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Rohingya Influx: Needs of affected locals ‘ignored’

Mustafa Abrar, Cox’s Bazar, September 30, 2019: While locals in Cox’s Bazar are bearing the brunt of socio-economic and environmental damages due to the massive influx of Rohingyas, their needs are being largely overlooked, said local government representatives and officials of the district yesterday.

Many of the host people in Ukhia and Teknaf, who provided shelter and food to the Rohingyas in the early weeks of the crisis, are now largely worried — a situation that is triggering tension between locals and refugees, they said.

The day labourers in Cox’s Bazar have lost their jobs because of oversupply of labour from the refugees. Local people who depend on hills and forest for livelihood have also lost their livelihood options as the Rohingyas are clearing forests for fuel and cutting hills to build shelters.

The tension between the locals and refugees is mounting. If it increases, the situation may worsen in the future.

Rohingya influx has led to increased pressures on firewood and transport services, water, basic services, environment and competition for jobs.

In Cox’s Bazar, on an average 33 percent people live below poverty line and 17 percent below extreme poverty line, said Rhonda Gossen of ICSG.

Cox’s Bazar Civil Surgeon Dr Abdus Salam said the existing health facilities are seeing three-fold patients every day.

Logistics and human resources are limited. Some of the aid agencies are helping the locals, but these things are overlapping.

Tahera Akhter Mili, vice-chairwoman of Teknaf Upazila Parishad, said NGOs claim that they have plans to provide assistance to local people, but they have yet to implement those. 

Often there are disputes between the Rohingyas and the locals over competition in day labour and thus law and order in and around the refugee camps is deteriorating, she said and suggested that local youths should be trained and provided jobs.

With the rise in population, the local women cannot get out of home in the evening as they face eve teasing.

Mozaffar Ahmed, UP chairman of Palongkhali in Ukhia, said public representatives need to be involved in projects undertaken by the aid agencies.

The United Nations and the government have prepared a plan to provide an assistance of $950 million to the Rohingya refugees and the vulnerable locals in Cox’s Bazar for 10 months until December.

The plan incorporates 25 percent of the money for the affected local community, said Sumbul Rizvi, senior coordinator at the ISCG.

However, so far the response from the international community has been poor and only 16 percent of the money confirmed.  

A good number of NGOs are working for the host community, but more needs to be done to support them.

CCNF Co-chair Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said as there is fund shortage, it is critical to devise ways to reduce operational cost and improve efficiency.

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