Bangladesh Red Crescent Society

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10/08/2021 | Press release

Mass COVID-19 vaccinations kick off in Bangladesh camps

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 10 August 2021:Vaccinations have begun for people in the camps for displaced people, amid a record COVID-19 surge in Bangladesh and a widening global vaccine divide. The vaccination campaign begins on 10 August with priority for people aged 55 and over covering 48,000 camp residents. About 500 Bangladesh Red Crescent staff and volunteers are working under the Population Movement Operation (PMO) and the Myanmar Refugee Relief Operation (MRRO), in collaboration with UNHCR and health authorities, in the urgent rollout all over the 34 camps. There are more than 900,000 people living in the densely populated camps. Many people face ongoing health issues, limited access to hygiene facilities and safe water. Existing health clinics were already stretched to the limit, even before the COVID-19 epidemic. The Delta variant has driven surging infections across the country, with around 20,000 infections and 200 deaths recorded in the Cox’s Bazar district so far. A national positivity rate of around 30 per cent indicates the spread of COVID-19 is much higher, especially with cramped conditions and the risks faced by many people living in the camps. M.A. Halim, Head of Operations, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in Cox’s Bazar, said: “This pandemic is inflicting a terrible toll on every aspect of people’s lives and has been compounded by recent floods and fires that have swept through the camps. Vaccinating is more important than ever to prevent illness and more loss of life in Cox’s Bazar. “Thousands of trained Red Crescent volunteers are playing a key role supporting vaccinations in the camps and all over the country including at our health clinics and door to door to encourage people to get vaccinated.” Hrusikesh Harichandan, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Cox’s Bazar sub-office, said: “People in these camps are living in the shadow of the global vaccine divide. Widespread vaccinations are critical to contain this deadly virus. We need united efforts by national agencies and international organisations to help vaccinate all adults in the camps. “Vaccinations are vital for families to live with dignity because staying home is so tough for people in these cramped camps and most still have limited access to water and sanitation facilities, escalating risks from COVID-19.” Less than 3 per cent of the population in Bangladesh has been fully vaccinated and Bangladesh Red Crescent is working alongside health authorities to help vaccinate millions of people across the country over the next week. As part of a coordinated humanitarian effort, Red Cross Red Crescent has already established 14 healthcare facilities, helping to meet health needs of people living in the Cox’s Bazar camps. As part of the ongoing Population Movement Operation which began in 2017 and the MRRO which began in 1992, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, with the assistance of IFRC, other Red Cross Red Crescent partners and UNHCR, is providing both camp residents and host communities living on the periphery of the camps with healthcare, improved access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation services, shelter, livelihoods and other essential needs, along with reducing risks in disasters and protection support for women and those most at risk. In total, from the start of operations in 2017, Bangladesh Red Crescent has supported over 1 million people. For more information, please contact: In Cox’s Bazar: Ibrahim Mollik, +880 16 74 330863, [email protected] Sabrina Idris, +8801 763777999, [email protected] In Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected] In Wellington: Ellie van Baaren, +64 21 774 831, [email protected] In Geneva: Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, [email protected]

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06/07/2021 | Press release

Bangladesh: Delta fuels deadly COVID-19 surge amid crippling vaccine shortfalls

Kuala Lumpur/Dhaka/Geneva, 06 July 2021:Urgent action is needed to increase COVID-19 vaccine supplies for Bangladesh as hospitals reach capacity and oxygen supplies run short across the country. The deadly Delta COVID-19 variant is spreading fast in urban and rural areas across Bangladesh stretching the entire health sector beyond its limits. Hospitals in areas of Bangladesh bordering India are experiencing a sharp rise in infections and deaths. In the capital Dhaka, around 78 per cent of infections have been identified as caused by the Delta strain according to the Government of Bangladesh. Nearly one in three people (29%) tested is positive with COVID-19 pointing to much higher infection rates across the country. After a promising start earlier this year, Bangladesh was forced to halt all vaccinations due to a shortage in supply. Around 3 per cent of the Bangladesh population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 compared with half the population of countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, according to Oxford University'sOur World in Data. Feroz Salah Uddin, Secretary General of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said: “The recent spike of COVID-19 infections in Bangladesh is deeply alarming and it is being fuelled by the more infectious and deadly Delta strain, with hundreds of people dying a week. “Bangladesh Red Crescent has ramped up ambulance services and efforts to help reduce death and suffering due to this dangerous virus. Our volunteers are working alongside health authorities to accelerate vaccinations, but a crippling shortage in supply is hurting progress.” Bangladesh Red Crescent teams are helping people with free ambulance services 24 hours a day, in 10 high-risk districts and providing oxygen cylinders across the country. Cooked food and other relief are also being provided to people who have lost their jobs or income. More than 13,500 Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are working across the country to help with vaccinations, medical care, providing masks and running public information campaigns on the importance of staying safe from COVID-19. Sanjeev Kafely, Head of IFRC Bangladesh Delegation said: “It’s critical that richer countries share more vaccines with Bangladesh in the coming days and weeks to help avoid the horrors caused by COVID-19 in India. “COVID-19 is having devastating impacts on millions of people in Bangladesh, with many losing their incomes and livelihoods. Mass vaccination is the key to ending the spiralling deaths, infections and hardships caused by this virus in Bangladesh and everywhere around the world.” The IFRC is seeking vital funding for its global emergency COVID-19 appeal, with around 55% of the appeal covered so far. The funds are crucial to support the lifesaving actions of the IFRC and member Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies around the world.

