Crisis Severity The severity score from 1 to 5 is based on 31 indicators aggregated into 3 pillars (impact, conditions, and complexity)3.20 Very lowVery high 5
Impact This measures the impact of the crisis itself, in terms of the scope of its geographical, and human effects.2.70 Very lowVery high 5
Humanitarian Conditions This measures the conditions and status of the people affected, including info about the distribution of severity.3.60 Very lowVery high 5
Complexity This measures the complexity of the crisis, in terms of factors that affect its mitigation or resolution.3.00 Very lowVery high 5
Access Constraints This measures the level of humanitarian access constraints.4.0No constraintsExtreme constraints
Bangladesh: Considering age and disability in the Rohingya r...
Rohingya refugee: Impact of the monsoon and Covid-19 contain...
Bangladesh: Covid-19 Explained, Rohingya report on the epide...
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Bangladesh has received successive waves of Rohingya refugees since 1978, most of whom have returned to Myanmar following bilateral negotiations. The most recent influx occurred in September 2017, when more than 700,000 Rohingya crossed the border into Bangladesh after fleeing a military campaign in Rakhine state. To date, there has been no agreement on returns.?
Cox’s Bazar now hosts more than 871,000 Rohingya refugees across 34 camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas (administrative regions). Bangladesh is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the Rohingya are registered as ‘forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals’ rather than as refugees. While the Government of Bangladesh has kept borders open, refugees continue to lack formal legal status, face extreme restrictions on movement, and are not permitted to legally work.?
This has left the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar in a protracted crisis and entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance. Camp conditions are marked by insecurity, congestion and lack of privacy, and inadequate sanitation facilities and water infrastructure. Most Rohingya households engage in high-risk coping strategies to meet their basic needs, such as selling or rationing aid or taking on additional debt. This is particularly true for women-headed households, households without access to income-generating activities, larger households (more than ten members), and those with elderly, chronically ill, or disabled family members. COVID-19 containment and risk mitigation measures have increased the number of refugee households employing emergency coping strategies, such as selling labour in advance, spending savings, or reducing non-essential food expenditure. The long-term impact of these restrictions remains to be seen.?
During the monsoon season between May to September, humanitarian conditions deteriorate significantly. Cox’s Bazar is extremely prone to flooding and landslides because of its rugged and hilly terrain. More than 40,000 refugees live in areas that have the highest risk of landslides.?
On 22 March, a fire broke out in camp 8W of the Kutupalong mega camp, before spreading to camps 8E, 9, and 10. The exact cause of the fire is unknown. As at 23 March, preliminary, and unconfirmed, figures indicate that 11 people were killed, more than 500 injured and over 400 are missing. At least 10,000 shelters were destroyed, leaving 45,000 Rohingya refugees without shelter. This is the second major fire since the start of 2021, with the fire in Nayapara in January affecting close to 4,000 people. Immediate needs of the displaced people include food, WASH, and shelter. The destruction of basic infrastructure, including hospitals and food distribution points, will make it harder for those affected to meet their basic needs and access services in the long-term. Humanitarian response and assessments are underway.?
The Government of Bangladesh plans to relocate up to 100,000 Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char island. Shelters and other facilities were built in 2019, including a power plant, schools, and two hospitals. In May 2020, the first 300 Rohingya refugees were relocated to the island after attempting to travel to Malaysia. Following different phases of relocation between December 2020–March 2021, about 14,000 Rohingya are now on the island.?
Major concerns regarding access to healthcare facilities, livelihood opportunities, and freedom of movement have been raised. There are also questions around the island’s safety and the capacity and adequacy of its infrastructure. The UN continues to request access to the island for an independent assessment. According to Bangladeshi authorities, the relocation is necessary because of overcrowding, tensions between refugees and host communities, and gang-related violence in Cox’s Bazar.?
Impact of COVID-19
As at 14 February 2021, over 3.5 million tests for COVID-19 had been conducted and 541,038 cases had been confirmed in Bangladesh. In Cox’s Bazar, 396 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed among Rohingya refugees as at 14 February, with over 28,000 tests conducted. All 34 Rohingya refugee camps have confirmed cases. Within host communities, 5,500 cases have been confirmed, with over 58,000 tests conducted.?
