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.
Ma Yin Shwe Aye lives with her husband and two daughters, aged 5 and 10, in their modest bamboo house in Kyaw Nu village, Myanmar. The village is situated in Mawlamyinegyun township of the Ayeyarwady Delta region in the southwest of Myanmar. In the dry season, when they can't collect rainwater, the family draws water from a nearby creek, but Ma Yin Shwe Aye worries that this water might not be good for her children's health. In July 2018, the family started using a new ceramic filter as part of a community-based project supported by Community Partners International (CPI). We visited the family in March 2019 to find out how they were getting on with the new water filter.
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.
With more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in tightly-packed shelters in Cox’s Bazar, and with many communities at high risk of flooding from the monsoon rains, access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation is crucial to reduce the risk of diarrhea, cholera and other dangerous diseases. As of June 21, 2018, two thirds of Rohingya refugees have access to safe water and functional latrines that meet the standards agreed by the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) in Cox’s Bazar. Community Partners International (CPI) is working with local partner Society for People’s Action in Change and Equity (SPACE) to help close the gap and ensure that all refugees have access to these basic needs.