On World Refugee Day 2019, representatives from the Rohingya refugee community in Camp 1W of Kutapalong Extension Site in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, gathered at an event organized by Community Partners International (CPI) and the Rokeya Foundation to honor the spirit and courage of the millions of people around the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.
Meredith Walsh (back row, fourth from right), CPI Board Chair Dr. Tom Lee (second row, third from left) and CPI Board Member Dr. Adam Richards (second row, second from left) with CPI Bangladesh staff and Community Health Volunteers in Cox's Bazar in June 2019. Photo: Reza Shahriar Rahman for Community Partners International
Meredith Walsh, Community Partners International (CPI)’s Country Director in Bangladesh, reflects on the last 20 months working to support Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar.
I arrived in Bangladesh in early November 2017 to help Community Partners International (CPI) set up operations in Cox’s Bazar. Just over two months earlier, this small sliver of land squeezed between Rakhine State in western Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal, became the world’s largest refugee camp virtually overnight.
Community Partners International (CPI) supported and participated in community gatherings in Myanmar and Bangladesh to mark International Women’s Day 2019 and emphasize the importance of building a gender-balanced world. In the communities where CPI works, women and girls are under-represented and continue to strive for equal rights and equitable access to opportunities and services. Violence against women and girls remains a significant problem, though often hidden by stigma and cultural norms. These gatherings were held to raise awareness of the continuing challenges faced by women and girls in these communities, to celebrate progress where it has been achieved, and to re-affirm the commitment to building gender equality.
As part of efforts to combat deforestation and improve health in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Community Partners International (CPI) is working with Bangladeshi organization the Village Education Resource Center (VERC) to introduce improved cookstoves into refugee households. On December 11, 2018, the VERC-CPI Energy team organized the first public cooking competition in Camp 8E in which five contestants took up the challenge to cook the best chicken curry with rice on three different cookstove models. The competition was held to showcase the advantages of improved cookstoves and promote uptake in the Rohingya refugee community.
Shomshida lives in the world’s largest and most densely populated refugee camp, Kutupalong, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Kutupalong is currently home to more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees from Rakhine State. Myanmar. She shares her small shelter, a rickety structure of bamboo and tarpaulin, with her husband and two-year old son. In late August 2017, she fled the violence in Rakhine State with her extended family. They walked for 15 days through jungle and across rivers, eventually reaching the border and crossing into Bangladesh. Her elderly father was unable to walk so they carried him throughout the arduous journey.