Giving Compass’ Take:
• Devex interviews CARE Bangladesh Country Director Zia Choudhury about the Rohingya refugee crisis and what is being done to help those fleeing violent persecution in Myanmar.
• While Bangladesh’s capacity to handle the volume of refugees appears strained, Choudhury calls on the international aid community to step up its efforts. Infrastructure support is sorely needed.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Myanmar fleeing persecution across the border have completely overwhelmed Bangladesh’s ability to respond. International aid organizations in Bangladesh have never before dealt with such numbers of refugees with severe trauma.
CARE Bangladesh Country Director Zia Choudhury said there is no sign the crisis will abate any time soon. Even if conditions improved immediately, it could take up to 10 years to safely return all refugees. This means the international aid community must formulate plans to aid refugees in the short, medium and long-term, even as the community struggles to adhere to international humanitarian standards in this context.
Choudhury recently spoke with Devex to discuss the unique aid challenges posed by a situation that escalated so quickly, and what obstacles remain ahead in caring for Rohingya in ballooning refugee camps.
What do you feel the international aid community could improve upon in its response to this crisis?
ZIA CHOUDHURY: It’s about ensuring that we are using a protection framework when we design and implement our programs. It’s very easy to get bogged down in the operational challenges — the logistics, the HR issues, the access issues, trying to get into the camps.
The conditions in the camps are so difficult in terms of the scale of people, the density of the population. I think it’s the densest refugee camp in the world — parts of Cox’s Bazar. The scale of the density and the inhospitable terrain, the haphazard planning, the poor placement of infrastructure such as water, latrines.
All of that has led to a drop in our standards and also in our accountability. It’s very easy in these contexts to simply say “okay, we can’t reach the international standards which we try to hold ourselves accountable.” We mustn’t use the excuse — “it was too difficult.”
Read the full interview with CARE Bangladesh Country Director Zia Choudhury on the Rohingya crisis by Teresa Welsh at Devex International Development.
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