Bangladesh continues to be a safe haven for over 884,000 Rohingya refugees. They fled brutal repression and wide-ranging discrimination in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and currently live in refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar district.
Bangladesh is also one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, exposed to a variety of natural hazards including cyclones, floods and earthquakes. The country’s humanitarian situation is compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are the needs?
Over the past 40 years, the Rohingya – an ethnic, religious, and linguistic minority – has fled persecution and discrimination in Myanmar, mostly seeking refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh. Following violent military crackdowns in northern parts of Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017, more than 745,000 Rohingya fled across the border in search of protection and assistance.
The scale of the influx has put a tremendous strain on existing services in the Bangladeshi district of Cox’s Bazar, requiring a massive increase of assistance to cater to the new needs. Being the world’s largest stateless population, most of them without formal refugee status, the Rohingya are unable to pursue education or formal employment. They remain vulnerable to exploitation and serious protection risks. Over 860,000 Rohingya currently live in congested camps and settlements in Bangladesh and entirely depend on humanitarian aid.
Bangladesh, mostly low-lying and at the confluence of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers, is prone to seasonal flooding, landslides, and cyclones, making it one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. The frequency, unpredictability and severity of these disasters are likely to be adversely affected by global warming, population growth, environmental degradation and ill-maintained infrastructure - all contributing to increasing humanitarian needs.
How are we helping?
In 2021, the European Union is providing over €38 million in humanitarian aid in response to the Rohingya refugee crisis and the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in the country. It will also support efforts to reduce the impact of natural hazards in highly affected parts of Bangladesh.
Humanitarian support to Rohingya refugees and host communities includes food assistance, nutrition, clean water, sanitation, healthcare services, education, as well as increased protection for the most vulnerable groups.
In response to COVID-19, a significant portion of this year’s funding is being dedicated to assisting the country’s efforts in battling the pandemic, particularly in Cox’s Bazar. This includes supporting the surveillance, detection, management and prevention of COVID-19 cases as well as strengthening the overall health response capacity in the Rohingya refugee camps and host communities.
In other parts of Bangladesh, the EU helps communities at risk from natural hazards, supporting early action in highly flood-prone areas, improving disaster preparedness in congested urban districts of Dhaka, and supporting coordination.
The EU has been working in Bangladesh since 2002, both in disaster preparedness and emergency response activities, with a total funding of more than €320 million. EU humanitarian aid provides life-saving support to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees living in the camps and settlements in Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts. Additionally, the EU also continues to fund emergency assistance to people affected by natural hazards. In 2020, the EU allocated €2.3 million to addressing urgent humanitarian needs in Bangladesh, where at least 5.4 million people were affected by cyclone Amphan and by massive monsoon floods. The aid focused on providing emergency food assistance, shelter materials and access to clean water supplies and good hygiene practices, while also contributing to improving the livelihood of those who had lost their homes and belongings.
Disaster preparedness, disaster risk reduction and resilience remain key priority areas for the EU in Bangladesh. This includes supporting locally identified initiatives such as the building of flood-resistant infrastructure and early warning systems, and school-based disaster preparedness. The EU, together with its humanitarian partners, seeks to ensure that people's livelihoods are more resistant to natural hazards, thereby reducing their level of vulnerability to shocks and stresses. Since 2001, the EU has mobilised close to €48 million to disaster risk reduction and resilience building activities in Bangladesh, including €4.5 million in 2021.
Last updated: 28/10/2021
Picture: © European Union, 2019 (photographer: Peter Biro)
Facts & figures
More than 860,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar
EU humanitarian aid:
€25 million in 2021
€39.8 million in 2020
€307.6 million since 2007