Rohingya Crisis: Challenges in Cox’s Bazar Continue

Four years ago this week, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people fled persecution in Myanmar for safety in Bangladesh. Action Against Hunger was there to help in 2017, and we stand with this vulnerable population, which continues to face immense challenges.

Currently, about 1.2 million Rohingya live in refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh – the largest group of refugee camps in the world. Much of Bangladesh’s dense population already lives in poverty, and the country lacks the means to adequately accommodate the displaced Rohingya population, resulting in severe resource shortages. 

Our emergency response

In response to this ongoing crisis, Action Against Hunger continues to provide emergency assistance to help the Rohingya people in Bangladesh. Our teams have been on the ground in Cox’s Bazar since 2007, and in 2017, we dramatically scaled up our work to help the influx of newly arrived Rohingya.

In the first four months of the crisis in 2017, our programs served 603,243 refugees. This work included:

  • Distribution of more than 21,000 emergency shelter kits, 22,000 winter blankets and more than 10,000 mosquito nets.
  • Nearly three million hot meals served in our community kitchens. 
  • Screening of 263,045 children under the age of five, and treatment of 8,251 cases of severe acute malnutrition.
  • Installation of 3,875 latrines, 66 wells, and 101 emergency drinking water points in the camps.
  • Distribution of more than 1.5 million gallons of clean drinking water.
  • Provision of psychosocial support services to 250,566 new arrivals to help them cope with the trauma and stress of their experience.

Challenging living conditions

A Rohingya woman looks out over the camps in Cox's Bazar.

Photo: Guillaume Binet
for Action Against Hunger,

The Rohingya people fled Myanmar with just what they could carry, and more arrived in Bangladesh without adequate clothing or food. The living conditions inside the camps are catastrophic: they are overcrowded, poorly lit, and lacking adequate sanitation. Residents of the camps, particularly women and children, are vulnerable to violence, exploitation, and human trafficking.

Furthermore, the camps are under constant threat of flooding, landslides, fires, and other disasters. Residents live in makeshift shelters made of bamboo and tarpaulins, or with no shelter at all – according to the United Nations, 5,000 Rohingya in the Cox’s Bazar camps have no roof over their heads. Last month, heavy rains fell, and the resulting flooding and landslides destroyed many shelters. Mosques and cemeteries were also flooded.

In March 2021, devastating fires tore through several of the camps, burning thousands of shelters and further exacerbating the crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has put further strain on this vulnerable population, particularly by exacerbating food insecurity.

We must not give up

A child is measured for malnutrition at one of Action Against Hunger's nutrition centers in Cox's Bazar.

Photo: Kathleen Prior
for Action Against Hunger,

Despite the magnitude of the crisis, we must not give up.

In response to COVID-19, our teams have held awareness sessions for 203,185 people since the start of the pandemic. We also implemented hygiene promotion activities and infection prevention and control measures. In July 2020, we coordinated the opening of a new COVID-19 isolation and treatment center, an extension of Sadar Hospital in Cox's Bazar. We continue to implement health and nutrition programs to support local Bangladeshi residents, in addition to refugees.  

We’re also working to improve food security and access to clean water and mental health services. Every two weeks, we distribute food parcels containing rice, legumes, and cooking oil in the camps. We also launched an initiative that provides meals to 38,458 people in Cox’s Bazar, serving refugees as well as the local population. 

Action Against Hunger is leading a global movement to end hunger in our lifetimes. It innovates solutions, advocates for change, and reaches 26 million people every year with proven hunger prevention and treatment programs. As a nonprofit that works across 50 countries, its 8,300 dedicated staff members partner with communities to address the root causes of hunger, including climate change, conflict, inequity, and emergencies. It strives to create a world free from hunger, for everyone, for good.