.
“Everything has ended for my family and every dream has ended in our life, we need support to return to our normal life,” Shohelur’s mother said to a member of Humanity & Inclusion’s team providing support in the camp. With nowhere else to go, Shohelur and his family are temporarily living with relatives in another shelter at the refugee camp.
Shohelur, who has Cerebral Palsy, loved that his wheelchair made it possible for him to play outside with his friends. Humanity & Inclusion had provided the young boy the wheelchair, toys that support his development, and physical therapy sessions.
In the aftermath of the fire, which destroyed hundreds of shelters, Humanity & Inclusion is assisting thousands of refugees who find themselves displaced again.
So far, Humanity & Inclusion has distributed supply kits – which include non-food items like clothes and sleeping mats – to more than 500 households. The organization’s local team of psychosocial workers is providing psychological aid after the traumatic events.
Humanity & Inclusion is also working with its long-standing beneficiaries at the camp to assess the fire’s damage and identify what belongings – like Shohelur’s wheelchair – need to be replaced. Shohelur has already received a new toilet chair, mattress and standing frame, and the Humanity & Inclusion team has taken his measurements to make sure his new custom wheelchair fits just right.
Shohelur says he loved his chair. It helped his balanced and allowed him to sit independently. Before the fire, he always enjoyed his physical therapist’s company. He was always smiling through his sessions!
Header image: A charred wheelchair lays amid ruins after a fire at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Copyright: HI
Inline image: A young boy named Shohelur sits in a chair while Humanity & Inclusion staff take his measurements for a custom wheelchair. They are at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Copyright: HI
Report: Humanity & Inclusion's Response to Covid-19
When Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic in March 2020, Humanity & Inclusion mobilized its teams to help the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis. Providing emergency response in almost all the countries where Humanity & Inclusion works has been a major challenge, especially since its emergency teams are normally able to focus their efforts on a handful of countries or regions. Humanity & Inclusion therefore provided emergency response and adapted its routine projects to help all those in need.
As of December 2020, more than 65 million people worldwide have been infected with Covid-19 and more than 1.5 million people have died.
While the epidemic has hit Western countries extremely hard, it is also affecting many countries in Asia, the Middle East, South and Central America and Africa, which are already affected by violent conflicts, political and socio-economic crises, frequent natural disasters, and significant climate change. Thousands of people need assistance.
In response to the Covid-19 crisis, Humanity & Inclusion has:
- Provided response in 46 of the 50 countries where it works;
- Implemented more than 160 projects in aid of people affected by the Covid-19 crisis;
- Given assistance to more than 2 million people between March and August 2020 alone;
- Provided more than 1.6 million people with information on Covid-19 prevention measures;
- Distributed more than 138,000 hygiene kits containing hand sanitizer, soaps, and other items;
- Distributed more than 800,000 masks;
- Provided food to more than 6,800 vulnerable families;
- Organized thousands of psychosocial support sessions for people who feel insecure or traumatized as a result of the crisis;
- Conducted thousands of tele-rehabilitation sessions in countries where a strict lockdown has been imposed to continue providing its routine services to people in need.
Beyond its impact on health, Covid-19 has had a considerable effect on children’s education. According to a Unesco report, some 1.6 billion children and teenagers have been deprived of school education in 190 countries as a result of the pandemic. The situation is even more worrying for children with disabilities, who find it harder to access education.
This pandemic has also considerably increased poverty and food insecurity. People in 25 countries are expected to face devastating levels of hunger in the coming months due to the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of acute food insecure people could increase from 149 million before the pandemic to 270 million.
Identifying the needs of the most vulnerable people
Humanity & Inclusion's teams and volunteers trained by the organization have identified the needs of the most vulnerable people including older people, single women with children, people with disabilities, migrant populations, and refugees. Those with the greatest needs are receiving direct assistance such as awareness sessions, distribution of hygiene kits, food assistance, cash transfers, and psychosocial support, or referrals to an organization that can offer them appropriate care, including healthcare for those infected with Covid-19.
Leading awareness-raising sessions
More than 1.6 million people affected by the pandemic have taken part in awareness sessions in villages and communities in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America and the Caribbean, and at home. Humanity & Inclusion has provided people with information on Covid-19, including the risk of transmission and prevention measures, through group meetings in villages, refugee camps, and the like; one-on-one sessions; and awareness campaigns based on leaflets, posters, and other materials. The organization has also aired programs on radio and TV. For example, in Nepal, Humanity & Inclusion has produced videos with subtitles and in sign language adapted to people with hearing difficulties, in partnership with the World Health Organization, which have been aired on Nepalese television.
