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Joint Response Plan for Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis - Final Report (March-December 2018)

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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  1. This final report of the Joint Response Plan (JRP) 2018 is a summary of the key achievements and challenges faced in the implementation of the plan, and a review of progress against the key priorities identified by the MidTerm Review. A more detailed needs analysis can be found in the JRP 2018 Mid-Term Review and further elaboration of the response strategy moving forward can be found in the JRP 2019.

  2. The JRP for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis covered the period of March to December 2018, with a prioritized appeal of USD 951 million for 101 partners. Donors responded by providing significant resources, with 69% of the requested funding having been received as of end 2018. Sustained joint efforts by the Government of Bangladesh and humanitarian actors improved living conditions for Rohingya refugees and host communities, and a consolidation of the response overall. However, as of the end of 2018 the situation for refugees remains highly precarious, with some basic needs still unmet: in some areas, service quality and/or coverage are inadequate for both refugees and host communities.

  3. Rohingya refugees face serious protection challenges, rooted in limited access to rights and compounded by substantial humanitarian needs imposed upon them. Many of these challenges remain unresolved at the end of 2018. The Rohingya are still stateless refugees without clear prospects for durable solutions; conditions in Rakhine State are not conducive to safe and sustainable return. To the contrary, new reports of instability and violence in Myanmar emerged during the course of the year. More Rohingya refugees continued to arrive in Bangladesh throughout 2018, albeit at a much lower rate compared with 2017.

  4. In Cox’s Bazar, limited availability of land resulted in a dangerously high population density in the camps, without sufficient space to establish necessary shelters and services. The evolution of social dynamics within and between the camps, characterized by severe protection concerns, has been shaped to a large extent by a tragic context:
    Rohingya bear the burdens of past traumas, present restrictions and uncertain futures.

  5. More than one year since the 2017 influx, Rohingya communities became more settled, allowing for the emergence of organized interest groups as well as a market-based economy in the camps. In host communities, political activity in the lead-up to national elections on 30 December 2018 amplified long-held grievances related to the displacement and the response.

  6. Important progress was made towards key protection objectives. In June 2018, the Government of Bangladesh, with UNHCR’s support, began verifying refugee registration data and issuing biometric identification cards. The goal is to create a unified database for identity management, documentation and improved access to protection, assistance, and solutions for the entire refugee population. As of December 2018, 35,500 refugees had been issued cards based on their verified data. The process faced several challenges in 2018, including confusion surrounding the process and aims of the exercise. Information campaigns addressed such confusion, and further support will be provided in 2019 to scale up the registration exercise throughout the camps.

  7. Despite efforts to mainstream protection at all levels, and sustained coordination mechanisms dedicated to protection and gender, there remains a lack of understanding of the centrality of protection and gender and how to integrate it into all aspects of the response. A more inclusive and participatory approach to assistance and services throughout the response is required in order to adequately address the differentiated needs of all refugees enabling them to better exercise their basic rights and enjoy equal access to humanitarian assistance.

  8. During the course of 2018, there were 16,252 new arrivals from Myanmar. Tens of thousands of refugees were relocated within the established camps to facilitate camp development, mitigate disaster-related risks and improve safety. Until late 2017, some 22,000 refugees were staying in and around the border areas of Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban Districts. In early 2018, due to security concerns in the border region, the Government facilitated the relocation of some 16,000 of these people from the Bandarban District, to the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion Site. Relocations within the expansion site continued throughout the year as the western side of the camp was developed and site improvements were made across the camps — in total 48,286 refugees were relocated to allow for infrastructure such as roads, as well as to mitigate landslide and flood risks heightened by the monsoons.

  9. During 2018, the humanitarian community undertook a campaign to reduce disaster-related risks and increase emergency response capacity. Thanks to this campaign, as well as the relatively mild cyclone and monsoon seasons, 2018 saw no major loss of lives in the camps. Important lessons learned from the cyclone and monsoon seasons were collated and presented to form a basis for preparedness plans for 2019. A diphtheria outbreak in early 2018 was brought under control in part due to the rapidly expanded availability of critical isolation wards. An increase in cases of Acute Watery Diarrhea was also addressed through an inter-sector response.

  10. Coordination of the response continued to adapt to better meet operational needs. The sector-based structure was maintained through 2018, with increased focus on camp-level coordination. Camp boundaries were defined to delineate 34 camps during the course of the year. Government leadership in camp management increased through new Camp-in-Charge officials (CiCs), vested with more decision-making powers and working under the authority of the RRRC. A network of camp sector focal points from humanitarian agencies were also established to coordinate technical sector responses in the camps. Balancing camp-level coordination with the overall harmonization of the response remains a challenge and key coordination priority. The Bangladesh Rohingya Response NGO Platform was established in July 2018 as an independent entity, replacing the ISCG Secretariat’s interim NGO Liaison function with a more representative voice in coordination fora.1 A high-level inter-agency coordination review was conducted in October 2018 to provide recommendations for the further adaptation of the coordination structure to ensure it is fit for purpose: its recommendations were still pending at the end of the year.

  11. The range of actors and funding streams in the response diversified during 2018, including outside the JRP framework through confirmation of World Bank and Asian Development Bank grants. The Government of Bangladesh approved a USD 480 million grant over three years under the World Bank’s IDA18 Refugee Window, in addition to the Asian Development Bank’s initial approved USD 100 million grant (the first of an envisaged total package of USD 200 million). These funds are critical contributions for the coming years but must be supplemented in order to meet the significant needs across all sectors. Both the ADB and the World Bank continue to support Cox’s Bazar District development with other grants, some of them part of wider national development programmes.

  12. Following the rapid scale-up of the response by UN Agencies, INGOs, and NNGOs during the first six months of the crisis, many humanitarian actors reached the limits of their capacity and focused on consolidating their operations. Throughout 2018, the numbers of agencies reporting via the 4Ws increased 51% from 104 in March to 157 in December. This expansion strained human resource availability especially in some specialized sectors such as Health and Education. High rates of staff turnover during the initial emergency response, gave way to a notable improvement in personnel consistency. However, staff turnover continues to present some challenges in the operation.

  13. Bureaucratic constraints continued to challenge access to requisite permissions and visas for INGOs, though the Government of Bangladesh introduced several mitigating measures. Such measures included establishing the RRRC Humanitarian Pass to facilitate unhindered access to camps for international staff awaiting regularization of their visa status; extending the duration of FD7 permissions from three to six months; and linking of international staff requirements to FD7s to enable regularization of visas. Nonetheless, delays in the FD7 approval process continued to hinder some critical activities, notably in education and protection.
    Confusion surrounding permission and clearance requirements at different levels (i.e. District, Upazila, and Camp) complicated the response with additional administrative demands that had operational impacts in some cases.
    Since June 2018, there has been a notable increase in permissions-related issues reported at the Camp level.