Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh has been a place of refuge for Rohingyas fleeing violence in Myanmar on numerous occasions since 1978. August 2017 saw the beginning of the largest and most rapid influx of Rohingya refugees, over 730,000 Rohingya, including 400,000 children, fled across the border in response to a genocide. They joined an estimated 300,000 Rohingya who had already fled violence in previous years, creating the world’s largest refugee camps (UNICEF 30 Sep 2019). As of October 2019, there are 914,998 refugees living in 34 sites in Ukhiya and Teknaf sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar (UNHCR 10/2019). Of those, 55 to 60% are children, 4% of households are headed by a child, and there is an estimated 11% of people with disabilities (ISCG 10/2019).
Currently, the needs most reported by the Rohingya are cash, food assistance, WASH and energy (fuel), and the main host community needs are access to jobs, water, roads and infrastructure, and health services (GTS, June 2019). Though an estimated 80% of refugees have reported that the services provided in the camps have been enhanced and that their day to day life have improved, living conditions remain very challenging and the needs of children, in both the refugee camps and the host communities are high (JRP, June 2019). Without a sustainable political solution the crisis is unlikely to be resolved in the near future and the Rohingya will continue to be largely aid dependent and these needs will continue unless actively addressed.
The refugee crisis has had a huge impact on the Bangladeshi population living in and around Cox’s Bazar, particularly the sub-districts (upazilas) Teknaf and Ukhiya where the camps are located. Around 45 per cent of the local population of Teknaf and Ukhiya who are impacted by this crisis are children between the ages of 0-14 years (BBS, 2015). The refugees now constitute more than a third of the local population, and the influx has caused environmental degradation, increased prices, decreased local wages, and demands on the existing infrastructure and public services that cannot cope with the increased population (UNDP 2018, IOM 2018). This has led to increased and persistent tension between the refugees and the host community.