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29/03/2021 | Press release

Bangladesh: International relief needed on Bhasan Char Island

Kuala Lumpur/Dhaka, 29 March 2021 – International support is needed to maintain humanitarian services for more than 13,000 people who have been relocated to Bhasan Char island from Cox’s Bazar. This appeal follows an independent visit by representatives from the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to Bhasan Char. The visit team found that the Government of Bangladesh has made progress on Bhasan Char in terms of the development of infrastructure. However, it also found urgent investment is needed to ensure that women and children are adequately protected, and that food security, health care and schooling is assured both in the short and longer-term. Furthermore, while evacuation centres are in place to keep people safe from disasters, there remain concerns that the island could be exposed during the upcoming cyclone season and that systems are further strengthened to manage the potential isolation caused by storms. Feroz Salah Uddin, Secretary General, Bangladesh Red Crescent said: “After nearly four years living in precarious camps in cramped conditions, many people are relocating to the island of Bhasan Char and we are providing a range of relief services at this critical time. “Bangladesh Red Crescent is working with authorities to deliver food packages, hygiene items, sanitation and health services to thousands of people on the island for the coming months.” The IFRC urges the Government of Bangladesh, humanitarian agencies and international donors to do everything possible to keep people displaced from Rakhine State safe and able to live with dignity, wherever they are located, including on Bhasan Char. Sanjeev Kafley, Bangladesh Head of Delegation, IFRC, said: “With the cyclone season fast approaching, people on Bhasan Char could become stranded with a shortage of food when major storms strike, leaving the sea passage impassable, in turn denying the delivery of relief, medicines and other vital supplies. “Everyone relocating must have access to all of the essentials for a healthy life, including nutritious food, hygiene items such as soap, along with health and medical care. Women and children must be afforded protection from violence and other risks. “People who are now living on Bhasan Char have been through so many hardships and they deserve opportunities for a fulfilling life, with opportunities to start new livelihoods and access to education and other activities,” Mr Kafley said.

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23/03/2021 | Press release

Huge rescue and relief effort as fire razes Bangladesh camps

Kuala Lumpur/Cox’s Bazar/Geneva, 23 March 2021 – The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has launched one of its biggest ever rescue and relief efforts in the camp settlement in Cox’s Bazar after a deadly fire razed several thousand camp houses. More than 1,000 Red Crescent staff and volunteers worked through the night with fire fighters, camp residents and other agencies to rescue people and douse the fire that has left thousands of people homeless. An estimated 123,000 people live in the camps affected by the huge blaze. M. A. Halim, Head of Operation in Cox’s Bazar for the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said: “It is heart breaking to see how destructive a fire can be in such a short time. As soon as this terrible blaze started, our teams rushed to the area to help fight the fire, rescue people in danger, evacuate thousands to safety and provide immediate relief.” “We are providing relief through food and water, and erecting emergency shelters for people who have lost their homes. These devastating fires will require even greater efforts by all agencies in the coming weeks, particularly as the cyclone season approaches.” Close to 900,000 people displaced from Rakhine State, Myanmar, live in the crowded camp settlement, supported by the Government of Bangladesh and humanitarian agencies including Bangladesh Red Crescent and the IFRC. Sanjeev Kumar Kafley, Head of Delegation in Bangladesh for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “This is a terrible blow to some of the most resilient people on earth. Many people fled to Bangladesh after having their homes burnt to the ground. After setting up a new life, thousands now face more hardship and uncertainty. “The volunteers and fire-fighters who have put out these fires and evacuated people to safety are real heroes as they have saved countless lives. These fires are a brutal blow for camp residents, compounding frightful hardship caused by COVID-19.” Among the first responders were some 600 camp residents trained under the Cyclone Preparedness Programme, a joint effort of the Bangladesh government and the Bangladesh Red Crescent to prepare and respond to cyclones as well as other emergencies. The 600 are part of a total of 3,400 trained volunteers living in all 34 of the Cox’s Bazaar camps. As part of the ongoing Population Movement Operation which started in 2017 and Myanmar Refugee Relief Operation, which started in 1992, the Bangladesh Red Crescent with the assistance of IFRC, other Red Cross and Red Crescent partners and UNHCR, is providing both camp residents and host communities living on the periphery of the camps with healthcare, access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene, safer shelter, livelihoods and along with protection support for women and those most at risk. In total, from the start of operations in 2017, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has supported about 1 million people.

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01/10/2020 | Article

Dreams, hopes and fears in the Bangladesh camps

By Farid Alam, 21-year-old resident of Kutupalong camp, whose parents fled Rakhine, Myanmar nearly 30 years ago. Farid is a Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteer working alongside international Red Cross operations. When I was born in Kutupalong camp, Bangladesh, it was a very different place. I remember laughing and flying kites as a child with my friends. Kites are not flying around our camps anymore. There is little laughter. Just months ago, we lived in a different world. We used to go outside a lot, seeking freedom from our little bamboo and plastic homes. But now, due to COVID we cannot. Often we are told to stay inside. It’s hot and cramped as I have a big family, with nine of us living in one room. Physical distance is just not possible in our homes. It’s the same for most living here. We have hardly any masks and other protective equipment in the camps. We have no idea how we are surviving. Most people in the camps do not seem to care about much, certainly not COVID-19. Our main worries are our dignity, our safety and having hope for our future. We are not only fighting with the coronavirus here. We are fighting much more. I know about COVID-19 but most people in the camps have not heard of it. Many don’t know what a virus is. We have seen many organizations using loudspeakers to make people aware of coronavirus. It doesn’t work. They speak so fast and move past too quickly. Our community Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are doing a great job going door to door. I’m seeing people understand now. It helps a lot. I see this place full of suffering. From dawn to dusk, we endure challenges: finding food, repairing our homes, keeping safe or seeking water. Our lives are filled with limitations. Most of us do not have the opportunity to read and write. When I can, I pass the time reading. I love history and English literature. Ever since my childhood, I wanted to be a teacher. I studied up to my eighth year as we were not allowed more education than that. It was very difficult to accept. Since then I have been studying by myself. It would be my dream to become a teacher. But my life has become very difficult lately as my father is sick. For many years, my 48-year-old father volunteered with Bangladesh Red Crescent operations in the camps. Our whole family was dependent on his allowance and aid we received. He has developed heart problems and other health complications. Since I was 14, I have been volunteering with Red Crescent. I have been working as much as possible, around two weeks a month and I am paid a small allowance. This money is all we have. I want to support my family with all my heart. I am trying to protect my family from COVID-19. My parents came here after fleeing from Rakhine in Myanmar nearly 30 years ago. Every day I worry for my mother, who suffers from chronic kidney disease. Our shelters are getting old. The bamboo frames, plastic and tarpaulins are wearing out. When it rains, water often pours into our homes. It’s the monsoon season now and it’s raining a lot so it is very hard to sleep. We often wait in a queue to access a toilet and bathing area. It’s shared with 25-30 people. My mother and sister fear going out at night to use the toilet. There is no lighting and they must go in complete darkness. Often I go for support. Things are worse in the mud of the monsoon rains. Staring at the roof of our shelter, I hear the sound of people speaking nonstop. We have no personal space. No privacy whatsoever. As if life is not hard enough, there are mice and rats as big as cats. They often make more holes in our tarpaulins. I find time to help my neighbour’s children reading and writing. I teach them maths, Arabic and English. I love teaching them. I don’t want children in my community to lose their future. Since official teaching activities have been halted, I think the children will forget the lessons they have been taught by their teachers in the past. I also speak to them about the risks we face with COVID-19. If I were a citizen of any country, I could finish my education. I would love to pursue a higher education. If I could become a teacher and work, I would love to better support my family. But I am not that lucky person. I am stuck here. I do not know what will happen to me and my family in the coming days. Whatever happens, we will face it together. All I want is to forget everything and start a new life. Earn a little to survive and live a very simple life with my family.

