The District of Cox’s Bazar, located in southern Bangladesh, has some of the poorest living conditions in the country.At the same time, over the last four decades, in successive waves, it has received Rohingya refugees fleeing from targeted violence and persecution in Rakhine State, Myanmar. Since August 2017, an estimated 745,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Cox’s Bazar District, where approximately 860,000 refugees are now residing in 34 camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas.2 Needs among the host communities in Ukhiya and Teknaf arise mainly from existing development challenges, but may have been compounded by the refugee influx.
With the refugee population being almost double the host community population in the two upazilas,the massive increase in population density following the influx, coupled with the pre-existing lack of livelihoods, levels of poverty and vulnerability among the host community population, has led to tensions over labour competition, falling wages and price hikes of daily essentials. Perceived increases in crime, security concerns, and high pressures on the environment leading to deforestation and depleting water sources have further been reported as sources of tension.5 The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated containment measures put in place nationwide on 22 March 2020 severely disrupted livelihoods among the host community populations, which is likely to have exacerbated pre-existing needs. As such, sustained assistance and effective prioritisation for 2021 will be essential to be able to meet persisting levels of need.
As the response has moved beyond the initial emergency phase, there is a continued need for up-to-date information on the needs and vulnerabilities of the host community, in order to inform the design and implementation of effective inter-sectoral programming. At the same time, an understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and associated containment measures on household-level multi-sectoral needs, capacities and access to services will be essential for a full understanding of priority needs for 2021. Against this background, a Joint Multi-Sector Needs Assessment (J-MSNA) was conducted across host community populations to inform evidence-based strategic planning of humanitarian response activities by the Strategic Executive Group (SEG), the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) Secretariat, sectors, and sector partners. The J-MSNA further aimed to provide an analytical basis for the development of the 2021 Joint Response Plan (JRP). It built on previous MSNAs, in particular the 2019 J-MSNA with the goal to facilitate an understanding of the evolution of needs and service gaps across time, and was implemented through the ISCG’s MSNA Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Information Management and Assessment Working Group (IMAWG), which is led by the ISCG and comprised of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration Needs and Population Monitoring (IOM NPM), ACAPS, and REACH. Sectors were actively involved in research design, preparations for data collection, and the discussion of results and analyses.
The J-MSNA targeted all host community households residing in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas. Sectors covered included Food Security, WASH, Shelter and Non-food items (NFIs), Protection, including the Child Protection and Gender-Based Violence Sub-Sectors, Health, Education, Nutrition, and Communication with Communities (CwC). Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected. For the quantitative component, households were sampled from UNHCR survey data as well as UNHCR and IOM beneficiary databases, using a stratified probability-proportional-tosize (PPS) random sampling approach, with stratification at the upazila level and a PPS sampling approach at the union and ward levels, as well as by gender of respondent. Results are representative of the population included in the sampling frame, i.e. households living in the vicinity of UNHCR camps and/or being UNHCR/IOM project beneficiaries, registered with phone numbers and in areas with mobile reception, at the upazila level at a 95% confidence level and with a 5% margin of error. A total of 911 interviews were carried out between 28 July and 13 August 2020. Basic descriptive analysis was conducted, complemented by testing for statistically significant differences in outcomes between households of different socio-economic characteristics, and a comparison of 2019 and 2020 results, where possible. Qualitative key informant interviews (KIIs) were used to supplement quantitative data collection, contextualise and validate findings, and draw qualitative links between sectoral outcomes. A total of 23 KIIs were conducted with ward members between 20 and 30 August 2020.
Quantitative data collection was conducted remotely over the phone, while qualitative data collection was conducted both in-person and remotely. The remote data collection modality limited the type and quantity of information that could be collected and therefore the depth of analysis, and put constraints on the populations that could be included in the sampling frame. While the KIIs and a secondary data review, as well as the sampling approach, mitigated the impact of those constraints, results should be interpreted cognisant of possible gaps and biases, for instance resulting from the exclusion of sensitive topics from the household survey, phone ownership being slightly biased towards men and better educated households, as well as mobile reception being unequal across different areas. Lastly, while current levels of need have to be explained within the context of the COVID-19 outbreak and associated containment measures, it was beyond the scope of this assessment to analyse expected levels of need if the containment measures had not been put into place. The findings are therefore intended as an overview of existing levels of need and not as an evaluation of the lockdown or COVID-19 containment measures.