13 December, 2017
There are now nearly 860,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, of whom 646,000 have arrived since 25 August. Not only has the pace of new arrivals made this the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world, the concentration of refugees in Cox's Bazar is now amongst the densest in the world Kutapalong mega-camp now holds over 400,000 people; the population of Miami by comparison is 430,000). While the chaos of the early days has subsided, refugees are in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions, and face many threats including gender-based violence, trafficking, forced prostitution,
early marriage etc. The lack of lighting, unsegregated latrines, and lack of safe spaces are all concerning. Roughly 1,000 people continue to arrive in Bangladesh every day, and thousands are stuck in the border area known as no-man's land.
Cyclone season passed thankfully without any major incidents, but now water is running low, heightening concerns that the shallow tubewells previously installed in a hurry will run dry. Given they also risk being contaminated by their proximity to latrines, Oxfam engineers have been boring deep tubewells 200-750 feet down, in addition to introducing more sustainable 'styles' of toilet which don't contaminate the groundwater.
"We wish the love that we had for each other will come back again". Friday 15th December marks the 4th anniversary of the current conflict, and Oxfam is running a campaign on social media to give voice to South Sudanese people talking beautifully about 'their South Sudan' and remembering when times were better. The campaign was launched yesterday and will run till Friday this week. Please check out the Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the week, share and retweet!
Next year is predicted to be a very bad one for the country - with almost no planting going on, the lean season will begin in March rather than June, and hundreds of thousands more people will go hungry. Our team is already planning for a bigger food aid programme next year, while using our influence to call for civil society groups to be listened to more.
Publicity at last - BBC journalist Fergal Keane visited Kasai region and his trip is being broadcast this week on the BBC. 'The Hunger Road' is an 8-minute video about a 250km stretch thronged with destitute people. Keane asks our CD Jose Barahona if agencies are being asked to 'play God' by choosing who gets the half-rations we can afford, to which he replies 'we are not ready to play that role'. . Humanitarian aid for the DRC is so severely underfunded that
we are having to scale back at the very time when more is needed - right now in Kasai we are preparing to drill a series of deep wells, while training volunteer health workers and running a radio show broadcasting cholera awareness messages. But next year we are likely to have to reduce our coverage in DRC in order to do useful work with the little we have.
We are working with South Sudanese refugees in a number of camps. Given the terrible situation in South Sudan, these communities are highly likely to spend many years as refugees and therefore do need some form of livelihood. The Ugandan authorities have given families small plots of land for growing vegetables, and many are using this as an opportunity to sell food and set up businesses. Fuel is a problem - refugees leaving the camps to gather firewood are often attacked. Oxfam is working alongside partners to influence the idea of making fuel out of human faeces missed with rice
husks which can be dried to make briquettes. Although many people have misgivings at first, it provides a safe and cheap fuel source and could easily be expanded to other communities, and maybe also make an income for the refugees.