Bangladesh faces three overlapping humanitarian emergencies. Over 860,000 Rohingya refugees1 living in Cox’s Bazar District are highly dependent on international aid. A densely populated country, Bangladesh is experiencing a significant coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak across its eight divisions. Millions of families are also vulnerable to floods and cyclones.
In Rohingya camps, UNICEF and implementing partners will provide health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education, child protection and gender-based violence services at scale. Across the country, UNICEF will support the Government to prepare for and respond to humanitarian needs, including the impacts of COVID-19.
UNICEF is appealing for US$198.8 million in 2021 to support COVID-19 prevention and treatment and continue vital health, nutrition and WASH services in Bangladesh and Rohingya refugee camps. The response will focus on ensuring that every Rohingya child has an education, including through the introduction of the Myanmar curriculum.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
Three years after extreme violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, sparked a massive refugee influx into Bangladesh, there are 860,000 Rohingya refugees living in 34 congested camps in Cox’s Bazar District.6 To date, conditions for their safe and voluntary return to Myanmar have not been achieved. While widespread cases of COVID-19 have not been identified in the camps, to stem a potential outbreak, it is essential that treatment facilities, masks and accurate information are widely available.
The primary and secondary impacts of COVID-19 have compromised access to health and nutrition services for Rohingya refugees, reversing some of the gains made in the past few years. Before learning centres were closed in March 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, 76 per cent of Rohingya boys and 70 per cent of Rohingya girls aged 6 to 14 years were accessing education.7 Child protection sub-sector partners are reporting increased levels of violence against children, gender-based violence and psychosocial distress. Since March 2020, however, access to the camps has been restricted to critical services, and adolescent girls and people with disabilities are among those least likely to access the services they need.8
As of September 2020, Bangladesh – one of the world's most densely populated countries – had the 14th highest caseload of COVID-19 globally. The pandemic has had a major impact on the economy and is overwhelming health and nutrition services. There were already too few health workers before the pandemic (8.3 health workers per 10,000 people, compared with 45 per 10,000 recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO)).10 Constrained access to health and nutrition services could worsen the nutrition crisis, raising acute malnutrition rates by 14 per cent.11 In addition, projections indicate that 2020 gross domestic product growth could decline from 7 to 2 per cent.12 Increased poverty will create an additional barrier to children's rights. Children from vulnerable households, including those with no wage earners, report lower levels of access to alternative learning modalities.13 In a country where 45 million children are subjected to violent discipline,14 violence against women and children, including gender-based violence, has increased by an estimated 31 per cent during the pandemic.15
In addition to these vulnerabilities, the population is at risk due to recurrent monsoon and cyclone-related disasters exacerbated by climate change. In 2020, one quarter of the country was flooded,16 affecting 5.4 million people.17