Since 25 August 2017, an estimated 537,000 Rohingya refugees (as of 15 October 2017) have crossed the border from Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh following conflict in the Rakhine state. The numbers are likely to increase further as people continue to cross the border and additional groups of new arrivals are identified1 . To state the obvious, most refugees are arriving in Bangladesh without any possessions and with meagre savings, if at all. Other reports indicate that refugees are spending all their remaining savings buying plastic sheeting and bamboo to erect shelters. With limited resources at their disposal, they urgently need food assistance, emergency shelter, as well as other basic items such as cooking utensils, blankets and clothing. Although none of the children are currently able to continue with their learning, education is a priority for newly arrived children.
There is already severe overcrowding at all sites where refugees are settling in, which is putting immense pressure on available services, and presents a severe risk of disease outbreak. It is reported that people are constructing new shelters on whatever land they can find, and available basic services, such as water and sanitation facilities, are struggling to meet the needs of the increased population. In such situations, many people have been forced to share toilets without segregation of use by gender. The scale of the crisis is such that there are not enough latrines, water points or bathing facilities available. Existing health facilities are reportedly overstretched. This verifies refugee needs across all sectors of humanitarian response including the need for safety, dignity and respect for their individual rights.
The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) is responding to the Rohingya crisis and has called upon the humanitarian community to help. In response, United Nations (UN) and NGOs are complementing and supporting government and local community efforts in Cox’s Bazaar by launching services and delivering much needed products to save lives, meet basic needs and protect survivors. Humanitarian actors are scaling up their activities on the ground, and are providing emergency shelter, health, water and sanitation, food, nutrition and education, as well as support to ensure the safety and dignity of new arrivals.
The Rohingya refugee population that has crossed to Cox’s Bazar is highly vulnerable, consisting mainly of women and children. High numbers of unaccompanied and separated children have been reported, while individuals are in need of specialized psychosocial and trauma support. Effective and equitable humanitarian service delivery for these traumatized and needy people cannot be achieved without understanding and responding to the different needs and priorities of women, girls, boys and men in different age groups (IASC Gender Handbook, 2006).
Gender inequalities usually exist before a humanitarian crisis, and the current Rohingya crisis can potentially exacerbate these inequalities. A humanitarian crisis itself impacts on women, girls, boys and men differently. For these reasons, integrating gender equality into humanitarian action in all sectors will ensure inclusive, effective and empowering responses. It is incumbent upon all humanitarian actors to make sure that the assistance and protection provided meets the needs of all the affected population equally, that their rights are protected and that those most affected by the crisis receive the support they need. To aid this, gender tip sheets presented below have been prepared for each ISCG sector.