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.
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.
In August 2017, Shofika fled violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, and crossed the border into Bangladesh with her husband and three children, ages six, four and two. She sought shelter in the Kutupalong Expansion Site refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, that houses more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees. It is currently the world’s largest refugee camp. In early 2018, Shofika became pregnant with her fourth child.
For the more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar sheltering in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, the simple act of cooking a meal lies at the heart of a complex web of health, safety, nutrition and environmental concerns. Community Partners International (CPI) is launching a project to bring improved cookstoves into refugee households in Cox’s Bazar to help reduce firewood consumption that drives environmental degradation and deforestation, and support efforts to decrease levels of indoor air pollution that can negatively impact people’s health.
Back in April, 2018, Community Partners International (CPI) began training a network of Rohingya Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) embedded in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to provide first response services to their communities. Since then, the CHVs have responded to 75 requests for urgent assistance.