The Rohingya refugee crisis started in August of 2017. 655,000 Rohingya poured into Bangladesh in an attempt at escaping persecution in Myanmar. They settled into Cox’s Bazar where conditions are hard-pressed to meet the needs of those seeking refuge. Food for the Hungry (FH), along with its partners, are working in the camps to meet some of the immediate needs of these people living in such vulnerable circumstances.
It’s a serious crisis that has faded away from the news, but we know people like you still care and are still invested, or at least want to know more. So here we have, 5 Reasons to Still Pay Attention to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis.
The circumstance surrounding the crisis is horrific.
The Rohingya people have suffered for ages. Myanmar considers them “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh, even though they have been in Myanmar for centuries. They make up their own ethnic group with their own language and culture. Bangladesh and Myanmar don’t feel like they belong or that they are citizens of either country. Because of these complications, they have faced conflicts including displacement and discrimination. Most recently, problems have escalated into extreme violence which has caused the Rohingya to flee into Bangladesh to save their lives.
“I heard allegation after allegation of horrific events like these — slitting of throats, indiscriminate shootings, setting alight houses with people tied up inside and throwing very young children into the fire, as well as gang rapes and other sexual violence,” Yanghee Lee, the United Nations expert monitoring developments in Myanmar, said in a testimony to the Human Rights Council. “Even men, young and old, broke down and cried in front of me, telling me about what they went through and their losses.”
Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Bangladesh can’t support them alone.
When the Rohingya began to flood into Bangladesh, the country accepted them and has worked hard to keep them. But Bangladesh does not consider them citizens and the situation is meant to be temporary. Still, they are working hard. Pope Francis commended Bangladesh back in December when he visited for their efforts in improving existing refugee camps for the Rohingya. This is part of the work FH is doing to give Bangladesh support. FH partners with Medical Teams International to get families urgent medical care and build temporary medical shelters. (To read more about FH’s work in Cox’s Bazar, click here.) But the problem is huge. Bangladesh is about the size of Iowa but has 51 times the population (that’s 163 million in Bangladesh compared to 3.146 million in Iowa). Then imagine adding 720,000 more people.
“They are small, they are overpopulated, and they don’t have the means to absorb this and address the needs,” Maye Saephanh, Chief of Party in Cox’s Bazar for FH, said.
Maye Saephanh, Chief of Party in Cox’s Bazar for Food for the Hungry, walks through Kutupalong.
The Rohingya have nowhere to go.
Bangladesh and Myanmar are still struggling to reach a solution on where the Rohingya people belong. Myanmar feels the Rohingya are citizens of Bangladesh and Bangladesh feels the Rohingya are citizens of Myanmar. The international community feels Myanmar should fix the issues that are preventing the safe return of Rohingya people.
“It’s really one of the worst [crises] because these people really don’t have options,”Maye said.
President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday, May 3. He said, “The United States will continue to pressure Myanmar to create necessary conditions for the safe and voluntary return of the Rohingya people to their homeland.”
Hasina says Myanmar needed more international pressure to take back Rohingya refugees.
“They’ve gotten the worst of the land they could receive and they look at their long-term future, where can they go? Myanmar doesn’t want them. And why would they go back there? They ran from there for their lives. In light of that, they’re really stuck,” Maye said.
Families shelter from the rain at Kutupalong camp.
Impending rainy season presents a serious threat (among other threats).
Cox’s Bazar exists on deforested lands which creates many problems. Maye says that elephants have returned to the area since the deforestation. They caused a stampede that resulted in refugee deaths. The camps also deal with crocodiles and venomous snakes, a problem made worse in the rainy season.
Perhaps the worst threat is the rain itself. The deforested land isn’t stable on its own. The homes are mostly shacks built on steep, muddy hills. The land is far less than ideal and the homes are flimsy.
Bangladesh is trying to help meet this need. They have allocated more than 500 acres for people at risk of landslide or flood, the Inter-Sector Coordination Group said in its latest situation report, according to Reuters.
But it’s not enough.
“Still, the lack of sufficient safe space for at-risk refugees, and the lack of cyclone safe shelter limits the possibilities for risk mitigation,” the ISCG said.
Children are still children. Rohingya boys play together in Kutupalong.
God says we should care for the least of these.
While our brothers and sisters around the globe continue to suffer, we must not sleep. Jesus says in Matthew 25:40: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”
Perhaps this is one of the most compelling reasons we must continue to pay attention to the Rohingya refugee crisis: because we are loving Jesus by doing so.
Please give to this ongoing crisis. Your gift today will make a difference for people living in some of the most vulnerable circumstances in the world. Click here to change lives.