Bangladesh

Attempting to Understand the Rohingya Crisis

by Ogonna Kanu

When you hear a group of persons repeatedly described as the most persecuted minorities in the world, it piques your curiosity and makes you wonder why. My research on the Rohingya prompted me to write about them because I was moved by their predicament. This article attempts to throw more light on the current state of the Rohingyas and the origins of their plight.

The Rohingya are a minority muslim ethnic group predominantly found in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. Very few of them are practicing Buddhists. They generally speak the Rohingya dialect but may also speak English, Bangla, Burmese and Chittagonian. They traditionally dress in the Indo-Burmese way of dressing; and music and song play an important part in their culture.

The genesis of the Rohingya crisis dates back to the 1940s when Myanmar (formerly Burma) got its independence from the British who held sway from 1824 till then. Motivated by the policies of the British, many Rohingya migrated to Myanmar in search of greener pastures. Often recruited in the rice fields, their population grew. The Muslim population was reported to have tripled in the 1870s because of such migrant activities. The British promised the Rohingya their own separate land if they supported them. It was a promise they didn’t intend to keep. While the Rohingya sided with the British during World War II, the Myanmar nationalists were on the Japanese side. At the end of the war, their reward was prestigious government positions, but no land.

With the fall of colonialism in 1948, the Rohingya continued to demand for an autonomous state but their association with the British had bred resentment towards them. The Nationalist government and the mainly Buddhist population regarded them as foreigners who had enjoyed the perks of colonial rule and would hear nothing of such demands. In 1950, the army quashed a Rohingya revolt demanding for an autonomous state. Since then, a series of attacks have forced them to flee to Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, Thailand and Indonesia. A greater percentage of the Rohingya are refugees in Bangladesh. The 700,000 who recently fled in 2017 joined others who had earlier fled. They found homes in the Kuputalong Camp (in Cox’s Bazar district)in Bangladesh. With their ‘relocation’, Kuputalong became the biggest refugee camp in the world, housing over 880,000 Rohingya refugees. 

In 1982, the Citizenship Act of Myanmar was enacted. The Act considers as citizens only those whose ancestors belonged to a national group or race present in Myanmar before the British rule of the 1820s. However, a census conducted by the British prior to 1820 when they occupied the Rakhine territory confirms the presence of an indigeneous ethnic group ‘Rooinga’. Some claims assert that the Rohingyas had lived in the Rakhine state of Myanmar as far back as the 12th century. Myanmar has not considered any of these claims and has consistently denied the Rohingyas citizenship. They are instead viewed as illegal immigrants or at best ‘resident foreigners’. Bangladesh, where a lot of the Rohingyas have had to flee to, do not consider them as citizens either. As such, the Rohingyas are stateless and are deprived of the protection of any government. Rohingya children born outside Myanmar (Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia etc) are not considered citizens of these countries. For those that choose to stay behind in Myanmar, they suffer a deprivation of benefits and are subject to restrictions. They do not enjoy quality healthcare, education or employment. In a bid to reduce their population, there are government restrictions on the number of children they should have. They are allowed to have only 2 children. They are required to seek permission to marry. This process involves presenting the photo of the bride without a headscarf and a clean-shaven faced groom. Both practices do not agree with Muslim customs. They also need permission to move or travel out.

While the news of fleeing Rohingya refugees may have caught world attention briefly in 2017, it was the television scenes of the March 2021 fires destroying countless refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar that jolted the world’s conscience back to the Rohingya crisis. Before then, Cox’s Bazar was largely known to only the humanitarian community.  They had for years been grappling with the weight of this catastrophe begging for urgent attention. There are claims that the refugees had started making their way to Bangladesh as far back as the 1940s. Some documented reports show that they had started to arrive in Bangladesh for succor in 1977 when Myanmar launched ‘Operation Dragon King’ which stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship status and led to mass arrests and persecution of the group. There is also pictorial evidence showing refugees settling in Dumdumia Camp in Cox’s Bazar in 1992. In 2017, reprisal attacks from the Myanmar army and indignant Buddhist indigenes of the Rakhine state forced an estimated 700,000 Rohingya refugees to seek refuge in the town. Earlier on, a group of Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts  with knives and home-made bombs, killing 12 members of the security forces in the process. The Myanmar army and the locals unleashed vengeance on Rohingya homes and property. Rape, sexual slavery, torture, kidnappings and killing of civilians were reported. Unverified reports claim that over 1,000 Rohingyas lost their lives in the 2017 fracas. Others who barely managed to survive joined in the mass exodus to Cox’s Bazar.