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30/09/2020 | Article

Tackling fear, mistrust and COVID in Bangladesh camps

I’m an emergency doctor with years of experience yet dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak in the Bangladesh camps is by far the biggest challenge I have ever faced. I live and work in the heart of the biggest camp for displaced people in the world. Where many live 10 to a cramped room, I sleep in a big tent with one other doctor. Where most homes leak in the heavy rain, mine is watertight. When I rise at dawn, I see morning mists on the hills of Myanmar. A seven-month-old baby girl tests positive for COVID-19 and becomes one of our first cases. Her family lives among the jigsaw puzzle of bamboo and tarpaulin homes cramped across the hillsides. Our community health volunteers have trekked along muddy tracks to counsel the family. The baby and extended family are all at risk. It is a difficult conversation involving many family members and finally the parents agree to take the child to our COVID treatment centre. On arrival, the father is upset and changes his mind about allowing the baby to be admitted. The mother is also distraught as she reveals that she has lost two babies in the past year. She does not want to take any risks with her baby girl. It is heartbreaking to see her pain. Our health workers counsel the father and it becomes clear that he also fears for himself and despairs for what he will do with no food and no one to cook for him at home. We offer to support him with food as well as providing for the baby and her mother. Finally, the father agrees that he will isolate at home for two weeks after being in close contact with his COVID-positive child. The fear about this dangerous disease hangs thick in the air. There is little understanding about the way it is spread. Gaining trust of everyone is a major challenge and is key to tackling the spread of diseases in the camps. The next day, the father and the baby’s grandfather arrive at our treatment centre and threaten to leave with the mother and their baby. We urgently involve local camp and religious leaders, including the Head Majhi. The meeting is fruitful and again we agree that the baby can receive medical treatment. Minutes later, a young sick woman arrives for treatment. In the first instance, we diagnose the woman as suffering from a severe depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. The woman’s husband was killed in front of her in Myanmar and she fled with her two-year-old child. Every day she feels dull and lethargic, and doesn’t feel like doing anything. We arrange longer-term support for the young woman at our larger field hospital. This woman is almost 10 years younger than me. I cannot imagine what such a young person has been through in such a short life. Her blank stare is void of emotion and it still haunts me when I think about the pain behind her eyes. Nothing prepared me for these camps. I have been living in a tent for two months. It’s the first time that I have ever lived in a tent and it still feels unreal. But it’s a world apart from the tiny makeshift homes that seem stacked on top of each other along steep hilly slopes. Privacy that we take for granted is unthinkable. Physical distance is near impossible. Every day our teams stream out along the maze of muddy paths investigating cases and encouraging people to stay safe, particularly contacts of COVID-positive people. So far, there have been just 78 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Tragically 6 lives have been lost due to this coronavirus, yet it’s a far cry from earlier projections that thousands of lives would be lost. Life here is harder than most can imagine. Yet I am struck by the strength and sheer resilience of people who get on with making the best of life for their children and those who are frail. I see proud people working hard to make their homes as comfortable as possible. Reinforcing flimsy houses. Making them safer from storms and monsoon rains. Community volunteers from the camps work alongside aid agencies to build their toilets and water wells. I am struck by the limited number of toilets often far from houses. There is no electricity except for on a few main streets, so women and children face harassment when they use a toilet in the dark nights. Life here seems unfair for everyone. Young children fetch water from wells. Pumping the wells and trekking with heavy water containers is hard work for the strongest of adults. In front of our field hospital, I notice two girls around 8-years-old, playing just outside the gate. I am amazed by the house they build out of sand and mud. The house has four separate rooms. I am sure any architect would be impressed with the perfect, straight walls. This model home is a dream for these children. Everyone here deserves to fulfill their dreams of a safer, better life. Dr Mumtaz Mohammed Hussain, is Acting Chief Medical Officer, COVID-19 Isolation and Treatment Centres, Bangladesh Red Crescent in the Cox’s Bazar camps, bordering Myanmar.

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24/08/2020 | Press release

Cox’s Bazar: Almost 1 in 5 people in treatment have lung disease as COVID-19 spreads

Kuala Lumpur, Cox’s Bazar, Geneva, 24 August 2020: New data reveals that nearly one in five (17.9%) people being treated for medical conditions in displacement camps in Cox’s Bazar are already experiencing some form of lung disease as COVID-19 spreads in one of the most densely populated places on earth. Three years on from a mass exodus triggered by violence on 25 August 2017, close to 1 million people displaced from Rakhine, Myanmar, also face many other chronic health conditions, including malnutrition and diarrhea, in overcrowded camps. Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman, Head of Operation of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in the Population Movement Operation in Cox’s Bazar, said: “My greatest fear is that high and unacceptable rates of acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea and malnutrition, all make families more at risk of COVID-19.” To date, there have only been 82 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths reported among the population of displaced people living in the camps. But concerns remain high, and these figures may not tell the whole story. “The true extent of the COVID-19 outbreak is unclear due to some challenges with the testing capacity and participation by people in the services and health facilities available in the camps. Red Crescent volunteers are going door to door to provide people with lifesaving information and protective equipment to stay safe from the disease,” Mr Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman said. Despite the serious health concerns, there have been hard fought gains in the past three years. as chronic health conditions including unexplained fever, diarrhoea and other infectious diseases have reduced, according to World Health Organization figures, despite some of the harshest living conditions in the world. The figures show that intense public health measures and boosted access to limited medical care have succeeded in containing many serious diseases including diphtheria and measles. The rate of unexplained fever reported in health clinics is nine times less than three years ago at the height of the mass movement of people fleeing violence. Sanjeev Kumar Kafley, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) sub-office in Cox’s Bazar said: “Every day we see the remarkable strength and resilience of people who live in these camps. It doesn’t ring true that there have only been around 82 identified cases of COVID-19. We are very concerned that there may be many more people sick and infected.” “We have two new COVID-19 isolation and treatment centers treating people along with 11 existing health facilities, all helping to close the gap in critical medical care,” Mr Kafley said. Bangladesh Red Crescent teams, supported by the IFRC and other partners, are providing critical ongoing healthcare, relief supplies including safe water, longer-term support for more secure homes, along with protection and support for women and those most at risk. The relief operations are among the biggest ever in the region.

