They burned their huts, threw children into the flames, raped women and executed men in front of their families. Five years ago in August, the brutal military offensive against the Rohingya began in Rakhine, in western Myanmar. The genocide of the Muslim minority and their displacement is one of the most atrocious crimes in recent history. The persecution of the Rohingya is not a new problem: they are considered illegal immigrants of Bangladesh and are not considered a minority. Since Myanmar’s independence in 1948, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have left the country as a result of torture and oppression. Some formed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) group in 2016, which repeatedly carried out attacks on Myanmar state authorities. After an attack in 2017 on police stations with fatalities, the violence escalated and triggered the great wave of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh: 58,600 people fled in the first week of the military offensive, according to UNHCR.
Undignified life in the camp
Since then, more and more of the remaining people have sought shelter in south-eastern Bangladesh – until Kutupalong became what it is today: the largest refugee camp in the world. Meanwhile, more than 900,000 Rohingya live there, where they organize their survival around the clock. Because the conditions are appalling. People live in cramped quarters, in huts made of plastic sheets and bamboo, one next to the other. There is no privacy. Fires break out in the camps again and again and floods put everything under water. They lack food, clean water, sanitation, and medical care. They have hardly any access to education, most children are not taught. Their freedom of movement is restricted, Bangladesh’s government has called on the population not to take in Rohingya; even bus and truck drivers are not supposed to transport Rohingya. The more time passes, and the more people flee to Cox’s Bazar, the worse the conditions become. As a result, social problems increase: violence against women, human trafficking and tensions between refugees and the local population.
What Solidar Suisse does
Solidar Suisse continues to address the plight of the Rohingya camps and is currently working with partner organizations on two projects. The protection project, implemented by our partner YPSA, is helping to build a safer living environment in Cox’s Bazar. The project aims to contribute to the socio-economic recovery of the COVID-19 affected population by helping them replace lost assets, rebuild their businesses, and meet their basic needs through a combination of cash transfers. In a second project, we are contributing to fire safety in Cox’s Bazar camps with our partner organization GUK ((link)). There is a high fire risk in all 34 camps in Cox’s Bazar, as the shelters are made of building materials such as bamboo, plastic and tarpaulins, gas cylinders are used for cooking and outdoor cooking is historical. As recently as January 2022, two devastating fires raged in the camp, destroying hundreds of shelters. The project is reaching 200 households affected by fires by providing vital assistance, capacity building for the Rohingya population and local fire brigades, volunteers, and emergency responders, most of whom work on an emergency basis.
What you can do
For the people, five years after fleeing Myanmar’s military, the cruel conditions in Kutupalong have become sadly commonplace. Show your solidarity with the Rohingya. Your support is urgently needed.