In 2018, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation agreement. Rohingya refugees were not eager to return to Myanmar. They were skeptical of receiving a warm welcome from people they once regarded as neighbors. Rohingya leaders were not convinced of the sincerity of the process; and demanded for safety upon their return to the Rakhine state and the reinstatement of citizenship be addressed, before any consideration would be given to repatriation. On the other hand, the  unfounded fear held by Myanmar that the Rohingyas could turn rebellious and solicit support from neighboring Islamic countries to overrun the Buddhist country was still rife. With the Myanmar government refusing to let down its guard, there was no surprise that the repatriation agreement had very little, if at all any, success. The January 2021 coup in Myanmar slowed down the resuscitation of repatriation talks. Both governments have only begun talking again in February this year. 

Presently, fires are not the only obstacles the Rohingyas who have managed to flee Myanmar are faced with. Bangladesh struggles with inadequate resources to cater to the needs of the refugees. The camps are overpopulated and poor sanitary conditions abound. The risk of an outbreak of disease is always high and poor medical facilities exacerbate the danger. Available water supply is often contaminated and encourages the spread of water-borne diseases. Floods also contribute to the rendering of refugees homeless again.  Most of the population is illiterate. Children do not have access to basic education as teachers are barred from using both the Bangladeshi and Myanmar curricula; and children are not allowed to enroll in schools outside the camp. Camp occupants are barred from working outside the camp. In 2019, the Bangladeshi government sped up the construction of shelters on the remote island of Basan Char. Since then, approximately 20,000 Rohingya refugees have been moved without their consent to the Island where they are not allowed to leave and are restricted from communicating with the UN and other organizations. Cases of refugees rescued at sea and being shipped off to the Island instead of being re-united with their families in Cox’s Bazar have been on the increase. The outcry and concerns about the safety of the Island and accessibility from humanitarians have gone unheeded by the government. Amidst criticism of Bangladesh’s handling of the crisis, it is only honest and fair to admit that there was a time when Bangladesh was the only country that accepted the refugees when others had turned their backs on them.

Repatriation seems to be a step in the right direction. However, If underlying issues are sorted out and the Rohingyas finally agree to come home, there may not be much left to come home to. Villages have reportedly been razed down and cleared to accommodate the construction of police barracks, buildings and refugee camps. Clearly, they will not be returning to the security of having homes and lands to call their own. The 2021 military takeover of the Myanmar government puts the Rohingya in a precarious situation. The army has always been involved in the state-endorsed persecution of the group. With the military at the helm of affairs, the group has legitimate reasons to fear that repatriation agreements may be disregarded in favor of military promulgations.  Prejudices and biases do not suddenly die away because of government pronouncements.  Assuming that the Myanmar government magnanimously enacts a law to protect the rights of the Rohingyas, there has to be effective measures in place to ensure that citizens obey the law. Dialogue between the Rohingyas, their Buddhist neighbors and the Myanmar government may help to allay some fears and build some trust amongst all parties.  Will the government consider treading cautiously and tackling bravely the concerns of the Rohingyas in order to win their trust?

Clearly, options for the Rohingyas today are limited.  They can either choose to embrace the uncertainty and hardship of refugee life or stay at ‘home’ in their comfort zone and remain oppressed. I sincerely wish that the story will not be the same in a year or two from now.

Ambulatory Clinics (Rohingya)

UMR works with its partner IMANA to provide ambulatory medical care to Rohingya refugees seeking safety in Cox’s Bazar-currently the largest refugee camp in the world. We are one of the very few medical teams authorized by the Bangladeshi government, which allows us to treat young children who would otherwise suffer from easily preventable diseases such as the flu which are lethal in camp settings. We coordinate with Bangladeshi NGOs for medical staff and logistics support to gain access to the internal parts of the camp. This project is coordinated in conjunction with UN health cluster meetings and volunteers physicians contracted through IMANA.

This project has been running since 2017 and has served hundreds of thousands of Rohingya.

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh is home to more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees who were forced to flee their home due to a violent government crackdown in Myanmar in 2017. This area is more densely populated than some of the largest cities in the world, and the majority of the refugees living there lack access to healthcare, proper sanitation, and decent living conditions. With the onset of COVID-19, experts are predicting that:

This pandemic could set Bangladesh back by decades.

