Let us take the recent Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh- dubbed as the world’s fastest growing humanitarian crisis- as a case to see why and how BRAC can be a model for the localisation in humanitarian response.
BRAC recently partnered with Clowns Without Borders UK, a charity that aims to share laughter with children in crisis. A team from the charity visited Cox's Bazar to spread a little cheer among the Rohingya children. The playful performances recognised that despite the trauma or difficulties they may have witnessed, children have the right to play, have fun and heal.
It is five months today since 688,000 forcibly displaced Rohingyas migrated to Bangladesh from Myanmar. BRAC has been on the ground delivering humanitarian support from two weeks after the influx began. To date, we have reached over 620,000 Rohingyas with critical services, making up the largest civil society response to the crisis.
People stretched as far as I could see. Young, old and every age in between, all standing in lines for hours to receive food. What most shocked me was the number of children. There were just so many of them. So many hungry eyes.
A diphtheria outbreak in the Rohingya makeshift settlements has killed 20 people as of December 17, 2017. With 1,500 suspected cases, the number is growing. The 656,000 Rohingya people who sleep every night without electricity, dream in the colours of recent trauma and wake up to uncertainty, cannot afford to be hurt further.
Deep inside the chaotic makeshift settlements of Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, is a spacious, shaded, colourful place. A bamboo structure with handmade decorations hanging from the walls. Curious onlookers gather outside the thatched windows, attracted by the rhythm.
A young woman in her mid 20s is shoveling debris of a completely ruined house, as her mother looks on. The older woman spots the camera and says, “Look they are taking your picture, smile!” Prior to the earthquake, the family of six used to live in a two-storied house. Now the parents along with the daughter live in a dome-shaped temporary shelter built of CGI sheet, while the son lives with a cousin. The father is a sculptor at a local shop and the mother works in a small farm they own. “We are alive and safe, but our house is gone,” says the mother.
Shukla Pal is one of many shasthya kormis (health workers) of BRAC who received organisational training to serve her community against the risks of natural disaster. A head of the household, a mother and a grandmother, almost 60 years of age, she knows the importance of standard first aid practices required to attend casualties amongst her fellow villagers.
Fears are rising in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea that the deadly Ebola virus is spreading out of control. I spoke to Tapan Karmakar, country representative of BRAC Sierra Leone. “People are now afraid,” he told me. Additional funding is needed for community health workers to reach remote areas.