September 28, 2017

Adventist Agency Assists Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Teresa Costello, Southern-Asia Pacific Division News

The flood-ravaged country of Bangladesh continues to generate headlines worldwide, and Seventh-day Adventists are part of the ongoing story. Since May, the country has experienced what government officials deem to be the worst flooding in 40 years. Against this backdrop of continued rains and flooding, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar has now spread to Bangladesh.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is among the humanitarian groups in Bangladesh assisting not only flood victims but the influx of Rohingya refugees. Regional news reports indicate that more than 4,000 Rohingya have been killed since new violence erupted in the Myanmar state of Rakhine on August 25. Considered to be the world’s most persecuted people, the Rohingya are a stateless Indo-Aryan ethnic body, a majority of whom are Muslim. More than 90 percent of people in Myanmar are Buddhist.

Before August 25, an estimated 197,000 Rohingya were recognized as refugees in Bangladesh. In the month since more than 436,000 Rohingya have sought refuge in nearby Bangladesh. Many are women and children injured during the violence.

“Most have walked for days from their villages—hiding in jungles, crossing mountains, and rivers with what they could salvage from their homes,” said ADRA Bangladesh director Landerson Santana. “They are hungry, weak and sick. It is a humanitarian disaster,” he said.

The Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) oversees the coordination of relief efforts among the humanitarian groups in Bangladesh. They estimate a total of 1.2 million people are currently affected to varying degrees by the Rohingya crisis.

Almost two-thirds of urgently needed assistance sought from the international community remains unmet. On average, refugees are consuming one meal per day, and have limited WASH facilities and shelter, according to the ADRA Bangladesh September 21 Situational Report. WASH is the United Nation’s abbreviation for water, sanitation, and hygiene—all of which are pressing issues in the refugee camps. Another concern is the emerging need for psychological-sociological support, especially for children affected.

ADRA Bangladesh’s initial response includes a collaborative distribution project of food and shelter kits to 3,600 Rohingya families currently in Cox’s Bazaar. According to Santana, food baskets will contain 88 pounds or 40 kilograms of dry food, including rice, lentils, salt and sugar and two liters of oil.

“Distribution will begin September 26 or when the Non-Government Organization (NGO) bureau’s permission is received and will continue monthly for a total of three months,” Santana said last week. Future projects are being developed but will depend on available funding.