Images: Kathleen Prior for Action Against Hunger
Q&A with our Bangladesh Country Director
Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Bangladesh, Nipin Gangadharan, reports on the humanitarian situation three months after the onset of conflict.
Dec 6 2017
Since the onset of the crisis in late August, Action Against Hunger’s teams have been present in Cox’s Bazar to respond to the needs of the influx of refugees in partnership with UNHCR and the government of Bangladesh. Over the past three months, we have scaled up our operations to meet the rising needs, and we are a leading agency in emergency nutrition and water and sanitation. Nipin Gangadharan, reports on the humanitarian situation three months after the onset of conflict.
WHAT IS THE SITUATION TODAY IN THE DISTRICT OF COX'S BAZAR?
It is constantly evolving, as is the scale of needs. In late November, out of 8,000 new refugees, 1,700 were highly vulnerable: that is a very high proportion. People were experiencing medical emergencies, many were elderly people or individuals very weak from hunger. Some were wounded, some were newborn babies. Even when we reach a point at which the humanitarian community has been able to contain the situation, and to anticipate certain possible additional climate shocks, such as the risk of a cyclone, we will still be facing a massive public health emergency, and I am not only talking about cholera. It would take a day or two of heavy rain and strong winds for the public health and sanitation situation to dangerously deteriorate.
ARE THE REFUGEES RECEIVING ADEQUATE FOOD?
Our partners at the World Food Programme have managed to provide most refugees with regular supplies of dry food rations including rice, lentils, and cooking oil. Action Against Hunger is prioritising, providing regular hot meals via our community kitchens across Cox’s Bazar to meet the daily food needs of the most vulnerable newly arriving refugees who do not have access to the World Food Programme distributions and do not have the ability to store or cook their own food, particularly pregnant women and nursing mothers. The needs are tremendous and no single organisation can adequately address this crisis. We are working together, and in partnership, we have been able to provide most newcomers with food and other essential services at least once a day.
HOW IS ACTION AGAINST HUNGER WORKING TO IMPROVE THE HEALTH CONDITIONS FOR REFUGEES?
We are prioritising water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives to manage waste in the camps, and to improve access to safe water, latrines, showers, and handwashing stations. We are also working to ensure adequate drainage of wastewater to prevent disease outbreaks. This will remain our priority area for the short and medium term.
In the past 100 days, Action Against Hunger has:
- Distributed more than 1,237,586 hot meals a day to refugees in makeshift camps
- Screened nearly 175,000 children under the age of five for malnutrition
- Provided food assistance to nearly 9,000 pregnant women and nursing mothers
- Improved access to drinking water, and prioritised installation of sanitation and toilets
- Built 2,000 emergency latrines in Kutupalong and Balukhali refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar
- Provided more than 2,300,000 litres of drinking water to people in need
- Scaled up our operations and mobilised more than 200 humanitarian staff and 700 volunteers to respond to this emergency
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