Cox's Bazar: A displaced people longing for a sense of home

After fleeing persecution and violence in Myanmar en masse in August 2017, there are approximately 902,947 Rohingya people, 52 per cent of whom are women and girls, now living mostly in 34 refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district on Bangladesh’s coast. 

This stateless population continues to endure hardship after hardship, from COVID-19 posing a greater threat to people living in close quarters with sub-optimal sanitation conditions, to a raging fire in March 2021 that left thousands homeless, to deadly summer monsoon flooding that uprooted families once again. And extreme weather events will only become more frequent.  

In partnership with the Government of Bangladesh, which hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world, and humanitarian partners, UNFPA has responded to the needs of both the camps and local host communities. 

Such efforts include 29 women-friendly spaces, where women and girls can access midwifery and psychosocial support services as well as learn about gender-based violence, child marriage and bodily autonomy. Some women become volunteer teachers and mentors to other Rohingya women; others receive training to make reusable sanitary pads to advance menstrual health and hygiene. UNFPA also provides family planning services in 193 health facilities in the camp network and life skills education to address the needs of the youth population – 22 per cent are between 15 - 24. 
During the July and August flood response, UNFPA-supported community health workers reached almost 9,000 people with sexual and reproductive health services. In September, they reached more than 167,000 with those services along with COVID-19 information, referrals and other community services. In the third quarter of 2021, UNFPA reached almost 35,000 with gender-based violence-related prevention and mitigation sessions and distributed 13,000 pieces of personal protective equipment to health workers delivering life-saving sexual and reproductive health services. 

A dream of home should not be an impossibility. But for many here, it remains a distant one. 

Updated on 16 December 2022