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A Rohingya refugee woman holds her malnourished baby in an IRC-supported health center in Bangladesh.
Rohingya crisis

Bangladesh Crisis Watch

Since late August 2017, nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled violence in Myanmar's Rakhine State to Cox’s Bazar, a district in Bangladesh. The IRC is responding with health care, protection for vulnerable women and children, and emergency support for the refugees.

Rohingya crisis — not yet time for refugees to return

  • Aug. 25 marked the one-year anniversary of a brutal scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The violence triggered the fastest and largest refugee flow since the crisis in Rwanda in 1994.

  • The IRC and 41 other aid groups are warning that the return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar now would be dangerous and premature.

  • Refugees tell us that they are very grateful for safe haven they found in Bangladesh. However, they are terrified about what will happen to them if they are returned to Myanmar now, without equal rights, citizenship or freedom of movement.

  • Myanmar and Bangladesh have made assurances that repatriation will only happen when it is safe, voluntary and dignified. We call on both governments to stand by their commitments.

Read our Nov. 9 statement
Country facts
  • Total population: 163 million
  • People displaced by crisis: Almost 1 million Rohingya refugees
  • Rank in Humanitarian Development Index : 139 of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Bangladesh: 2018
  • People assisted: 63,469

Crisis briefing

After fleeing shocking violence in Myanmar, the Rohingya face a potentially devastating monsoon season this summer. Combined with local Bangladeshis at risk, an estimated 1.3 million people in Cox’s Bazar will need support in 2018.

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What caused the current crisis in Bangladesh?

Since 2012, violence against minority Muslims in Myanmar has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Most are Rohingya, now the world’s largest stateless people. In 2017 alone, over 650,000 fled to Bangladesh. The scale of the dispersement has created dangerously overcrowded refugee camps where basic services are stretched beyond their limits.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Bangladesh?

Nearly 1 million refugees in Cox’s Bazar are living in overcrowded shelters made of bamboo and tarpaulins, many erected on deforested hillsides subject to landslides. These filmsy structures will not be able to withstand the heavy rains of the coming monsoon season, which lasts from May to September. 

While Bangladesh is well versed in response to natural disasters, the burden faced this year of nearly 1 million additional people will stretch authorities beyond their limits. A public health time bomb is set to explode, with diseases including diphtheria and cholera already widespread and malnutrition rates above emergency levels. Monsoon flooding will exacerbate these problems as latrines flood and water sources are contaminated. Dengue fever, hepatitis and diarrhea could sweep through the camps.

Lifesaving humanitatian aid is urgently needed to assist the Rohingya. Current aid organizations do not have adequate resources; humanitarian partners must scale up capacity in a very short time frame.

How does the IRC help in Bangladesh?

The IRC has launched an emergency response in Cox’s Bazar focusing on health and the protection of vulnerable women and children. We have established a number of “one-stop shops” where IRC teams work with partners to provide comprehensive care for women and girls, including reproductive and childbirth services and support for those who have encountered violence.

The IRC has also established two mobile medical teams to serve hard-to-reach populations in the Kutupalong-Balukhali mega-camp. As monsoon season sets in, these mobile clinics will also serve local Bangladeshi communities whose health facilities have been shut down by flooding or landslides.

Since Nov. 13, 2017, the IRC in cooperation with partners has aided 22,500 people with primary health care.

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