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06/08/2020 | Press release

17.5 million affected by floods and threatened by disease in South Asia

Dhaka/Kuala Lumpur, 6 August 2020 – Monsoon floods are robbing millions of people of their homes and livelihoods, with mounting risk of more deadly disease outbreaks when health resources are stretched to breaking point by COVID-19.So far almost 17.5 million people have been affected and more than 630 killed by major floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal according to government figures. Half of Bangladesh’s districts are underwater, leaving nearly 1 million families stranded and cut off in their villages. Flooding and landslides in Nepal have left almost 200 people dead or missing. In India, almost 12 million people are affected by the floods mainly in the northern states of Assam and Bihar.Feroz Salah Uddin, Secretary General, Bangladesh Red Crescent said: “This is one of the biggest monsoon floods we have faced in many years and the worst may be yet to come as we face growing risks of malaria, dengue, diarrhea as well as this worsening COVID-19 pandemic.”The monsoon season floods mean a high proportion of the population in South Asia is vulnerable to diseases such as dengue, malaria, leptospirosis and cholera. In 2019, Bangladesh experienced its deadliest outbreak of dengue with more than 101,000 cases and almost 180 deaths. India reported 136,000 people were infected with the disease and many were hospitalised.Previous years show how devastating these diseases can be for communities in South Asia, so Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in the region are urgently ramping up their flood response activities, which include distributing mosquito nets and working with communities to reduce their exposure to diseases like malaria and dengue.COVID-19 restrictions have hampered efforts to destroy mosquito-breeding sites and raise awareness in communities of how to prevent the spread of diseases like dengue and malaria, ahead of this year’s monsoon season. At the same time, restrictions on movement of people and increased screening for COVID-19 may be helping to keep other diseases from exploding for now.Dr Abhishek Rimal, Regional Emergency Health Coordinator, Asia Pacific, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “Vast inland seas of stagnant water create an ideal breeding ground for mosquitos, with soaring risk of diseases like dengue and malaria. Millions of people are also gathered in confined spaces or sleeping in temporary shelters with limited access to food, safe water and protection from mosquitos, creating the perfect storm for the spread of mosquito and water-borne diseases.”The majority of limited hospital beds, doctors and health resources have been redirected to focus on COVID-19 response as India deals with more than 50,000 recorded cases a day. Bangladesh and Nepal have surpassed 240,000 and 20,700 confirmed cases respectively. South Asia now has more than 2.2 million cases of COVID-19 cases with fears that the total number of infections is much higher.Dr Rimal, said: “The critical focus on saving lives in this pandemic and preventing the further spread of COVID-19 has diverted their resources from prevention activities such as dengue and malaria are going untreated. We are seeing evidence that people are reluctant to go to health facilities because they fear catching COVID-19 and getting more sick.”

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22/07/2020 | Press release

South Asia floods: 9.6 million people swamped as humanitarian crisis deepens

Kuala Lumpur/Delhi/Dhaka/Kathmandu/Geneva, 22 July 2020 – A humanitarian crisis is deepening in South Asia as new figures reveal that more than 9.6 million people have been affected by monsoon floods, devastating large areas of India, Bangladesh and Nepal.Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “Millions of people across Bangladesh, India and Nepal have been marooned, their homes damaged and crops destroyed by floods that are the worst in recent years.“Every year there are monsoon floods, but this year is different as it comes at the height of a deadly COVID-19 global pandemic. Tragically, already 550 people have lost their lives and more than 9.6 million people have been swamped across South Asia.”Close to one third of Bangladesh has already been flooded with forecasts of worse flooding in the coming days. More than 2.8 million people have been affected, including close to 1 million who remain isolated and surrounded by floodwaters, according to the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief.In India, more than 6.8 million people have been affected by severe floods, mainly in the northern states of Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Meghalaya bordering Bangladesh, according to the Indian National Emergency Response Centre.In Nepal, flooding and landslides have already killed close to 110 people. Across India, Bangladesh and Nepal, 550 have died according to government figures. Millions have been displaced from their homes.Mr Chapagain said: “People in Bangladesh, India and Nepal are sandwiched in a triple disaster of flooding, the coronavirus and an associated socioeconomic crisis of loss of livelihoods and jobs. Flooding of farm lands and destruction of crops can push millions of people, already badly impacted by the COVID-19, further into poverty.”IFRC has released more than 800,000 Swiss francs (850,000 US dollars) to support Bangladesh Red Crescent relief activities, including more than 230,000 Swiss francs released last month when flood forecasts signaled the extent of the potential impact.Volunteers in India, Bangladesh and Nepal are helping with shelter, providing tarpaulins, dry food and hygiene kits, and installing pumps for safe water. In Bangladesh, Red Crescent teams have distributed cash grants to help more than 35,000 people cope with the flooding. In India, over 9,200 tarpaulins have been distributed to most at-risk families. In Nepal, Red Cross teams are airlifting relief supplies to communities that cannot be reached by road.Many communities in Bangladesh and India are still recovering after Cyclone Amphan damaged or destroyed more than 260,000 homes, crops and infrastructure, two months ago.

