The Violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, which began on 25 August 2017, has driven an estimated 646,000 people to seek sanctuary in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – the fastest growing forced displacement crisis in the world. The speed and scale of the influx has resulted in a critical humanitarian emergency. Basic services that were available prior to the influx are under severe strain due to the massive increase in people in the area. In some of the sites that have spontaneously emerged, there is no access to water and sanitation facilities, raising the risks of an outbreak of disease. The Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar is highly vulnerable for WASH, having fled conflict and experienced severe trauma, and now living in extremely difficult conditions. The influx has also increased the WASH vulnerability of the pre-existing Rohingya population as well as the surrounding host community.
The new arrivals have joined some 212,500 Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar that had fled in earlier waves of displacement. The Rohingyas are concentrated in two Upazilas of Cox’s Bazar District; Ukhia and Teknaf putting an immense strain on the almost half a million Bangladeshis who live there, and the District government in particular. Infrastructure, health and water services, and the environment, especially fragile forest and land resources, are under massive pressure. 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 78,000 Rohingya are estimated to reside. As of November 2017, there were 10 camps and settlements, ranging in size from 12,700 people in Chakmarkul, to more than 584,900 people in the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion Site. Along the border regions of Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar, an estimated 16,200 people are now settled in groups in or near no man’s land, presenting additional challenges with legal and security dimensions.
The initial Sector strategy focused on the emergency provision of water, emergency latrines and the distribution of hygiene materials, supported by promotion activities. As we move into the next phase of the emergency the strategy is changing to reflect the more settled position of the Rohingyas. Focus will change to the rationalization and improved construction of water points the construction of semi-permanent toilets, operation and maintenance of these facilities including sludge treatment, a greater emphasis on hygiene and community engagement, and the initiation of solid waste disposal. This approach means that, as and where appropriate, facilities constructed should be more durable and reduce the need for further costly operation, maintenance and reinvestment. The overall approach will start to begin to put the refugees at the center of the programme rather than the top down approaches used to date.
This strategy is intended to assist partners to implement in an efficient and effective way the WASH component of the Joint Response Plan being issued by the ISCG on 1 March 2018. It is in many cases the minimum expected of partners and can always be exceeded by partners. It is also intended to be a dynamic document and will be updated from time to time throughout the year as the situation on the ground changes or experience dictates.