The Government of Bangladesh suspended all but essential activities in all 34 Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar between March–August 2020. Under current guidance, updated on 24 August 2020, humanitarian activities must be implemented in line with COVID-19 mitigation measures, including use of personal protective equipment, temperature screening, and handwashing. New refugee arrivals need to quarantine in transit sites, and site management staff are reduced to 50% of the pre-COVID presence. Temporary distribution points have been created to reduce overcrowding. Shortages of personal protective equipment and soap and hygiene items for handwashing make it difficult for the Rohingya population to follow mitigation measures, however. The mitigation measures have also substantially affected livelihood activities and have resulted in an increased reliance on emergency coping strategies.?
On top of the constraints and challenges ongoing in the camps, Bangladesh has also announced that as of 22 April they will no longer accept Rohingya refugees or rescue boats in international waters.?
The ACAPS team is monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information related to the outbreak, see our special reports.
Health: The extreme population density of the refugee camps, poor hygiene, insufficient health facilities, and inability to self-isolate means the risk of infection within the camps is high. The pre-existing prevalence of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) suggests that the environment is conducive to the spread of COVID-19, as other respiratory diseases transmit much like COVID-19. According to Early Warning Alert and Response System (EWARS) there were 577,355 reported cases of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) in 2020. ?
Access to livelihoods and employment: The disruption to local markets and income generating activities has further decreased Rohingya refugees’ ability to meet their daily needs. Many report an inability to participant in humanitarian-led income generating activities, including Rohingya volunteers within NGOs and cash for work programs, as severely impacting their ability to meet basic needs. The host community also reported concerns over the lack of movement and inability to earn an income given the recent changes in humanitarian programming and the nation-wide COVID-19 containment measures enforced by the Government that closed markets. See COVID-19 Explained Edition 5
Protection: The reduction in both income and presence of humanitarian actors in the camps has reportedly led to a spike in criminal activity and concerns over safety. Both host community and Rohingya respondents gave examples of recent security-related incidents concerning crime and theft and expressed increasing feelings insecurity. See COVID-19 Explained Edition 5
Education: With the implementation of the nation-wide lockdown and essential service restrictions, access to education is critically compromised. This is having an impact on children but also on parents and families who are now spending all their time together in cramped conditions. See COVID-19 Explained Edition 5
Access to Information: Access to information is a key concern raised by a majority of participants in the COVID-19 Explained series regardless of age, gender, ability or population group. Rohingya refugees report lacking information on treatment as well as the current status of COVID-19 cases. They further expressed that those with mobility restrictions face the greatest barriers in accessing information, including older people, especially older women and persons with disabilities.
WASH: Both host community and Rohingya women expressed challenges in obtaining adequate menstrual hygiene items as well as accessing shared latrines during the day now that men are home all day, as opposed to at work. Rohingya participants in the COVID-19 Explained series report that the reduced presence of humanitarian actors has impacted WASH services and camp cleanliness. The lack of upkeep of public hygiene facilities in the camps was identified as a source of stress for both Rohingya and host community participants as they believe that dirtiness will increase the risk of virus transmission.
ACAPS - NPM ANALYSIS HUB
In December 2017, the ACAPS-NPM Analysis Hub was established in Cox’s Bazar. This is a collaborative project between ACAPS and IOM’s Needs and Population Monitoring (NPM) unit. The Hub supports the broader humanitarian response, producing analytical briefs, research, and analysis support, and providing stakeholders with an overview of the situation through updates and thematic products.
In response to the challenges associated with COVID-19, the ACAPS-NPM Analysis Hub collaborated with IOM’s Communicating with Communities (CwC) unit to better understand the impact of COVID-19 in the camps. Together, a series of reports entitled ‘COVID-19 Explained’ was produced, based on focus group discussions and key informant interviews with Rohingya refugees across Ukhiya and Teknaf. These consultations enabled Rohingya voices to be part of humanitarian decision-making and help adapt programming during the COVID-19 response.
Learn more about COVID-19 Explained and the ACAPS-NPM Analysis Hub.
If you are interested in the work produced by the hub, please subscribe to ACAPS Cox's Bazar mailing list.