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16/07/2020 | Press release

Red Cross Red Crescent braces for COVID spike in South Asia

Kuala Lumpur/Delhi/Islamabad/Dhaka/Geneva, 16 July 2020–South Asia is fast becoming the next COVID-19 epicentre as cases soar in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. John Fleming, Asia Pacific Head of Health, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate in South Asia, home to a quarter of humanity. “While the world’s attention has been focused on the unfolding crisis in the United States and South America, a concurrent human tragedy is fast emerging in South Asia. India alone is nearing 1 million infections in coming days. “We need more focus on the new COVID-19 hotspot in South Asia. Lives of people in India are no less valuable than people in other parts of the world.” Already India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have reached a combined total of more than 1.35 million cases – over 10 per cent of the world’s total. There have been more than 31,000 deaths across the three countries and the total may be much higher. According to latest projections from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers, India risks having the largest number of COVID-19 cases in the coming months. In a grim prognosis for the region, theMIT researchpredicts that by the end of the year there may be hundreds of millions of cases concentrated in a few countries estimated to have insufficient responses given perceived risks, primarily India, but also Bangladesh and Pakistan. The report, which is still to be peer reviewed, predicts that in six months from now, India will be the worst affected country in the world, with up to 287,000 cases a day. The immediate forecasts are equally dire for the region. According to figures from theJohn Hopkins Centre collated by the University of Melbourne, active cases in India are expected to rise by 36 per cent over the next 10 days and nearly double in the next 20 days. “We now need to urgently turn our attention to this region, urgently step up prevention measures and expand our resources to save thousands of lives,”said Mr Fleming. “In these unprecedented times, we know many countries, including India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, have taken extraordinary measures to help slow the spread of this disease. “Red Cross and Red Crescent health teams including thousands of volunteers have been a key part of that effort, conducting hygiene campaigns to slow the spread of the virus, providing relief to those self-isolating, and support for over-stretched healthcare systems. “We need to double this effort, sharing the challenge across all levels of society, in the communities, in organisations, nationally and globally, we need to urgently bring more resources to protect people and to contain the virus.”

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22/06/2020 | Press release

Isolation field hospitals open to prevent COVID crisis in Bangladesh camps

Kuala Lumpur/Cox’s Bazar, 22 June 2020: Two new isolation field hospitals are opening to treat an alarming and growing number of COVID-19 patients in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh camps and adjacent host communities.The isolation and treatment centres help address a growing gap in critical medical care needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and mass deaths in the world’s biggest camps for displaced people from Rakhine state of Myanmar.More than 1500 cases of COVID-19 in the Cox’s Bazar region, including 37 confirmed cases and three deaths in the crowded camps, are putting immense pressure on existing government hospitals and health facilities established by international relief agencies.   Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman, Head of Population Movement Operation, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in Cox’s Bazar, said that the true extent of the outbreak may not be fully apparent yet due to limited testing and health facilities available in the camp.“Extremely overcrowded living conditions, the existence of chronic diseases, basic sanitation and hygiene facilities and limited access to healthcare make the displaced communities in Cox’s Bazar extremely vulnerable to the virus,” he saidThere are an estimated 1.24 million people in the Cox’s Bazar area, including more than 900,000 people living in the camps, with the existing healthcare system stretched to the limit even before the COVID-19 outbreak.   As part of a coordinated humanitarian effort, Red Cross Red Crescent has already established 12 healthcare facilities in the camp and meeting the health needs remains a huge challenge for all aid organisations in Cox’s Bazar.“The two new field hospitals are a step to closing the gap in crucial medical care, but it is important to remember that COVID-19 is not the only health emergency for the people living in these camps,” said Sanjeev Kumar Kafley, Head of IFRC’s sub-office in Cox’s Bazar.“Whilst the virus is emerging as a massive threat to people living in the camp, there remain high levels of deadly diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and clusters of measles, all placing ongoing demands on the healthcare system in and around the camps.“These communities now need even more support than ever, which can only be provided through a unified effort between national agencies, humanitarian organisations and the international community.”Available for interviews:Dr Mohsin Ahmed, medical doctor heading field hospitals in the camps.Azmat Ulla, Head of Bangladesh Country Office, IFRC

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04/06/2020 | Press release

Cyclone Amphan: Thousands in need of humanitarian assistance in Bangladesh

Kuala Lumpur, Dhaka, 02 Jun 2020 – Almost two weeks after cyclone Amphan barreled through Bangladesh, Red Crescent teams have already reached more than 30,000 people, but thousands more are in need of further humanitarian assistance.Cyclone Amphan made landfall in the coasts of West Bengal, India on 20 May 2020, and then entered Bangladesh with wind speeds of up to 150 kmph, heavy rain and tidal surges that caused huge devastation in 26 districts across the country.Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Md. Feroz Salah Uddin said: “Thousands of people now need humanitarian support as they are living in temporary shelters with limited access to food, safe water and toilets after the cyclone has passed. Their livelihoods are also greatly affected and many of them do not know how to get back on their feet.”More than 350,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed, alongside more than 176,000 hectares of farmland including standing crops, vegetable and fruit, thousands of trees have been uprooted and fish farms worth approximately 37 million US dollars have been damaged. Tidal surges caused the collapse of embankments, inundations of salt water causing a scarcity of safe drinking water and putting the lives of thousands at risk of waterborne diseases.More than 70,000 Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers, including 55,000 Cyclone Preparedness Programme volunteers, have been on the ground since before the cyclone hit, supporting evacuation efforts and distributing relief items.Now that the extent of the urgent humanitarian needs is becoming clearer, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) have launched an emergency appeal of 5 million Swiss francs (5.1 million US dollars) to provide emergency assistance to 50,000 people in Bangladesh severely affected by the cyclone.IFRC Head of Bangladesh Country Office Azmat Ulla said: “Our early actions have saved many lives before the cyclone and now we are speeding up our response efforts so that these people can have access to basic needs and stay healthy.“With this emergency appeal our aim is not only to provide emergency relief but also to improve the physical, social, environmental and economic conditions to create a more resilient community in an effective and efficient way.”The funding will support Bangladesh Red Crescent in providing food, safe drinking water, shelter and hygiene items, and cash grants, as well as renovating damaged health clinics to benefit some of the most vulnerable people, including thos living in temporary or makeshift shelters.The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is also making the emergency situation more complex as people who have been displaced by the cyclone have limited access to handwashing and other hygiene facilities, increasing the risk of spreading the virus further.Mr Ulla said: “The challenge is to help the affected population with emergency relief while we also take necessary steps to halt the spread of COVID-19.”As part of their response activities, Bangladesh Red Crescent teams will be taking preventive measures to help contain the spread of COVID-19 including distributing hygiene information and advice, wearing personal protective equipment, and providing appropriate hygiene materials such as masks and hand sanitiser to people in shelters.The IFRC cyclone Amphan emergency appeal will support Bangladesh Red Crescent response for the next 12 months.

