Despite an abundance of information and the large presence of assessment actors in Cox’s Bazar, it remains challenging to develop a strong overall understanding of Rohingya refugee needs, as well as how those needs interact with each other and within the complex context of the Rohingya refugee response. Since the 2017 influx, many actors have contributed to the hundreds of assessments done and have generated analysis to inform their programming decisions, increase coordination, and influence decision makers. Except during the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions, the Rohingya refugee camps are highly accessible compared with other large and protracted emergencies, making it a conducive environment for primary data collection exercises and resulting in an overassessed population.
The Rohingya refugee response relies mainly on quantitative data collection to track the number of facilities and incidents reported and to measure programme achievements. Still, quantitative data alone cannot tell the whole story because it does not fully capture the quality of experience. Although baseline needs and access to services are known to humanitarian responders, the drivers and severity of needs, the extent to which people rely on coping mechanisms (including negative ones), the degree to which people have adapted, and their overall vulnerability are not well understood. Perceptions, behaviours, social dynamics, and Rohingya culture are also poorly understood, affecting the ability of the response to identify effective and appropriate solutions to problems and to design programming approaches centred on community engagement and empowerment.
The sudden loss of access to the camps due to COVID-19 containment and risk mitigation measures shed light on major gaps in the information and analysis landscape while reinforcing the pressing need to fill these gaps. Innovations in data collection at the height of the pandemic have shown new ways in which these gaps can be filled to accurately provide an overall picture of the complex reality in the Rohingya refugee response.