Regaining Hope in Exile: Two Years of the Rohingya Crisis

In the wake of this emergency, UNHCR stepped in to help one of the most persecuted minorities of the world. Now, the Rohingya are beginning to rebuild their lives two years since their exile. This is possible because you chose to help.

When Omar fled from his home, he brought his walking stick. It helped as he was trekking through lush vegetation and escaping the armed men who were hunting him and the Rohingya people.

Omar is one of the 720,000 who were forced to flee in what is called one of the worst emergencies in recent memory. Two years ago, the Rohingya people were faced with unspeakable horrors. They were chased out of the homes, raped, killed, and their villages were burned down.

In the wake of this atrocity, humanitarian organizations including the UN Refugee Agency stepped in to provide help to one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Through the support of kind-hearted people like you, we were able to save lives and help them take a step in rebuilding their lives in safety and in dignity.

Drinking hope

Water is an indispensable need in any functioning community. However, water service was sporadic during the emergency’s first months. For Rohingya mothers like Sura, this was one of the first challenges they encountered in the Kutupalong settlement. It took a three-hour traverse for Sura to reach the nearest water pump, not including the extremely long lines that await her once arriving.

The last 22 months saw a drastic improvement in water service at the settlements. Water flowed in 679 tube wells built by UNHCR and partners. This made clean water more accessible to refugees living in Cox’s Bazaar.

“Today, it takes me a bit over a minute to walk from my house to the water point,” Sara says gratefully.

Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services don’t stop at wells and pumps. UNHCR and partners trained around 677 WASH field staff and volunteers. They provide information on health risks and disease prevention as well as perform repairs on sanitary facilities and water infrastructure.

“Thanks to UNHCR, the well is close by, and we also have access to latrines and showers,” Sura beams.

Gardens of resilience

The promise of life withers in the face of displacement. Amidst the gloom, seeds of hope spring anew in a unique gardening project created by UNHCR and partner BRAC.

Beginning last year, a hundred Rohingya refugees started planting trees, shrubs, herbs, and other crops in about 43.5 hectares of fertile land in the settlement.

The project was deemed a success eight months after implementation. The gardens exuded a bright and vibrant aura while also reducing soil erosion in the settlement. More importantly, the Rohingya families are enjoying the fruits of their labor.

“My children get excited to see the vegetables. It reminds us of our farm back home. Not only do we have vegetables for ourselves, we often share them with our neighbors,” Sahera said.

They also earn from selling leftover produce to nearby shops. The project has given them a livelihood that will help them get back on their feet. “Before we got the seeds, there was nothing to do. So this is a really great opportunity for us.”

Rescuing a lost generation of learners

Refugee children are always hardest hit by the difficulties of displacement. For Rohingya children, education remains a ray of hope in an otherwise difficult life.

Only shy of 19, Ayesha is the sole caregiver to her younger siblings. The situation is unfortunate but not unique. Many children are the heads of their households in the Rohingya settlements in Bangladesh.

“I lost my mother when I was a child and I wasn’t able to study. But I will help my brother and sister as much as I can,” Ayesha says. The teenager takes great care to ensure that her siblings get the opportunities she didn’t get because of violence.

A generation without education is a generation at risk. That’s why UNHCR and partners are determined to guarantee Rohingya children’s access to education. So far, more than 62,000 kids are enrolled in learning centers at the settlements. UNHCR also recruited 1,257 teachers from the refugee community and surrounding towns to meet their needs.

There is much work to do, however. About 36% of kids between the ages of three and 14 have no access to primary education, while a staggering 91% of teenagers are not enrolled. UNHCR is working with the Bangladeshi government to rescue a lost generation of learners through exploring pathways for formal education.

For now, while they wait for more support, young caregivers like Ayesha are committed to give their younger siblings the best opportunities they can.

“My little brother and sister are all I have, and the ones that I am living for,” Ayesha says hopefully. To continue rebuilding lives of the Rohingya, please click here.