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Handicap International deploys backup team

Protect vulnerable populations

As the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh tops 500,000, Handicap International has expressed alarm at the plight of thousands of destitute people arriving in the country every day. Although only half of refugees have received emergency shelters from NGOs in the field, 2,000 Rohingya continue to cross the border daily. Handicap International has sent a backup team to help the most vulnerable individuals access humanitarian assistance.

HI occupational therapist helping out a bedridden Rohingya woman. | © A. Islam/Handicap International

Since the start of the crisis on 25 August, more than 500,000 Rohingya have taken refuge in Bangladesh, joining several hundred thousand Rohingya already living in refugee camps in conditions of extreme hardship.

Humanitarian organisations have to cope with a sudden, serious and worsening crisis as nearly 2,000 people - including many children - cross the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh every day. The needs of refugees are far from being met at this stage. Almost half are still without shelter and fewer than 20 percent have received food aid.

We need all sorts of supplies to assist families who are still pouring into the country. They left their villages in haste, taking nothing with them,” explains Gilles Nouziès, Asia Desk Officer, for Handicap International. “We’ve deployed more than 200 people in the field to meet immediate humanitarian needs, but clearly that’s not enough. The crisis is very sudden and needs are great. The rainy season makes travel difficult and our teams find it hard to reach people. We visit the most vulnerable families on foot, dragging out the assessment stage.

Access to humanitarian aid is one of the biggest challenges of this crisis. Most refugees live along the road bordering the district estuary. A narrow road, where most aid is distributed, it is already congested by humanitarian convoys at certain points. Many refugees live further back from the road and find it difficult to access aid distributions. People with reduced mobility, such as older or disabled people, also find it hard to reach assistance.

“We are particularly concerned on the condition of extremely vulnerable individuals – pregnant women, elderly without caregivers, people with reduced mobility, people who are severely sick unaccompanied and separated children, survivors of violence, women with children under 1, single women with more than 3 children under 5. The scale of the crisis makes them particularly susceptible to disease, malnutrition, problems of hygiene, infections, psychological distress, and have more difficulty accessing humanitarian assistance they need than others,” explains Reiza Dejito, Program Director for pour Handicap International in Bangladesh.

Handicap International has responded by sending a team into the field to implement logistics solutions, facilitating the transport of humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable and isolated people.

Already weakened by a series of major crises, Bangladesh will find it hard to access water and food in the very near future and jobs in the longer term. The country cannot cope alone with a crisis of this magnitude.

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