Summary of Operation Update
The Population Movement Operation is in its fourth year and is a response to the protracted crisis involving the displaced people from Rakhine State in Myanmar, living in a congested camp settlement of 866,457 people (188,540 households). The influx of displaced people who crossed the border from Myanmar, reached its height in August 2017, and the sheer numbers of the displaced population have impacted the host community (local Bangladeshis) living in the area adjacent to where the camps have been established – hence the focus of part of the response operation undertaken by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) and indeed all other humanitarian actors, is to assist the host community as well. In this connection, the interventions for both camp and host communities are aimed at facilitating community resilience and social cohesion. This Operation Update covers the period 2017 to December 2020, with a specific focus on significant developments, as well as achievements and challenges during the July to December 2020 period. These include the following:
Business continuity has been maintained i.e. the operation has continued with no break, despite the global COVID-19 pandemic. This has been made possible through strict adherence to safety protocols in the office and field, as part of the Duty of Care owed to staff and volunteers. All of this has been undertaken in close collaboration and coordination between IFRC and the BDRCS, as well as Partner National Societies. Business continuity despite the COVID-19 pandemic has been imperative for the Population Movement Operation, given that it is a protracted crisis, and the fact that the displaced people from Rakhine in the camp settlements continue to rely on humanitarian aid for their daily survival and wellbeing.
Thanks to the combined efforts of the authorities, humanitarian aid organizations (including BDRCS with the support of IFRC and RCRC partners), and other actors, the potential large-scale COVID-19 outbreak anticipated through modelling undertaken by researchers did not materialize – from the start of the pandemic until 3 January 2021, there were 10 deaths in the camp settlement and 73 deaths in the host community. In reference to COVID-19 cases, there were 367 and 5,407 in the camp and host communities respectively during the same reporting period.
A nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign launched by the Bangladesh government began in early February, targeting vulnerable groups such as frontline healthcare workers, the elderly and humanitarian workers. In this connection, some RCRC personnel in Cox’s Bazar have already been vaccinated (for details, please see the Operational Highlights section in this report).
In response to a request for support from the Bangladesh government, BDRCS provided relief items to 1,642 displaced people from Rakhine already relocated from the congested camp settlement in Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char island, in December. In this connection, IFRC has supported BDRCS in fulfilling its role and mandate as auxiliary to the government in the provision of humanitarian assistance. It should be noted that this has been undertaken while strictly adhering to the Red Cross and Red Crescent position and that of the international humanitarian community i.e. the relocation of displaced people must be voluntary, with safety and dignity assured. IFRC assures partners and donors that PMO funding has not been utilized.
As the global COVID-19 pandemic has continued to significantly affect the issuance of visas and international travel, the recruitment and arrival of delegates to fill vacated positions has been delayed. This has meant that the PMO in Cox’s Bazar has continued to see a lean team of existing delegates and local staff take on additional portfolios and responsibilities.
After much delay related to COVID-19, preparations for the Three-Year Federation-Wide Report (2017-2019) on the PMO took off in the third week of December 2020 with the hiring of a consultancy.
Planning for PMO 2021 programming began in October 2020, in line with the Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) which accompanies this Emergency Appeal last revised until 31 December 2021. The planning process has also taken cognizance of the draft ISCG-led Joint Response Plan for 2021 and related discussions.
Deliberations have also begun at senior management level in reference to the continuation of IFRC support to BDRCS for the PMO, and whether the Emergency Appeal or another funding mechanism is to be employed beyond 31 December 2021.
IFRC served as co-chair with the UNDP on a localization taskforce which facilitated research by BRAC University’s Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ) between November 2019 and August 2020, resulting in a comprehensive guidance on localizing the interagency humanitarian response in Cox’s Bazar.
For 2020 alone, expenditure for the PMO stood at CHF 10 million (representing a 98 per cent expenditure versus budget rate). Approximately 60 per cent of PMO operational expenditure comprises procurements. By 31 December 2020, 56.2 per cent of the Emergency Appeal was funded. A soft pledge from a regular donor is expected to be registered in early 2021 and this is anticipated to increase the EA funding rate to 69 per cent.
From the start of this operation in 2017 to 31 December 2020, targeted camp and host communities totaling 871,434 people were reached through the Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) alone, which is a major component of disaster risk reduction (DRR) programming undertaken through the EA. In reference to other support extended, comprising health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); shelter, basic needs; and protection, gender and inclusion (PGI), approximately 300,000 people in both camp and host communities have been assisted through one or more of these interventions.
The IFRC continues to seek the kind support of donors towards this Emergency Appeal so as to enable the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society to continue to help meet the humanitarian needs of displaced people from Rakhine, as well as the local community affected by the influx of displaced people.