Oxfam, an international agency, on Tuesday called for 15 percent of new funding to be set aside for humanitarian programmes designed to better support Rohingya women and girls, including $72 million of the nearly half a billion dollars recently committed by the World Bank.
The Rohingya women living in Bangladesh are developing health problems, missing out on aid and are at the greater risk of abuse due to unsafe and unsuitable facilities in many parts of the refugee camps, Oxfam warned.
Currently, there is no standalone budget for meeting women’s specific needs in the overall emergency response.
Speakers said this at a report launch event titled ‘One year On: Time to Put Women and Girls at the Heart of the Rohingya Response’ held at RAOWA Complex in the city.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam attended the event as the chief guest.
Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Julia Niblett, Country Director, Oxfam in Bangladesh Dr Dipankar Datta, Director General, NGO Affairs Bureau, Prime Minister’s Office KM Abdus Salam, Dhaka University Prof Mesbah Kamal and Country Representative, UN Women Shoko Ishikawa, among others, spoke at the programme.
Bangladesh government and agencies have provided emergency aid to more than 700,000 Rohingya people who have arrived over the past year, but the speed at which the world’s biggest refugee camp sprang up has made it difficult for the support to keep pace.
More than a third of women surveyed by Oxfam and partner agencies said they did not feel safe or comfortable going to collect water or using toilets and shower cubicles -- many of which lack a roof and a lockable door.
Half the women and three quarters of adolescent girls said they did not have what they needed to manage their periods, including a female-only place to wash sanitary cloths without embarrassment, Oxfam said.
As a result, women are going hungry and thirsty to avoid needing the toilet as frequently, suffering abdominal pain and infections by not relieving themselves or using unhygienic sanitary cloths, and resorting to defecation by their tents, which increases the risk of a major outbreak of disease -- especially in the monsoon, according to the report.
Oxfam’s Advocacy Manager in Cox’s Bazar, Dorothy Sang said the breakneck speed at which the Rohingya refugee crisis unfolded meant that many emergency facilities were installed in a rush and women’s specific needs weren’t considered.
Women and girls are now paying the price in terms of their wellbeing and safety.
“This needs to be rectified urgently with substantial sums set aside to support and protect Rohingya women, such as lighting to improve safety, toilets and wash rooms that provide privacy, and extra assistance for the most vulnerable.”
Single mothers whose husbands are missing or dead head-up one in six families in the Rohingya camps.
They face specific problems in having to take on public roles that challenge cultural and religious assumptions about women’s place in society.
Oxfam called for more to be done to support these vulnerable women, such as help collecting aid packages and more community dialogue about men and women’s traditional roles.
“The Bangladesh government should be commended for allowing Rohingya people to seek refuge in Cox’s Bazar. We join them and others in calling on Myanmar to address the discriminatory policies that are the root cause of this crisis," Sang said.
Close to a million Rohingya people have sought refuge in Bangladesh following a military campaign against them in Myanmar that has been described by UN officials as ‘ethnic cleansing’.