Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
In a major support for Cox’s Bazar district, the Unicef and the European Union have announced a €18 million project to help improve resilience among the Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi host communities.
Over 288,000 children and families are expected to benefit as part of a three-year EU-supported UNICEF programme on nutrition - water, sanitation and hygiene; education; and child protection.
“The support from the European Union allows us to address the issue of resilience in a holistic manner, integrating and harmonizing services for the delivery of better results for Rohingya and Bangladeshi children, adolescents and families,” Tomoo Hozumi, new UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh, said.
“We have substantially scaled up our humanitarian response over the past year and a half thanks to strong support from partners like the European Union.
“At the same time, the situation remains critical with 1.2 million people requiring humanitarian assistance in one of Bangladesh’s poorest and most vulnerable districts,” he said.
Cox’s Bazar is home to 2.3 million people. According to Unicef, around 33 percent live below the poverty line.
Education indicators are among the lowest in the country with the primary school completion rate standing at 55 percent. Over half of girls marry before the age of 18 years and close to 50,000 children are engaged in child labour.
The district records very high rates of malnutrition. One in two children suffer from stunting due to poor maternal nutrition and the lack of adequate infant feeding and care practices.
Further, Cox’s Bazar is one of the most vulnerable districts to natural disasters in the country including cyclones, flooding and landslides caused by monsoon rains, and the impact of climate change.
“We need to act decisively to secure a better future for all those affected by the refugee crisis. With this strategic support, we aim to ensure continuity between humanitarian and development actions for Rohingya and Bangladeshi communities,” highlighted Rensje Teerink, the EU Ambassador to Bangladesh.
“We shall tackle the underlying issues to improve access to water, education, child protection and food and nutrition security in Cox’s Bazar. Our aim is to strengthen local development efforts and reduce the need for humanitarian assistance in the future,” she said.
To date, the European Union has contributed €24.8 million to UNICEF to support the Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh.
The project is targeted half for the host communities and half for the Rohingyas living in camps 7 and 15 which lag behind of those services.
More than 700,000 Rohingya people, mostly Muslim, have taken refuge in Bangladesh since August 2017 after the Myanmar army initiated a crackdown in the Rakhine state. Over 400,000 Rohingyas have been living in Bangladesh during the past few decades.
Bangladesh initiated the process of repatriating the Rohingyas in November 2018 after the Myanmar government gave in to international pressure and signed a deal to take them back.
The initiative, however, stalled after the Rohingyas refused to go back over fears about an adverse situation back in Myanmar. The international community has been calling for “voluntary, safe and dignified” return of Roihngyas to their homeland.
Asked whether the three-year project means that the EU already know that there is no solution to the crisis, the EU Ambassador said if Rohingyas disappear from Cox’s Bazar, still the district will need support.
“Cox’s Bazar remains the vulnerable and poor district in Bangladesh and the plan is to remain engaged so that no one left behind in that district,” Teerink said.