Families live with up to 10 people in one room in sweltering heat, making social distancing impossible. With numbers upward of 19,000 confirmed cases of the virus in Bangladesh, it is only a matter of time before it spreads throughout the entire camp.

“On top of overcrowding, many refugees, who fled persecution in Myanmar, have underlying health conditions or have not received standard immunizations,” putting them at an even higher risk for contracting COVID-19.

Bangladesh Water Wells

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with more than 1000 people per square kilometer.

Three quarters of the population live in rural areas, where running water and sanitary latrines are often considered luxury items. As Bangladesh experiences one of the fastest urbanization rates in Asia, most of the 7 million people living in urban slums – the population of which is rapidly increasing – have no access to safe water sanitary latrines, proper waste disposal systems and adequate sewer drainage.

Lack of access to water supply infrastructure such as tube wells and piping are a major issue for the rural poor and urban slum dwellers who often resort to using unprotected surface water for drinking and cooking.

Further, according to the World Bank’s Agglomeration Index, an alternative measure of urban concentration, Bangladesh has considerable hidden urbanization4 that is not captured on official definitions and statistics. An undercounted rural-but-urbanizing dense population as such poses significant risk of epidemic outbreaks with poor WASH coverage and community awareness.

UMR’s funded project has delivered 112 deep tube wells, semi-deep tube wells, and shallow tube wells to 4,304 rural and urbanizing beneficiaries, and conducted beneficiary sensitization trainings on water safety, benefits of safe water, personal/environmental hygiene and maintenance of wells.
Below are most common examples of beneficiary feedback, indicative of general living conditions of the recipient population:

1. Traveling long distance for water, and spread of water-borne disease:

[S.J.] (Aged 52) is marginal farmer. His family consist of 6 members: “We collected safe water from far distance. He said, “We could not install tube well due to lack of money. Most of the people of this area have been suffering from water borne diseases for a long time. People of this area are very poor. […] After field survey Muslim Aid installed a new shallow tube-well. Now we are getting safe water for drinking and domestic uses.” 5

2. Use of unprotected unimproved surface water, and spread of water-borne disease:

[A.S.] (aged 38) is a Rickshaw Puller. His family consist of 7 members. He said “We could not install tube well due to lack of money. We used pond water. Most of the people of this area have been suffering from water borne diseases for a long time. We were collecting water from far distance. People of this area are very poor. After field visit Muslim Aid installed a new shallow tube-well. Now we are getting pure water for drinking and domestic uses.” 6

3. Water available only at neighboring village, and spread of water-borne disease:

[M. A. H.] (age-55) is a poor mer. He said, “We had no tube well before this tube well installed. People of this area are very poor. We were collecting drinking water from neighboring village. Most of the people of this area have been suffering from water borne diseases for a long time. We could not install tube well due to shortage of fund. After field survey Muslim Aid installed a new shallow tube-well, so, we are very happy. Now we are getting fresh water for drinking and domestic uses.” 7

UNICEF (2012) Bangladesh SHEWA-B Factsheet.
https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/SHEWAB_factsheet_-_FINAL-21April12.pdf
UNICEF (2012) Bangladesh SHEWA-B Factsheet.
https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/SHEWAB_factsheet_-_FINAL-21April12.pdf
UNICEF (2012) Bangladesh SHEWA-B Factsheet.
https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/SHEWAB_factsheet_-_FINAL-21April12.pdf
World Bank (2015) Bangladesh Country Brief. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/bangladesh/brief/leveraging-urbanization-bangladesh
Recorded by Muhammad Kotha Wala 7846 – July 2015. Address of the beneficiary: Upazila: Bagharpara, District: Jessore.
Recorded by Hadia Hamuri 7296 – July 2015. Address of the beneficiary: Upazila: Bagharpara, District: Jessore.
Recorded by Abul Azad 9029 – July 2015. Address of the beneficiary: Upazila: Jessore Sadar, District: Jessore.

The Plight of Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh, Cox’s Bazar

As of 31 July 2019, UNHCR records that over 742,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to refugee camp sites in Bangladesh since 25 August 2017.

  • Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh is currently the largest refugee camp in the world.
  • Rohingya Refugees are in need of international protection and humanitarian assistance.

Who are the Rohingya Refugees?

UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the Rohingya as, “one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world.”

Rohingya Muslims are one of the many ethnic minorities in Myanmar. However, in 2017, there was an extreme government crackdown and Rohingya Muslims were forced to leave Myanmar to protect themselves from violence. The vast majority fled to Bangladesh, where they now live in tightly packed refugee camps. 

Rohingya Refugee Emergency at a Glance

As the emergency and current pandemic extend in duration, Rohingya refugees are overstretching already-limited services and scarce resources. According to the UNHCR;

  • Population – approximately 671,000 Refugees settled in Cox’s Bazar district since 2017
  • Shelter – More than 50,000 shelters have been structured using materials including bamboo, rope, and tarpaulins. 75% of families share households/shelters
  • Congestion – 93% of refugees live below UNHCR’s emergency standard of 45 square meters per person
  • Natural Disaster Risks – Tropical monsoon climate weathers Cox’s Bazar. The area is prone to natural disasters seasonally as climates change between dry season from November to March and rainy seasons from April to October (72% of the yearly rainfall between June and September).  Cox’s Bazar is also exposed to cyclones.
  • Landslides – over 23,000 people are at risk of serious landslides
  • Floods – over 400 hectares of flood-prone areas in Bangladesh; floods affecting nearly 80,000 people
  • Public Health Services – there are 149 clinics and 20 vaccination centers in Bangladesh Rohingya Refugee sites.  Morbidity and diseases are increasing as pandemic escalates; high level of respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases: notably cholera, hepatitis E and measles.
  • Nutrition & Food Security – acute malnutrition and anemia sufferance is prevalent among children 6-59 months, exceeding the emergency threshold.
  • Water & Sanitation – Longer-term and sustainable sanitation solutions are needed; there are 7,275 hand pumps in the refugee camp sites
    • 80% functional hand pumps
    • 99% of refugee populations live within 200 meters of the functioning hand pumps
    • 3,275 of the hand pumps are in landslide or flood prone refugee camp sites
    • 42% of water samples were contaminated with Escherichia coli (Dec 2017).

UMR Interventions

UMR, in coordination with partners, works to provide ambulatory medical care to Rohingya refugees seeking safety in Cox’s Bazar. We are one of the very few medical teams authorized by the Bangladeshi government, which allows us to treat young children who would otherwise suffer from easily preventable diseases, such as the flu, which are lethal in camp settings. We coordinate with Bangladeshi NGOs for medical staff and logistics support to gain access to the internal parts of the camp. This project is coordinated in conjunction with UN health cluster meetings and volunteers physicians contracted through IMANA.

This project has been running since 2017 and has served hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Refugees.

With the onset of COVID-19, experts are predicting that:

This pandemic could set Bangladesh back by decades.

Families live with up to 10 people in one room in sweltering heat, making social distancing impossible. 

With numbers upward of 19,000 confirmed cases of the virus in Bangladesh, it is only a matter of time before it spreads throughout the entire camp. 

Click to Read More:

[1] UNHCR – Rohingya Emergency 2020

[2] UNHCR  – Rohingya Refugee Emergency at a Glance

[3] HRW – “Bangladesh is Not My Country” – 2018

Cataract & Hearing Aid Mission

Treatment of preventable blindness, like cataract and low vision, and deafness is one of the most effective ways to lift people out of poverty, especially for vulnerable communities like refugees living in makeshift environments.

Cataract Missions – Life with Blindness

Cataract accounts for 30%-50% of blindness in most African and Asian countries. Every dollar spent towards eliminating blindness and correcting vision in developing countries returns a four-fold on investment in economic terms. This places eliminating avoidable blindness among the most effective interventions available. Cataract surgeries are some of the most impactful on a person’s quality of life and require no follow up visits to a doctor.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) cataract is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment worldwide, accounting for nearly 20 million cases with nearly 5 million new cases each year.

Life With Hearing Loss and Deafness

Loss in hearing may result from genetic causes, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise, and aging.

Loss is hearing is defined as the ability to not hear as well as someone with normal hearing: hearting threshold of 25 dB or better in both ears. Hearing loss can affect one or both ears, causing difficulty to hear conversational speech or loud sounds.

Hard of hearing is defined as hearing loss ranging from mild to severe. Individuals who are hard of hearing communicate through spoken language and the use of  hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices.

Deafness is profound hearing loss, which implies very little or no hearing in an individual. They often use sign language for communication.

