Responding to the Rohingya Crisis

Child and teacher play in a child-friendly space in a Rohingya refugee camp ©CBM/ Hayduk

Rojina, 10, plays together with teacher Murtaja Hanif, at the Centre for Disability in Development (CDD)/ CBM's inclusive child friendly space (CFS) at the Rohingya refugee camps in Balukhali, Bangladesh on July 28, 2018. Deeply traumatized, many children initially had difficulty playing together or even standing in line. ©CBM/ Hayduk

CBM and the CDD respond to the Rohingya refugee crisis, providing healthcare, mental health, psychosocial and rehabilitation support, especially for marginalized persons and those with disabilities.

Background information

The humanitarian crisis caused by escalating violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State caused suffering on a catastrophic scale. Rohingya refugees have fled across the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017 and by June 2018 makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar were hosting some 898,000 displaced people. Refugees arriving in Bangladesh—mostly women and children—were traumatized, and some have arrived with injuries caused by gunshots, shrapnel, fire and landmines.

Meet Yasin

Yasin, 10, couldn't hear the shots, but he could see that all four of his grandparents were dead. Yasin fled to Bangladesh in June 2017 with his family and has been living there since with other ethnic minority Rohingya Muslim refugees in camps. He is hearing and speech impaired, and attends the Centre for Disability in Development (CDD) / CBM's inclusive child-friendly space. Since attending the CDD, Yasin's parents have noted improvement in his behaviour.

Disability inclusive response

CBM’s response, with local partner Centre for Disability in Development (CDD) commenced in December 2017. The first phase provided essential healthcare, mental health and psychosocial support, rehabilitation, blankets and medicines to displaced persons and local community. An inclusive Child Friendly Space (CFS) was developed. By the end of the first phase, approximately 8,500 people had been reached. This response and foundational work were scaled up and further developed in Phase 2, with rehabilitation services in the camp and host communities (physiotherapy, occupational, psychosocial counselling), provision of assistive devices and referrals to other organisations providing specific services. These activities in the camp are complemented by teams providing home-based rehabilitation visits, ensuring that people who would face extra challenges to reach the camp still have access to services on an equal basis with others. 

Video on Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh

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Home-Based Rehabilitation (HBR) officer Battia Nahar Ahsan describes a typical day with its challenges and successes in makeshift Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

Home-based Rehabilitation (HBR)
For Inclusive Humanitarian Actions for Rohingya Community
An initiative of CBM and CDD

>>BATIA: Assalamualaikum, I am Batia Nahar Ahsan, working as a Rehabilitation Officer in a Home-Based Rehabilitation (HBR) team of CDD-CBM.

Every morning we come to the camp by an office-rented bus. Our office schedule is 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. We provide our attendance through a digital system. Then we collect allocated important items like oral saline, hand gloves, mask, papers, etc., and move towards the field. 

Our team is divided according to selected areas. An occupational therapist, therapy assistant and a volunteer are in one team. I (physiotherapist) am with another team including a therapy assistant and a volunteer. 

Our main task is to provide rehabilitation services to the persons with disabilities at the home level. Our HBR team consists of a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, therapy assistant and a volunteer. 
Services of HBR starts with finding clients through home to home visits. Then we finish assessment. Later, we provide therapeutic exercises. 

Besides in our camp, we organize monthly or needs-based prosthesis/orthosis fitting camp, where patients who have an impairment, amputation or device need are taken to the camp, and through measurement and casting, they receive assistive devices through the support of the HBR team.

We also provide ‘Gait Training’ to those who have received artificial limbs. They are also in our follow-up services who receive assistive devices or artificial limbs.

Our occupational therapist is also engaged in home modification to improve their daily living.

The HBR team also faces challenges. 

The first one is environment or weather like heavy rain, muddy pathways and hot and humid conditions. 

The second challenge is home relocation. Sometimes clients that registered during the second time visit are missing; finding them again is a challenge.

Third challenge we face is family members actually want to hide persons with disabilities. They don’t want to introduce (them). 

Another challenge is Rohingya people are highly interested in food and non-food items related services. 

Besides, distance is a challenge. Walking is the only way to reach homes of the clients. The camp covers a very large area. We have to go to a patient’s home by walking.

We not only face challenges; we have some successes also.

The first one is Rohingya people never received rehabilitation services in Myanmar. Here they have access to these services. They know very well about these services. At first, they don’t have any positive view on it; we had to work very hard to make them positive.

The HBR team not only provides services, we also create awareness. The HBR is well-recognized among the other organizations. Patients are not only satisfied in our services, but also other organizations refer their clients to us by observing our activities and services. It’s a huge success to us.

