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World Refugee Day: “We mustn’t forget the Rohingya people!”

Emergency Health Rehabilitation Rights
Bangladesh

Today, Cox’s Bazar is home to a million Rohingya refugees; 12% of these now stateless people are people with disabilities.

Members of HI’s mobile teams meet a Rohingya family during their daily rounds in Kutupalong camp, Ukhia, Cox's Bazar

Members of HI’s mobile teams meet a Rohingya family during their daily rounds in Kutupalong camp, Ukhia, Cox's Bazar | © Shumon Ahmed/HI

In August 2017, seven hundred thousand Rohingya men, women and children fled an upsurge in violence and persecution in Myanmar to seek refuge in the Cox's Bazar district of neighbouring Bangladesh – a mass exodus that transpired in just a few weeks. Seven years later, Cox's Bazar is home to almost a million refugees.

"On these overcrowded hills, the terrain is rough and accessibility is a real problem. In the camps, simple daily tasks become huge challenges", says Farhana Akhter, HI Bangladesh project manager.

Living conditions are particularly difficult for people with disabilities, who make up 12% of the refugee population.

"Water, food, medical care... Struggling to access basic services adds to their day-to-day difficulties", continues Farhana Akhter, HI Bangladesh project manager.

Since 2017, HI has been working alongside other humanitarian actors and in collaboration with the local authorities to support the most vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities. Last year alone, HI’s teams in Bangladesh provided assistance to almost 32,000 people with disabilities.

110 rehabilitation professionals in the camps

Some 110 professionals are providing rehabilitation services in the camps. The services they deliver play a crucial role in improving functional capacity, preventing complications and increasing autonomy.  Indeed, these services are essential for amputees, injured people and people with disabilities suffering from a variety of conditions, including malnutrition, respiratory problems, brain damage and other pathologies.  

One of the beneficiaries of these services include 6-year-old Jannat Ara. Her mother, Fatema, told HI that, after several days spent travelling in extremely dangerous conditions, she gave birth to Jannat in a shelter shortly after arriving in Cox's Bazar in 2017. The delivery was particularly difficult.

"My daughter was born with cerebral palsy. Before meeting the HI rehabilitation teams, Jannat Ara couldn’t sit up or stand. She spent her days in room and depended on us for everything", explains Fatema.

Through muscle strengthening, coordination, balance exercises, assistive devices ... HI’s teams have trained Jannat's parents to help the little girl do her exercises at home every day to increase her autonomy. They have also received psychological support.

"With the help of breathing exercises and exchanges with the professionals, we are now less anxious, particularly about the difficulties our daughter is experiencing. We feel that we are more able to cope with the most difficult aspects of our daily lives", they tell us.

“We mustn’t forget the Rohingya!”

The psychological support provided by our teams is essential to these communities, profoundly destabilised by their extremely precarious living conditions, growing insecurity and bleak outlook.

"We must not forget these people. The Rohingya crisis must not be forgotten... They need the help of the entire international community", concludes Farhana Akhter, HI Bangladesh project manager.

Date published: 27/06/24

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