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AHP Bangladesh Consortium Field Story: Accessible WASH facilities for Cox’s Bazar camps

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Life in Bangladesh’s displaced persons camps is already challenging. But for 16-year-old Maya*, who lives with complex physical disabilities, the camp environment has poor accessibility, a lack of suitable facilities and shelter, and high levels of discrimination.

“Living with a disability is not good in this camp context,” Maya said. “I have faced many types of discrimination – social, in respect of getting basic needs, poor sanitation, poor hygiene, scarcity, and sometimes abuse.”

“I think I will never be able to go to school or a learning centre. No one cares about my learning or study. My mother said I would never get married because of my disability, and no one would love me. Many people tease me and are scared me of my face, which makes me feel mentally vulnerable,” she said.

Monsoon season in the camps brings added risks and challenges – land slides are common, and mud and flooding make movement even harder without basic infrastructure like paths and roads.

As part of the Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP) response in Bangladesh, funded by the Australian Government, CARE Bangladesh has been working to improve the living conditions of people with disabilities in the camps, who are primarily stateless Rohingya people who have fled nearby Myanmar due to persecution and violence

CARE’s technical water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) teams and engineering teams have worked to construct 11 accessible toilet facilities near the homes of people with disabilities and elderly people.

After identifying Maya as needing additional support, CARE’s technical team and field facilitator checked the space near Maya’s home and assessed what equipment would be required to build an accessible bathroom. After construction of the facility, field officers supported women with disabilities to learn how to safely use the toilets, and a ‘ready to go’ mechanical team in the community was trained to repair and maintain them.

Maya and other women with disabilities were also provided with dignity kits and hygiene kits by CARE Bangladesh. The evolving COVID-19 situation in the camps has meant that health workers and other service providers have not been able to undertake regular check-ups or home visits, and can only attend for emergencies. COVID-19 movement restrictions have also made it harder for vulnerable people in the camps such as Maya, who lives with her mother, to access food, health care and hygiene supplies, making the distribution from CARE even more important. The CARE WASH team undertook COVID safety precautions when distributing the supplies to keep Maya and other beneficiaries safe.

Maya expressed her satisfaction with the new toilet facilities and said they have brought about a big change for the better.

“I face many types of discrimination for my disability. But CARE WASH has changed my life. They identified me and understood my vulnerable situation. They provided me with a quality toilet near my house. Now, I have no pain and easy access to go to the toilet. They also provided me hygiene kits, soap, water, and bathing supplies.”

The AHP response in Bangladesh is now in its third phase, involving all six Australian NGO partners and numerous local partners on the ground in-country. The response focuses on WASH, the protection and inclusion of women, children, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups; education; adolescent reproductive health and support for host communities.

*Name changed