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20/05/2020 | Press release

Bay of Bengal: Red Cross Red Crescent on the ground bracing for super cyclone Amphan

Kuala Lumpur/Geneva 20 May 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is preparing for a major humanitarian response as super cyclone Amphan heads across the Bay of Bengal towards Bangladesh, India and Myanmar.Heavy rainfall, high winds and storm surges threaten Bangladesh’s and India’s coastlines. In Bangladesh, 14.2 million people live in the cyclone’s path, two thirds of whom are women and children. India’s Odisha State is making plans to evacuate 1.1 million people along its coastlines. While Myanmar is not in the cyclone’s direct path, heavy rain, strong winds and storm surges are also expected to affect northern parts of the country, including Rakhine state.Early action and effective preparedness can save lives and livelihoods and IFRC is releasing funding to support Bangladesh Red Crescent, India Red Cross and Myanmar Red Cross to scale up preparedness measures to support affected communities in the direct path of cyclone Amphan.IFRC is releasing almost 760,000 Swiss francs for early action to aid needs assessment and support vulnerable families with evacuation, emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment and material assistance. This includes more than 134,000 Swiss francs (139,000 US dollars) from IFRC's Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund which will support 20,000 vulnerable people in Bangladesh with emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment, and transportation facilities to cyclone shelters, as well as support precautionary measures against COVID-19.“We are concerned that Cyclone Amphan will put vulnerable communities at a dual risk during the COVID19 pandemic,” said Jess Letch, Manager of Emergency Operations at IFRC’s Regional Office for Asia Pacific.“The COVID-19 crisis has the potential to hamper humanitarian response efforts. Our biggest challenge is going to be ensuring that the millions of people at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods get the relief and shelter they need, while doing all we can to keep them safe from the new coronavirus.”In Bangladesh, authorities have prepared 12,000 shelters, three times as many as in previous years to help ensure physical distancing and other COVID-19 hygiene measures. In India, coronavirus quarantine centres are already being shifted further inland to accommodate the cyclone evacuees.Thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers have been mobilised across India, Bangladesh and Myanmar to share early warning messages, help communities prepare and support evacuations where needed.

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20/05/2020 | Article

IFRC releases forecast-based funds against impact of super cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh

As super cyclone Amphan heads towards the West Bengal-Bangladesh areas, Bangladesh Red Crescent has triggered the release of forecast-based funds from International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to reduce the storm’s impact on vulnerable communities living in the nine coastal districts of Bangladesh.According to the Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG) in Bangladesh, more than 14.2 million people are in the path of the cyclone, of which 7.2 million are women and 1.4 million are children. This has put these communities at a dual risk amid the existing COVID-19 pandemic.This forecast has triggered the pre-agreed release of 134,317 Swiss francs (138,000 US dollars) from IFRC’s designated fund for anticipatory action, Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).The funding will help support more than 20,000 vulnerable people with emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment, and transportation facilities to cyclone shelters, as well as support precautionary measures against COVID-19 through the disinfection of cyclone shelters and provision of personal protective equipment sets.IFRC Head of Bangladesh Country Office Azmat Ulla said:“In the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has been working tirelessly alongside local authorities, sharing early warning information and pre-positioning relief supplies, as well as having teams to support evacuations as super cyclone Amphan approaches Bangladesh.“With the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, we are enabling communities to take all sorts of preparedness measures to reduce the loss of life and livelihood in the coastal districts including the camps in Cox’s Bazar, where around one million displaced people reside in temporary shelters. Forecast-based actions mean the communities no longer wait for a cyclone to hit, rather anticipate it and act early.”“We have seen many mega cyclones in the past that have brought massive devastation in this region. This funding allows Bangladesh Red Crescent to take actions to reduce the impact of such an event.”Combining weather forecasts with risk analysis allows IFRC funding to be released so people take early actions ahead of cyclones rather than only having access to support after they have been hit.The goal of Forecast-based Financing is to anticipate cyclones, decrease their impact as much as possible, and reduce human suffering and losses. The key element is to agree in advance to release financial resources if a specific forecast threshold is reached. As part of this mechanism, an Early Action Protocol for cyclones outlines which anticipatory measures the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society will implement to reduce the cyclone’s impact. This work is developed by National Societies with the technical support from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Md. Feroz Salah Uddin said:“We are scaling up our preparedness measures and early actions to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who are in the direct path of cyclone Amphan. The current COVID-19 crisis is slowing our efforts down, but our volunteers are not stepping back from reaching out to the most vulnerable communities.”Over the past 10 years cyclones have affected more than a million people in Bangladesh, causing death and injury, destroying homes and undermining livelihoods.The Early Action Protocol for cyclones in Bangladesh has been revised considering the current COVID-19 epidemic. While the priority remains to move people to safe shelters if an evacuation order is issued, Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are taking action to help prevent further outbreaks, including sharing hygiene information and items, identifying alternative evacuation spaces to enable physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting cyclone shelters.This is only the second time IFRC’s early action funding mechanism has been used after over 210,000 Swiss francs were released to Mongolia Red Cross in January 2020 based on the forecast of an extreme winter season. The funding provided cash grants to vulnerable herder families to help protect their livestock and livelihoods.German Red Cross is providing technical expertise and funding support to the Forecast-based Financing project and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. Head of German Red Cross’ Bangladesh Office Gaurav Ray said:“The impending cyclone, Amphan, is putting the lives of the most poor and vulnerable families at risk. By taking forecast-based early actions well ahead of the cyclone, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is setting a precedent, especially in the face of this dual crisis. Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers and the Cyclone Preparedness Programme will play a critical role in alleviating the distress faced by communities at risk.”Notes Read the Bangladesh Cyclone Amphan Early Action Protocol for Cyclones and the early action protocol activation announcement for Cyclone Amphan. The Forecast-based Action by the DREF was established with support from the German Red Cross and the German Government Federal Foreign Office.

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19/07/2019 | Press release

Bangladesh: Severe flooding puts more than 4 million people at risk of food insecurity and disease

Dhaka/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 19 July 2019 – Days of severe rains have battered the northern and southeastern part of Bangladesh, putting more than 4 million people at risk of food insecurity and disease.Floods and landslides have damaged roads and vital infrastructure leaving hundreds of thousands stranded and without power and electricity. More than 66,000 homes have been destroyed. Food and clean water shortages are being reported, as well as a rise in waterborne diseases.Azmat Ulla, the Head of the Bangladesh Office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “These communities are reeling under the full force of the monsoon rains and the ensuing floods and landslides. Even if the rains recede, overflowing rivers upstream will worsen the flooding in the coming days.”Food crops are under threat of being wiped out by floods across major farming and agricultural lands. There are fears that destruction of crops may lead to food shortages. Those most at risk include children, breastfeeding mothers, pregnant women, and the elderly.The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has mobilized 675 volunteers to support communities in the flood-affected districts. In addition to carrying out rapid assessments, teams are distributing food, clean water, hygiene kits and tarpaulins to families whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the landslides.Md. Feroz Salah Uddin, Secretary General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said: “Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed which puts people further in the direct path of dangerous floods. We are seriously concerned about access to the affected populations. A critical priority for Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers right now is to reach these stricken communities with relief supplies.”In response to the heavy flooding IFRC has just released 452,439 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund that will allow the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society to provide food, relief items and cash for 10,000 of the most affected families living in the worst hit districts.