  • 60% of hearing loss is attributable to preventable causes, in children under the age of 15
  • 1.1 billion individuals are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to high noise – high risk for ages between 12–35 years
  • Over one third of people over 65 years of age are affected by disabling hearing loss – greater prevalence in South Asia, Asia Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa
  • The current production of hearing aids meets less than 10% of the worldwide need

UMR Interventions

Since 2016, UMR has been sending medical missions to places like Kenya, Jordan, and Bangladesh to perform cataract surgeries on patients in need. UMR has helped to restore the gift of sight to curable blind cases by providing quality medical care services to some of the most underprivileged including the elderly, disabled, refugees and vulnerable people in the community, many of whom live without any support from their relatives and governments. Under this initiative, in coordination with partner NGOs and Ministries of Health, over 1,000 cataract surgeries have been successfully performed free of cost to date thanks to our generous donors. Our surgeries have been 100% successful with no recurring complications, and cost as little as $100 per eye.

Hearing Aid in Palestine/Jordan

UMR established a partnership with Community Rehabilitation Centre for the Disabled/ Gaza camp (CRCD) – UNRWA, which works to integrate persons with disabilities in their communities and to improve their living conditions. The center helped UMR by offering its local program team and through conducting the need assessment for the project. UMR also partnered with Phonak Jordan, which provided a generous discount on the hearing devices and performed all medical examinations, measurements, and modeling before the devices distribution. It offered 2 years of device maintenance and monitoring in Jordan.

UMR’s Hearing Aid project helps Palestinian refugees in Gaza/Jerash camp and Syrian refugees in random camps in Al-Mafraq who have no health benefits and social security number.

When thousands of people in a community suffer from health issues, it can be nearly impossible for a society to grow and become self-sustainable. At UMR, we believe that in order to improve the quality of life in a community, everyone must have access to primary healthcare. As we continue our mission to help beneficiaries, we will be providing free cataract surgeries and hearing aids to as many people as possible.

Pass the Plate

Ramadan 2020

Every year Muslims around the world observe the holy month of Ramadan by fasting from sunrise to sunset. Unfortunately for hundreds of thousands of families, they will not get the chance to spend this spiritual time in a warm home with nutritious food to break their fast.

The number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million globally last year – the highest number in the UN refugee agency’s almost 70 years of operations. – UN

Refugees and displaced people are the most vulnerable people on the planet, suffering daily without sufficient housing, access to medicine, doctors, food, or clean water. As the crisis worsens, more and more people are depending on humanitarian agencies like UMR to fill the gaps.

Each year during Ramadan, UMR delivers food packages filled with nutritious items such as beans, rice, flour, oil, canned goods, and more to reach people that have absolutely nothing. We have spoken with families begging for help, telling our field staff that without these resources, they will die.

Me and my children are fasting. What will we eat to break our fast? My children are begging me for food and water!

This Ramadan, these families desperately need your help. Please #PassThePlate to a child in need!

Where We Are Working

Lebanon Kenya
Jordan Somalia
Yemen Sudan
Palestine Pakistan
Bangladesh USA

What We Are Providing

Food Baskets

UMR delivers food packages containing items such as rice, flour, sugar, oil, beans, lentils, tomato paste, pasta, bread, and canned goods.

Water & Sanitation

In addition, we will be building water wells in Pakistan, Somalia and Kenya to ensure that some of the poorest communities are able to find clean drinking water, and prevent the spread of diseases.

Orphan Protection

Children are some of the most vulnerable among these already struggling communities. That is why UMR prioritizes the safety and well-being of children and orphans by providing them with healthcare, education, nutrition and a chance at a future.

Iftars

Each year UMR hosts iftar dinners throughout the month of Ramadan. Last year we were able to serve thousands of people in Yemen and Gaza with warm, nutritious meals.

Click Donate Now to See the different programs you can Donate to:

Cataract Missions: Vision 2020

UMR successfully conducted over 1,000 cataract surgeries. Help us reach 5,000 new patients by the end of 2020

Key Facts & Figures:

  • Cataract accounts for 30%-50% of blindness in most African and Asian countries.
  • Every dollar spent towards eliminating blindness and correcting vision in developing countries returns a four-fold on investment in economic terms. This places eliminating avoidable blindness among the most effective interventions available.
  • Cataract surgeries are some of the most impactful on a person’s quality of life and require no follow up visits to a doctor.