Offering psychosocial support
Humanity & Inclusion has provided psychosocial support to people affected by the pandemic and the trauma it has caused, from economic hardships to loss of family and friends. More than 225,000 people received psychosocial support, including by telephone, from Humanity & Inclusion. The organization has also provided support to medical staff who are on the front line.
Distributing hygiene items, food, and cash
Humanity & Inclusion has distributed more than 138,000 hygiene kits composed of hand sanitizer, soaps, cleaning supplies, and the like. More than 800,000 masks have also been provided to people who need them.
In many countries, the food supply chain has been disrupted by border closures and lockdown measures. In Bolivia, especially, it is more complicated to access food in cities. Price inflation has soared and many people, who have lost their jobs, have found it more difficult to access food. Humanity & Inclusion has provided food assistance to more than 6,800 families by distributing goods, cash transfers, non-perishable foods, fresh produce from partner organizations, and so on.
Humanity & Inclusion has also identified people living in situations of extreme vulnerability, including refugees and families living in extreme poverty, and provided them with cash transfers to access basic services and meet their basic needs such as paying rent, buying food, and going to the doctor. So far, 7,565 families have received cash transfers from Humanity & Inclusion.
Transporting humanitarian supplies
The measures put in place to combat the spread of Covid-19 have entrenched humanitarian crises and made it harder to implement humanitarian aid projects. Faced with the difficulties of transporting humanitarian supplies and mobility issues caused by lockdowns, quarantines and other restrictions, Humanity & Inclusion, through its logistics department, has shifted the focus of its operations in Central African Republic, Bangladesh and Mali. News projects were also implemented in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti for the transport and shared storage of health and humanitarian equipment, the repair of airport runways and roads to isolated health centers, and the like.
Humanity & Inclusion has also mobilized three experts from the Réseau Logistique Humanitaire (RLH) to coordinate airlifts to 12 countries. More than 141,000 cubic feet of emergency supplies and 1,200 humanitarian and medical staff were transported as part of this operation.
Conducting tele-rehabilitation sessions
Humanity & Inclusion continued providing rehabilitation care to patients who need it by adapting its working methods to the Covid-19 pandemic. Where the situation allowed, physical therapists continued to provide care in rehabilitation centers in compliance with safety rules such as social distancing and mask-wearing.
In countries where lockdowns were imposed, online tele-rehabilitation sessions have enabled thousands of patients to continue doing their physical therapy exercises at home by watching videos or receiving instructions via telephone, WhatsApp, and other technology. Humanity & Inclusion has organized thousands of tele-rehabilitation sessions in Nepal, for example, and developed virtual rehabilitation apps in Rwanda and Vietnam.
Promoting safety and inclusion
Humanity & Inclusion referred more than 470 people with the greatest protection needs, such as single women, isolated children, and refugees to specialized organizations able to offer them appropriate support.
Lastly, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams trained 201 staff from partner humanitarian organizations to include the most vulnerable people such as people with disabilities, isolated women, and older people in activities organized for victims of the Covid-19 crisis. The aim is to ensure that no one is left behind.
Help Humanity & Inclusion continue its global response to Covid-19:
COVID-19 in Bangladesh | Adapting activities in Rohingya camps
Humanity & Inclusion’s teams are concerned about COVID-19 spreading in overcrowded camps for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, which have a population density of 40,000 people per sq. km. It is incredibly difficult to social distance under these conditions, and the situation could deteriorate quickly.
Due to the coronavirus, humanitarian organizations are much less active in the camps. Humanity & Inclusion has adapted its work in order to assist the most vulnerable individuals—people with disabilities, older people, and isolated women and children.
We’ve continued organizing rehabilitation sessions and providing psychological support to people living in the camps in compliance with safety guidelines, such as wearing masks and social distancing. We’re also providing refugees with awareness messaging on the virus.
Some people in the camps believe that prayer or a special herbal tea can help protect them from the virus. Others fear that they will be captured or killed if catch the illness. Humanity & Inclusion’s teams provide them with information on COVID-19 and help raise their awareness on the pandemic in order to better protect themselves.
Humanity & Inclusion’s teams and voluntary workers provide psychological support to people in need. They help individuals manage stressful situations and provide personal support, including to women who are experiencing difficulties because they feel isolated or anxious.
We also run protection activities in refugee camps by assessing and reporting safety incidents in the camp, and by identifying people who need support and referring them to relevant organizations.
Humanity & Inclusion works to protect the most vulnerable
As of May 20, we count 166 new projects that aim to protect our beneficiaries and staff from the virus, and to help them during their countries' lock downs. As COVID-19 takes aim at our planet's most vulnerable neighbors, we're ensuring that people with disabilities, people with injuries from conflict, children, women, and especially older people have the information--and even the soap--to stay healthy. Learn more about our COVID-19 response.
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