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05/06/2019 | Article

Bangladesh: How Forecast-based Financing supported objective decision-making in advance of Cyclone Fani

When a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society receives a forecast of an imminent extreme weather event, one of their most urgent tasks is to decide what action to take in anticipation of a possible disaster.In the case of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, this decision-making process has become clearer and more straightforward, thanks to its improved use of scientific information, as was shown in recent weeks before the arrival of Cyclone Fani.Since 2015, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has been using a Forecast-based Financing (FbF) approach with support from the German Red Cross. As a result, when Cyclone Fani approached, decision-makers could rely on an established system which provided them with robust forecast information and served as a basis to decide, when and where to act and with what resources.The Bangladesh National Society, with support from the German Red Cross and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre, had developed an Early Action Protocol for cyclones. This plan clearly defines forecast thresholds and details which early actions are needed, and where, to protect the population.In the days before Cyclone Fani made landfall, the Bangladesh Red Crescent set up an Activation Committee in line with its established procedures for activating the Early Action Protocol. Its role was to continuously review the meteorological data and decide if according to the forecast information the trigger for activation was met. The Activation Committee is chaired by the Deputy Secretary General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent and also includes experts from the Cyclone Preparedness Programme, the Climate Centre, German Red Cross, and IFRC. Activation of the Bangladesh EAP is being funded by the IFRC’s financial mechanism to support early action, the Forecast based Action by the DREF, which was created in May 2018.Based on the forecast information, the local branches in the coastal districts activated their control rooms, mobilized their resources, volunteers and officials for early warning and preparation of evacuation shelters. Eight members of the National Disaster Response Team were deployed in four districts (Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat and Barguna) to support the activities being conducted.  In two districts, local branches with German Red Cross support also undertook a rapid stock-taking of local markets to ascertain if they were able to supply the food and relief items that would be required in case of an activation.In addition, a database of the cyclone shelters, markets and accessibility was used by all stakeholders in preparation for Cyclone Fani. The database had been developed by the FbF project and proved to be very useful in preparing districts in the cyclone’s path for evacuation, and in obtaining real-time information from the shelters through the contacts listed.The Activation Committee met several times before deciding not to activate the Early Action Protocol, as the forecasts did not meet the trigger that had been defined in the EAP and all the data and analysis suggested that the forecasted impact could be managed with resources from the local branch. Had the Committee decided for activation, the EAP Implementation Committee was there to coordinate and implement the EAP and districts were ready.Thanks to the work on FbF, there was a clear framework for decision-making and the systematic monitoring of forecasts allowed the preparations to focus on those districts that were later affected by rains, using resources efficiently.All these actions as well as the structures for coordination demonstrate the importance of forecast-based financing in supporting readiness activities and bringing all affected parties together to take anticipatory action.

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05/05/2019 | Article

Clean-up operation begins after deadly Cyclone Fani hits India and Bangladesh

Powerful Cyclone Fani, at its worst an “extremely severe” storm, brought heavy rainfall and winds of 209 km/h to communities across India and Bangladesh. About 15 deaths have been reported so far, and hundreds of homes are likely to have been damaged.As a massive clean-up operation gets under way in the affected areas of India and Bangladesh, the Red Cross and Red Crescent are assessing what help people need. Roads are being cleared and communication lines restored, although it might be up to two weeks for full connection to be restored to some remote areas. Staff and volunteers in Bangladesh and India are coordinating with the authorities and partners to support the affected communities.The approach of the cyclone - one of the strongest storms to hit the Indian subcontinent in decades - was met with intense disaster preparedness work by the Indian Red Cross Society and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.Tens of millions of people in the cyclone’s path received warnings. In India, about 1.1 million people were evacuated away from the coast; in Bangladesh, 1.6 million were evacuated. In India and Bangladesh, in coordination with government agencies, staff and volunteers issued warnings to communities at risk. The Indian Red Cross opened 65 shelters in Odisha state, and helped vulnerable people to evacuate. More than 15,000 people stayed in Red Cross shelters.In the hours before Fani hit, final preparations were in full swing to keep people safe. In the Indian state of Odisha in the path of Fani, Indian Red Cross staff and 1,500 volunteers trained in first aid, disaster management and rescue passed on life-saving early warning messages to some of 20 million people in at-risk districts. Among the messages: Try not to panic. Listen to the radio and follow instructions. We will help. The Red Cross is here with you.Bangladesh’s renowned and life-saving cyclone preparedness system swung into full action. Volunteers in the Red Crescent/government cyclone preparedness programme alerted communities and provided information about the threats, potential impact and dangers through social media, megaphones and loudspeakers, and helped vulnerable people to evacuate. An estimated 50,000 cyclone preparedness community volunteers were involved.

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02/05/2019 | Article

Cyclone Fani: Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers help communities prepare for landfall

Red Cross volunteers in the Indian state of Odisha are ramping up efforts to warn 20 million people of the imminent and potentially deadly arrival of Cyclone Fani.Fani is predicted to make landfall on India’s east coast on 3 May. It is expected to bring heavy rainfall and strong winds which could lead to loss of life and injuries, as well as damaging houses, infrastructure and crops. An estimated 1,500 Indian Red Cross volunteers are working within communities to warn people at risk.The Indian Red Cross is packing emergency kits (with instant rice, tea, sugar, biscuits, candles, matches and water) ready to distribute to people who will seek refuge in the state’s cyclone shelters. Clothing, hygiene kits, buckets, kitchen sets, mosquito nets and plastic sheeting are also being prepared. In the event of a disaster, Red Cross will prioritize support for displaced families, older people, women-headed families, breast-feeding mothers and people living with a disability.In Bangladesh, an estimated 12.8 million people are at risk given Fani’s current predicted path which takes it across four inland districts on its journey east. Volunteers of the joint Bangladesh Red Crescent/Bangladesh government cyclone preparedness programme are alerting communities about the potential impact of the storm and the possible need to evacuate using megaphones and loudspeakers as well as social media.In Cox’s Bazar – where an estimated 700,000 people who have fled violence in Rakhine are living in camps – Red Crescent volunteers are going household-to-household to warn people of the risk potentially posed by Fani.