Rohingya women usually want to stay inside their homes. Their outdoor movement is very limited; as a result, they do not access medical and other services. For this, many women can’t receive services from the main camp. 

Here, the HBR team is playing a big role. They (Rohingya women) can more easily express to female staff rather than male staff. For this, female therapists have a significant role in the HBR team.

We are visiting the homes of those who are unable to move outside. They benefit greatly from this. 

The HBR team is mainly working for people who can’t reach the main camp. The reasons they can’t move are they have a disability; uneven pathways; houses are in the hills; houses are very far. We are working for them.

The main slogan of HBR is “Reaching the unreached.” In the houses where there are persons with disabilities, we bring the services to their doorstep. 

Developed under “Inclusive Humanitarian Actions for Rohingya and Host Community in Cox’s Bazar District, Bangladesh” Project.
This document is developed by CDD.
Featuring CDD and CBM.

We are promoting the mainstreaming of disability by working with Oxfam and Care, facilitating inclusion in provision of food; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); protection and gender-based violence,  and working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in site management, WASH, health, protection, while ensuring that data is disaggregated by disability.

We are also working with UNICEF and its partners on inclusive education and child protection, and providing these organisations, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), with training on disability inclusion. This training has been linked with field testing of the Humanitarian Hands on Tool (HHoT).

Finally, we are collaborating with like-minded organisations on the development of a disability task force to promote coordinated and consistent disability inclusion at cluster level, carry out an assessment on the topic and roll out the Humanitarian Inclusion Standards (HIS). 

As of February 2019:

  • We have reached 21,631 people (53% female and the percentage of persons with disabilities varied between 11-13  %) through all different interventions in the Rohingya camp and the host community
  • 76% of these people are from the Rohingya community, 24% from host community
  • 160 people from different mainstream organisations have been trained on disability and inclusive humanitarian action
  • 17,594 people have received health services (24,885 sessions)
  • 7,203 people have received therapeutic (physiotherapy or occupational therapy) services (19,080 sessions)
  • 4,520 people have received an eye assessment
  • 2,467 people have received hearing assessment
  • 1,849 assistive devices have been distributed
  • 2,939 people have received psychosocial support (PSS), with 3,955 sessions having been conducted

Looking to the future, plans for Phase 3 are in development.

Video on CBM marking the 2018 International Day of Persons with Disabilities

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December 3, 2018—See how IOM, CDD and CBM observed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Day observation in Rohingya Camp, Cox’s Bazaar 

3 December 2018

>>SK GOLAM: I am SK Golam Mohiuddin, working with the Rohingya Response Project. 

Here we provide different types of services for the persons with disabilities, including Child Friendly Space.

Today we are observing International Day of Persons with Disabilities. We organized games and drawing events for children, where children with and without disabilities are participating together.

They came here (from Myanmar) in such condition that they were traumatized. We are trying to bring them a normal life through many activities.

We believe that today’s activities will be able to contribute in the process to build an inclusive society concept among the children.

>>OSMAN: Assalamualaikum. My name is Osman. 

I go to school every day and enjoy it. I feel good to play with children with disabilities. I am also enjoying today’s art competition.

>>MOHAMMAD: My name is Mohammad Yoasin. I am from Camp M-7. I am a person with physical impairment. 

IOM, CDD and CBM organized a program for the International day of Persons with Disabilities where children with and without disabilities participated in different games and art competition. 

We are very happy to participate as volunteers. As far as I know, no other organizations arranged such program in this camp.

>>ALEXANDRA: Hi, my name is Alexandra, working as a Child Protection Officer with IOM in Cox’s Bazaar. 

I am here today with CBM and CDD to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. 

This also celebrates our recent partnership with CDD and CBM. So this discussion started actually in the beginning of 2018 when IOM started coming across a lot of children and adults with disabilities, and we started to realize that there is a need to also have interventions targeting persons with disabilities, as these people usually have difficulty accessing services and so on.

As a result, we knew about the work that CBM and CDD were doing in the camp in the context in the Rohingya refugee crisis. And so we approached them in order to have focused interventions, especially ‘home-based’ interventions and working with persons with disabilities including children. 

So, this partnership started fairly recently, but there is already a lot of progress that has been done. We are already seeing that people are accessing services, especially when they need specialized support. And also, home-based rehabilitation is significantly improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities.

So, we are hoping that this partnership will continue and potentially expand to other areas where persons with disabilities are still facing various barriers of access to services.

Home-based rehabilitation services for Rohingyas and Host Community in Cox’s Bazaar District, Bangladesh Project.
This document is developed by CDD.
Featuring IOM, CDD and CBM.