PART I: CRISIS AND NEEDS OVERVIEW
OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
Since 25 August 2017, targeted violence against Rohingya communities in Rakhine State, Myanmar, has forced 671,000 people - mostly women and children - to flee their homes. This exodus has become one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.
The Government of Bangladesh has kept its borders open to Rohingya refugees and leads the humanitarian response. The people of Bangladesh continue to show tremendous generosity and hospitality in the face of a massive influx. In keeping with its policies, the Government of Bangladesh refers to the Rohingya as “Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals”, in the present context. The UN system refers to this population as refugees, in line with the applicable international framework for protection and solutions, and the resulting accountabilities for the country of origin and asylum as well as the international community as a whole. In support of these efforts, the humanitarian community has rapidly scaled up its operations as well. Over a two-month period, the refugee population in Cox’s Bazar more than quadrupled. The influx has continued steadily in subsequent months, with people arriving by foot and by boat. Many refugees arrive exhausted and famished, often after walking for days and experiencing, gender-based violence, and other human rights violations. Many have lost family members, in their villages or along the way, and are deeply traumatized. The Rohingya have endured attacks on their cultural identity and legal nationality for decades and have been denied access to basic human rights such as education, health care or food. Forced into statelessness, even their freedom of movement within their country of origin has been severely restricted.
The Government of Bangladesh estimates that there were 303,070 Rohingya in Bangladesh before 25 August 2017 (as per the census results of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, which was conducted in 6 districts). Following the initiation of Needs and Population Monitoring (NPM) in 2017, approximately 213,000 Rohingya have been identified, mostly living in Cox’s Bazar, through a different methodology3. The refugees are now concentrated within congested sites in Ukhia and Teknaf Upazilas of Cox’s Bazar District, putting an immense strain on the half a million Bangladeshis who live there.
Infrastructure, health and water services, which have been extended to the refugees by the District Government as a critical part of the humanitarian response, are under massive pressure. The environment, especially fragile forest and land resources, are being degraded. Pre-existing settlements and camps have expanded with the new influx, while new spontaneous settlements have also formed. Significant numbers of new arrivals have also been absorbed into the local host community, where a total of over 56,000 Rohingya refugees are currently estimated to reside.
As of late February 2018, there were ten camps and settlements, ranging in size from 9,900 refugees in Shamlapur, to more than 602,400 refugees in the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion Site. To the south of the Expansion Site, Jamtoli, akimpara and Potibonia are inseparable, housing 101,400 refugees between them. Around Nayapara Refugee Camp and Leda in Teknaf, settlements have joined to form a third sprawling concentration of more than 88,300 refugees, which continues to expand and spread into surrounding villages.
Movements within Cox’s Bazar remain fluid, with arrivals continuing daily in February 2018. The 4,800 acres of undeveloped forest land, allocated for a new camp by the Government of Bangladesh in September 2017, is now very densely populated. More than 602,400 refugees live there – making it the largest refugee camp in the world, which is increasingly untenable. Refugees arrived at the new proposed site before infrastructure and services could be established. Severe congestion remains the critical challenge to effective service provision. Movement into the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion Site continues, including through relocations of vulnerable refugees from the border areas in Bandarban District, which began in January 2018.
In November 2017, the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an arrangement on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees / forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals. The arrangement affirms that return should be voluntary, safe and dignified. The operationalization of this arrangement is currently under discussion between the two Governments.
At present, the UN has limited access to the three northern townships of Rakhine state in Myanmar. The UN continues to engage the Government of Myanmar to seek unfettered access to Rakhine to ensure that development and humanitarian assistance reaches all people in need. There are ongoing discussions about the UN’s, and in particular UNHCR’s, engagement with the process of repatriation and reintegration; should the conditions for return improve demonstrably, based on unfettered access and monitoring reports by UNHCR and other partners. The international community has committed to supporting the safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees from camps in Bangladesh.
This support may include actions such as sharing information with the Rohingya on conditions in Myanmar so that they can make an informed decision. The UN Country Teams in Bangladesh and Myanmar stand ready to support the implementation of the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission.
Regardless, the urgent humanitarian needs of the Rohingya refugees and their host communities in Cox’s Bazar must be addressed. To do so in a coordinated manner, under the leadership of the Government of Bangladesh, the humanitarian community has engaged in multi-sectoral needs assessments, consultations and strategic planning, which has culminated in this Joint Response Plan. The process has entailed ongoing bilateral consultations at the District level with the Deputy Commissioner (DC), the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC), led by the Senior Coordinator for the Rohingya Refugee Response and the ISCG Secretariat, with Sectors engaging relevant line Departments and Ministries (including the Department of Public Health Engineering, the Civil Surgeon’s Office, and the Ministry of Women’s and Children’s Affairs). A District consultation on 29 January 2018, co-chaired by DC, RRRC and the Senior Coordinator, was attended by the Armed Forces Division and all relevant line Departments, and has informed revisions to the plan. At national level, the Strategic Executive Group has led engagement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its National Task Force, as well as the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief and relevant line Ministries on the technical Sector issues they lead, including the nature and design of interventions, and sector standards.
Timely funding is required to meet life-saving and humanitarian needs, as well as the acute needs of host communities, in support of the Government of Bangladesh. The combined support of donors to date has been generous. Humanitarian needs nevertheless continue to outpace funding. The urgency of the current situation - including the risk of large scale casualties and the likelihood of protracted and multi-dimensional threats to regional development - demands immediate support for the District. Robust resource mobilization efforts will be stepped up to assist people in need, as well as to support the authorities in their efforts to cope with this crisis.