Overview:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) cataract is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment worldwide, accounting for nearly 20 million cases with nearly 5 million new cases each year. The majority of people with cataracts are found in the developing world due to a lack of access to adequate healthcare facilities or, more often, a lack of ability to afford this low-cost surgery. Most treated cases need as little as 15 minutes, and even though cataract operations have virtually no recovery time, the number of people with preventable blindness continues to grow.

UMR is putting extraordinary effort to reverse this alarming trend through its Vision 2020 campaign

Since 2016, UMR has been sending medical missions to places like Kenya, Jordan, and Bangladesh to perform cataract surgeries on patients in need. UMR has helped to restore the gift of sight to curable blind cases by providing quality medical care services to some of the most underprivileged including the elderly, disabled, refugees and vulnerable people in the community, many of whom live without any support from their relatives and governments. Under this initiative, in coordination with partner NGOs and Ministries of Health, over 1,000 cataract surgeries have been successfully performed free of cost to date thanks to our generous donors. Our surgeries have been 100% successful with no recurring complications, and cost as little as $100 per eye.

I want to thank all of you for donating to this campaign as I have been blind for 6 years. My right eye was damaged by a rock when I was digging a well and now my only eye that was working has been slowly losing sight from cataracts… Soloman (70 years old)

Project Objective:

To restore eyesight to 5,000 people in Jordan and Kenya with cataract by the end of 2020. In addition to cataract surgery, UMR will provide eye exams, glasses and other rehabilitation needed for refugees and others who cannot afford the cost of these medical care services and procedures.

Our Impact:

Treatment of preventable blindness, like cataract and low vision, is one of the most effective ways to lift people out of poverty, especially for vulnerable communities like refugees living in makeshift environments. They regain their independence and confidence to approach economic opportunities and education. UMR and partners have restored eyesight to people who thought they would never be able to see again. We need to continue this work. There are thousands of people out there in great need of hope, and a chance to see again.

UMR Joins Forces with Academia to Strengthen Projects in Gaza and Bangladesh

UMR Joins Forces with Academia to Strengthen Projects in Gaza and Bangladesh

UMR has partnered with the Access to Health (ATH) Project at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law to advance the organization’s healthcare projects in Palestine and Bangladesh. ATH is an interdisciplinary health and human rights initiative composed of graduate and faculty across Northwestern’s law, business, medicine and public health programs. The collaboration will provide ATH students with a new experiential learning opportunity working in the humanitarian sphere. Our goal is to utilize academia and research to better inform UMR’s approach to providing better healthcare access to vulnerable populations across the two regions.

In Palestine, UMR has long worked in areas like Gaza to provide basic necessities such as food, water, medical supplies, medications, medical equipment, winter items, fresh meat, children’s backpacks, and more. This time, UMR is searching for longer-term solutions to some of the challenges brought on by the limited access to resources in the Palestinian Territories. One such project will be an assessment on water access, and how UMR can increase consistent access to clean drinking water for families living in Gaza. A collaboration with the ATH team might include the development of a needs assessment, or a landscape review of the practices of other organizations to circumvent restrictive import policies that affect the delivery of international aid into Gaza.

In Bangladesh, UMR is seeking to tackle healthcare access for Rohingya women and girls, due to the fact that they make up more than half of the population of Cox’s Bazar refugee camp. A large portion of these girls and women are in their reproductive age and are in need sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services including pregnancy and delivery care, family planning services, menstrual health, safe abortion, STDs, etc. In spite of the interventions of many national and international organizations, there is a serious lack of clinical management for sexual and reproductive health care for girls and adolescents in the camps. Moreover, this group of Rohingya refugees are reluctant to seek SRH care since their healthcare seeking behavior is highly influenced by the orthodox and conservative religious and cultural values, and the continuous deprivation of services that this community experienced in their own country in Myanmar. Lack of awareness and limited access to SRH cares results sexual violence, child marriage, unintended and unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortion, higher rates of maternal mortality, etc. Therefore, these problems need a multidimensional approach. UMR’s partnership with ATH will seek to address these issues to make sure that SRH care is not only accessible but to also provide health education and awareness around these issues within the community.

This partnership will provide Northwestern University students who enroll in the course to research, assess and innovate new approaches to these common issues based on feedback provided by UMR, which will ultimately strengthen UMR’s interventions for years to come.

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