Humanitarian relief and development organisation, Islamic Relief, deployed a disaster response team to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh to assist the growing number of refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 313,000 men, women and children have crossed the border Bangladesh since 25 August.
“The increase in the estimated total is a result of more interagency assessment teams being able to reach more villages, hamlets and pockets where refugees have gathered,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards reported. “With more than 70,000 refugees now in the Kutupalong and Nayapara camps camps…the sites are beyond saturation point.”
Many of the new refugees are staying in the makeshift settlements or among local Bangladeshi host communities who generously share whatever resources they have. Islamic Relief has been working in makeshift camps distributing emergency food and non-food items to displaced families.
According to aid worker, Zaid Al Rawni, “families have created shelter using bamboo sticks and tarpaulin sheets…many do not have even this basic shelter to protect them from the heavy rains, which have been falling over the past few days.”
“We are here on the border where so many families have been forced out of their homes and livelihoods. We can see smoke plumes in the distance where villages are being set alight. Everything that they have known for generations have been brutally taken away from them…[they] are being harassed and chased out of their own homes,” Zaid Al-Rawni said.
Islamic Relief conducted a rapid needs assessment amongst some displaced families and found that food and fresh drinking water is the most urgent need.
Islamic Relief Myanmar has completed the distribution of 535 food packs to IDP’s who have fled the conflict in northern Rakhine, and are now sheltering in Sittwe Township. Meanwhile the IR Bangladesh has also begun emergency food distributions in makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar.
“Families do not have any utensils or cooking facilites so when procuring food items, we ensured that we select food items that can be eaten immediately such as dried rice, molasses and high energy biscuits,” Al-Rawni added.
More distributions of food, water and non-food items such as mattresses, blankets and mosquito nets are scheduled to take place over the next few days.
“Urgent priority needs of IDP’s include safe water access, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene facilities, food packs, non-food items and temporary shelter kits.”
Working in the region
Islamic Relief has been working in Myanmar since 2008, delivering life-saving emergency aid, food and hygiene kits to those displaced by internal conflict and inter-communal violence. Some project have included rebuilding schools and healthcare facilities targeted as isolated communities.
Meanwhile in Bangladesh after registering an office in 1991, Islamic Relief has been implementing development projects that include a major focus on disaster risk reduction by building resilience in vulnerable communities and promoting promoting disaster risk reduction across the country.
Both offices support local NGO’s by providing food, hygiene kits, shelters and school furnitures and supplies.
How To Get Involved
Islamic Relief South Africa (IRSA) has launched a Myanmar emergency appeal to support the humanitarian organisation’s current relief efforts in the region.
“We have been responding to the Myanmar refugee crisis since 2012, where we heloed about 100,000 Buddhists and Muslims as inter-communal violence swept Rakhine state. Our emergency response included food distribution, shelter, and installing wells, latrines and washrooms,” IRSA CEO, Yusuf Mohamed, explained.
He called on the South African community to generously donate towards the fundraising drive so that Islamic Relief could reach more families in need.
“Since late August, the emergency situation in Rakhine State, Myanmar, has worsened with violent clashes reportedly resulting in over 1,000 dead. The United Nations estimate that 290,000 people have fled for refuge in Bangladesh since the 25th August, whilst UNICEF estimate that 80% of refugees are women and children.”
“We have a moral obligation to assist these families; especially the 80% of the refugees who are women and children. Islamic Relief South Africa is calling on the public to support our appeal and invite mosques and other community-based organisations to partner with us,” Mohamed said.
To donate towards the Myanmar Emergency Appeal, donations can be made to: Islamic Relief SA, Standard Bank, Account number 005318459, Fordsburg branch, Branch code 005205, Reference: MYAN001 + Cell number.
For Zakat contributions, use the following bank account details: Islamic Relief SA, First National Bank, Account number 62161066933, Smith Street Branch, Branch code 221426, Reference: MYAN001 + Cell number.