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12/02/2019 | Article

In pictures: Teens from Rakhine hang onto hope in Bangladesh camps

Written by Farjana Sultana, IFRC. Photos by Matthew Carter, IFRC Many of the children growing up in the sprawling camp surrounding Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, have no access to formal education. On the cusp of adulthood, they face an uncertain future. For some of the luckier youngsters, Red Cross Red Crescent community centers provide some structure to their days and a safe space to play and learn with their friends. I visited one such center in early February and was struck by how well it brought people of different age groups together to share, learn and connect with each other. In one room, old men sat around a speaker listening to a radio programme about the recent chickenpox outbreak here. In another, a line of Singer sewing machines sat waiting for a women’s group later that day. And in the far room, with the midday sunlight streaming in through bamboo walls, I saw a group of children playing with Red Crescent volunteers who are themselves members of their exiled community. Twelve-year-old Faisal (far left in the main pic) comes every day to the community safe space run by Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. “There’s more to do in the camp than there used to be,” he said. “But I still miss my life back in Myanmar. Our life used to be quite different. My favorite dish is rice with beef, but my family cannot afford the meat here.” A year and half have passed since his family came to Bangladesh across the Myanmar border. He wants to be a teacher. In the adjoining corridor Assia tells me how she loves to embroider clothes and hopes to become a tailor when she grows up. She likes to sing and act with her friends here. She lives in a nearby shelter with her four brothers, three sisters and their parents. Their shelter will need upgrading before the monsoon rains come. Tares is Assia’s older brother. Seventeen is an awkward age here as he is too old to attend many of the youth groups and he instead hangs around with his friends of a similar age. He is paying for private tuition in Kutupalong camp where he is learning English and Burmese. “My brother and I used to run a computer shop in Myanmar,” he said. “We used to do very well in it but here I found that there is no hope for us to exercise those skills and that is quite frustrating for me.” Syed Ahammod is another of the young men who comes every day to the community safe space. One of his brothers is a shopkeeper in the camp. Occasionally, Syed will sell snacks for him. Despite being in Bangladesh for a year and half, he is yet to fully come to terms with the conditions in the camp. “My family used to have fish ponds and livestock back in Myanmar,” he said. “Life used to be different.” Eleven-year-old Minara comes to the community center to play, read and embroider with her friends. After finishing here, she goes back home to have lunch, eating mostly fish and vegetables. Later she goes to the madrasa before playing with her friends in the evening. Minara’s father also comes to the community center where he weaves fish nets and socializes with other men. The popular Anwar told me how he feels restless and uncomfortable inside his shelter. “We used to have big rooms in our house in Myanmar,” he said. “The space inside the shelter here is not enough for my entire family. It doesn’t feel good here.” His brothers and father renovated their shelter to make it feel like home a few months ago. But it is very cramped space for seven people. “My father used to have a shop back in Myanmar and I want to own a shop just like him when I grow up,” he said. Sixteen-year-old Taslima has a great interest in embroidery and tailoring work which she gets to practice at the community safe space. In her leisure time she likes to talk with her neighbors and discuss how life used to be back in Myanmar. For her, feeling at home is an important issue. “During my period I lose my appetite,” she said. “I don’t feel comfortable inside the shelter as there is no separate facility for me to go to. Our shelter was rebuilt eight or nine months ago and my family made a separate shower space inside.” Eighteen months after a wave of violence uprooted families from their homes in Rakhine state, Myanmar, over 700,000 people are living in unsuitable accommodation made from bamboo and tarpaulin. Among them 350,000 children still trying to adjust to life here. Community safe spaces like this go a little way to restoring a sense of normality and routine for children in the sprawling camps of Cox’s Bazar. Coming away, you can’t help thinking that while eighteen months would feel like a long time for anyone, for a child it must feel like a lifetime.

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04/01/2019 | Article

Making haste while the sun shines in Cox's Bazar

By Gennike Mayers, IFRC“I’m happy to participate in this cyclone preparedness training because one of my neighbors, Yassin Siddiq, was in the last group and he trained me to prepare for cyclones. Now I can train others too,” says Mustafa Kamal, resident of the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar.Kamal arrived in Bangladesh with his family of 24 on 20 October 2017. He crossed over from Myanmar with his wife and their 16 children, three brothers and their children after violent clashes in his village in Rakhine state. Since then they have been living in the overcrowded Kutupalong camp with over 700,000 others.Kamal, along with 40 other camp residents, participated in the three-day long cyclone preparedness training organized by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society with support from American Red Cross. The cyclone preparedness programme is a joint initiative that the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and the Government of Bangladesh- Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief initiated in 1972. The aim was to help coastal communities take early action to reduce loss of life and property by preparing in advance.Cyclone preparedness training sessions have been rolled out primarily in the coastal communities of Bangladesh for decades but with the influx of forcibly displaced persons from Myanmar, the Red Crescent and the Government of Bangladesh have stepped up their outreach efforts to ensure the safety of camp residents living in extremely vulnerable conditions. With the 2018 monsoon and cyclone seasons having ended, more training and mock drills are being conducted to ensure even greater coverage so that skills are kept fresh and accurate for the upcoming 2019 cyclone seasons in Bangladesh which run from April to May and October to November.In camp, Kamal has been working as a safety unit volunteer. “I was actively working on establishing fire extinguishers, doing first aid training, flag-raising and awareness. People need to know how to prepare like keeping their food cards and valuable items together if they have to move quickly from their shelter.”Mohammed Shazed, the assistant programme officer with American Red Cross, has supported many training sessions like this in the year that he has worked in Cox’s Bazar.“I never get tired of doing this. What we are sharing will save lives. It was so good to see how the camp volunteers responded when cyclones Titli and Gaja were announced. Bangladesh Meteorological Department was tracking them and gave the cyclone alerts. In camp, the trained volunteers put up the warning flags and went around sharing information on loud speaker as per warning dissemination protocol.”Eventually the warnings were stood down in camp as the cyclones thankfully moved away from Cox’s Bazar, however the exercise proved that the camp community were very attentive and enthusiastically applied the knowledge gained through the training programme. Although mock drills are a key part of the cyclone preparedness training as well as raising awareness, this real-life scenario put the community volunteers and other camp residents to the test.To date over 1,300 camp volunteers have been trained since March 2018 and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society aims to train and equip a total of 3,400 camp volunteers by February 2019, ahead of the next cyclone season.

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