Undocumented Myanmar Nationals in Bangladesh Border Camps Need Increased Protection, Humanitarian Aid: IOM

Bangladesh - IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is stepping up its ‘protection by presence’ initiative in and around unofficial migrant settlements in the Cox’s Bazar region of South East Bangladesh.

Extra staff have been deployed to the area to work with the community to mitigate daily grievances and help facilitate connections with the local community and law enforcement.

“The humanitarian situation here is fragile, and is not getting the global attention it requires,” noted IOM Director of Emergency Operations Mohammed Abdiker, during a recent visit to Cox’s Bazar.

“Tens of thousands of people are at risk of malnutrition, disease and violence, due to the insufficient water and sanitation facilities and the overall vulnerability of the displaced community. We have been coordinating humanitarian assistance here since 2013 and, while there have been many improvements, the overall paucity of essential services in the area makes the response planning complex.” 

IOM is particularly concerned about gender-based violence (GBV). Along with making infrastructure improvements, such as safer washing areas and improved night lighting in the makeshift settlements, IOM has deployed field staff trained in combatting GBV to help the undocumented Myanmar nationals (UMN) to understand and seek support for their protection needs.

In addition, IOM in partnership with UNICEF, is starting a non-formal education programme targeting 10,000 UMN children and adolescents. A new IOM-led 10 bed, 24/7 health facility for the Leda displaced settlement will also help up to 20,000 UMNs and locals in the isolated area.

The clinic will also serve as a base for the UN World Food Programme’s blanket feeding operations, for Action Contre le Faim (ACF)’s severely malnourished treatment project, and for Handicap International to provide therapy for people with disabilities.

“They say coordination saves lives and it is impressive how the partnership between IOM, the government, the UN and partner NGOs has made a big difference in assistance levels in the face of limited resources,” said Abdiker.

The new initiatives come on top of the existing health, water/sanitation and hygiene programmes that IOM has been running under the auspices of the government’s Strategy on Myanmar Refugees and UMNs since 2013.

Key achievements include construction of over 250 water points around the makeshift settlements and nearby villages, running a water distribution network pumping 15 litres of water a head to 15,000 people in the Leda settlement each day.

Working with the government and other UN and NGO partners, IOM has been able to provide primary health care services through IOM-supported medical teams based at six government health facilities for 187,217 cases. It has provided 210 general surgeries and referred 2,174 critical cases to higher level health facilities over the past year. 

“We are privileged to have been given this coordinating role by the government,” said IOM Bangladesh Chief of Mission Sarat Dash.  “IOM believes that pulling together the comparative advantages of different government agencies, UN, INGO and local NGO partners, we have increased the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian services manifold.”

“The district administration is trying its best to support IOM and other international agencies by assisting in the coordination of humanitarian services for UMNs in Cox’s Bazar,” said Mohammed Ali Hossen, the Government Representative in charge of the district.

The programme targets UMNs and the poorest segments of local communities near the makeshift settlements, reaching about 100,000 people. Key donors to the programme include: ECHO (EU), PRM (US), SIDA (Sweden), DFID (UK) and UNCERF.

For further information please contact Peppi Siddiq at IOM Bangladesh, Tel. +8802 55044811, Email