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A view of the Rohingya refugee camp at Teknaf, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh A view of the Rohingya refugee camp at Teknaf, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh  (ANSA)

Catholic charities’ new initiative for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Caritas, JRS and CRS have joined hands in a new project to assist thousands of Rohingya people who have fled to Bangladesh from their homes in Rakhine state in neighbouring Myanmar.

By Vatican News staff writer

The Multipurpose Adolescent Centre is a new initiative by Caritas Bangladesh, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and the US-based Catholic Relief Service (CRS) for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

It aims to help the psychological development of children, provide counselling and skill development to adolescents, care for expectant mothers, childcare and care for children with special needs, according to UCA News.

The project, launched after a workshop in Cox’s Bazar on November 15, will run until April 2021, covering children aged 12-18. If needs be, the initiative could be extended, officials said. 

Staff from Caritas emergency response programme (ERP), representatives from JRS and CRS and officials from the state-run Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission participated in the evaluation of work in 2020 and formulated a strategic plan for 2021.

The work of the Multipurpose Adolescent Centre is not an easy one, given the problems of hygiene and social distancing in the extremely overcrowded conditions in the refugee camps.

Bangladesh on Monday registered 28 more deaths, taking the total to 6,419, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).  2,419 new cases of the virus were confirmed on Monday, bringing the total to more than 449,000.

Who are the Rohingya

The Rohingya are a largely Muslim ethnic group that mostly lives in Western Myanmar’s Rakhine state bordering Bangladesh. Buddhist-majority Myanmar considers the Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though they have lived in the country for generations.

Denied citizenship under a nationality law passed by the government’s military regime in 1982, they are virtually stateless and are denied freedom of movement and other basic rights. The Rohingya were the targets of intercommunal violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 people from their homes to displacement camps, where most remain.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since a brutal crackdown by Myanmar’s military in 2017, bringing the total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to some 1.3 million.  They are mostly sheltered in about 30 refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in southeast Bangladesh.

Caritas

Caritas has been active in the Rohingya refugee camps since 2017.  With funding from Catholic agencies across the globe, Caritas has reached out to 146,819 refugees, as well as 8,641 host community members with aid including food, non-food items, water and sanitation in the past years.  

Inmanuel Chayan Biswas, head of operations of Caritas ERP, said that JRS funding for the project was mainly for protection sectors, whereas CRS provides support for disaster risk reduction, shelter and protection. In addition, CRS also provides technical and advisory support.

He said JRS and CRS are funding and support for mental health and skill development. The two donor agencies are also providing technical support and advice to Caritas Bangladesh, Biswas told UCA News.

Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the president of Caritas Internationalis, the global confederation of 165 national Catholic relief and development agencies, visited some of the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar in December 2018 and in July 2019.  

JRS

JRS, which celebrated its 40th founding anniversary on November 14, started working among Rohingya refugees in April 2018.

Bangladeshi Jesuit priest, Father Jerry Gomes, JRS representative in the country, told UCA News that JRS funds 11 child-friendly spaces that already reached about 4,000 beneficiaries with basic education. In the past three years, JRS provided funds worth US$ 2.5 million.

He explained that JRS has been working in Bangladesh through Caritas, maintaining government rules and regulations. He pointed out that many governments have restrictions, especially in the education sector.

“If Bangladesh allows formal education for refugee children, we will be happy to help,” Father Gomes said.  (Source: UCANews)

23 November 2020, 14:53