People in Need helps people who survived attacks in Rakhine State, and those who escaped to Bangladesh

Published: Mar 22, 2018 Reading time: 5 minutes
Uprchlický tábor v Bangladéši
© Photo: Marek Štys

Rangún, Myanmar and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – 5/4/2018

Violence that erupted in the southwest of Myanmar last August quickly escalated into a humanitarian crisis taking thousands of lives. Over 650,000 people had to flee their homes and cross the border into Bangladesh. Though the crisis in Rakhine State continues, it is very difficult to deliver humanitarian aid to the affected area. Since September 2017 People in Need (PiN) and local partners have been distributing food and supplies for basic needs to the most vulnerable people in the northern part of Rakhine State. PiN is also helping to rebuild schools and support internally displaced persons in Myanmar as well as refugees who have fled to Bangladesh. PiN has helped more than 10,000 people to date.

During the outbreak of violence in Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee, losing their houses, all their possessions, and any chance of returning home in the near future. Many families that remained in the southwest of the country are trapped in their villages with no access to markets, health care, or humanitarian aid. Over 650,000 members of the persecuted Rohingya ethnic group and other minority groups had to flee, fearing for their safety. “People in Need is one of the few humanitarian organisations that is working here. Thanks to cooperation with local partners, since September, we have helped 1625 families - that is more than 8000 people in need - both in the north of Rakhine State as well as those on the run. The situation is unfortunately not getting any better and the refugee crisis remains, so we still need your help,” says Petr Drbohlav, head of PiN’s country programme in Myanmar.

The enormous and rapid influx of refugees in Bangladesh has created a humanitarian crisis in that country. Hundreds of thousands of people in refugee camps lack even the most basic of needs. “The situation in Bangladesh is critical. Refugee camps are overcrowded and refugees on the run have nowhere else to go; there is no safe way back. Hundreds of thousands of people, often elderly and mothers with children, are completely dependent of help from outside,” says Věra Exnerová, PiN Asia regional director.

Food and blankets for people who have lost all

PiN has been working in Myanmar since 2012. After the escalation of conflict in Rakhine State, PiN started delivering humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable people – especially women, children and people who are ill. People from 15 affected villages in the north of Rakhine State have received food and basic hygiene needs. Local people were completely dependent on humanitarian aid. The most vulnerable families were given food to help them survive the worst phase. We gave them rice, oil, chickpeas, milk, sugar, and onions. During the winter months we also distributed warm blankets,” explains Petr Drbohlav.

During the unrest, whole villages were destroyed and burned down. Most schools in the north of Rakhine Sate were ruined. Local children, struggling to process their traumatic experiences, have no access to education. It is impossible for classes to take place in the destroyed buildings, and there are no teachers, let alone school supplies. PiN will provide more than 850 children from two villages with school supplies – bags, notebooks and pens. Next, we will reconstruct the destroyed buildings and furnish them with blackboards, tables and chairs to make teaching possible again.  

Supporting refugees in Bangladesh

People in Need also provides assistance to refugees who have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. PiN helps people who were forced to leave their homes with almost nothing, sometimes literally the clothes on their backs. Experts predict the unhygienic conditions in the overcrowded refugee camps will lead to outbreaks of cholera, dysentery and other diseases. The most vulnerable groups, especially women and young girls, face greater danger of domestic and sexual violence, child marriages, forced prostitution and human trafficking.

Teams of staff from PiN and a local partner organisation are helping the refugees identify and advocate for their needs, especially the most vulnerable women and girls, so they can take charge of their own health and safety and maintain their dignity in the trying situation. PiN and partner organisations are working with groups of women, girls, men, and boys on how to prevent and respond to the many risks in the camps and how to safeguard their families and communities. With financial support from PiN, the groups are able to choose and design practical improvements to conditions in the camps, such as adding locks or lights on toilets, or securing private spaces for women to bathe. The huge influx of refugees is also straining resources for the local community, which was already living in impoverished conditions. PiN plans to support these communities as well. 

The conditions in the refugee camps are desperate. The shelters are pretty much on top of each other; sanitation and garbage management are nearly non-existent. The whole area is experiencing massive deforestation which is, of course, also affecting the local villages,” describes Marek Štys, director of PiN humanitarian programmes, who returned from Bangladesh a week ago. “Everything is getting even more complicated with the upcoming monsoon – an estimate of 50-60% of the constructions won´t survive the rain and wind. The access roads to the camps will be flooded or will turn into rivers of mud. Another problem is that because of the lack of space in the camps, many shelters were built on steep slopes and may be wiped out by mudslides. A significant part of the camps will be inaccessible. If on top of that a cyclone hits the area, we could be facing a huge humanitarian disaster,” he adds. Preparation for the rainy season is currently one of the main priorities, especially strengthening structures of the houses and widespread public works, that will construct pathways and bridges and clear the drainage system.

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People in Need’s support to survivors of violence in Myanmar and Bangladesh is possible thanks to the generous help of the Club of Friends of People in Need. People in Need thanks them all for their support.

For further information please contact:

Marek Štys, director of humanitarian programmes of People in Need, +420 777 053 522

Autor: Monika Ticháčková

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