ACTED began its Bangladesh operations in February 2018, in the context of the Rohingya exodus of 2017. ACTED is working in the Rohingya refugee camps of the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion Site at the Ukhia sub-district of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. In line with its 3Zero programming strategy, ACTED’s work in Bangladesh focuses on the following thematic areas: Collaborative and Resilient Ecosystem Management, Access to Basic Services, Strengthening Institutions and Civil Society, and Humanitarian Action.
Since the summer of 2017, state-sponsored violence has driven more than 700,000 Rohingya, an ethnic minority residing primarily in Northern parts of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, across the border to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Largely the refugees have settled in the Kutupalong-Balukhali site, reliant on humanitarian assistance for survival. Makeshift shelters, inadequate infrastructure, poor hygiene conditions, insufficient sanitation facilities, limited educational and work opportunities are some of the pressing concerns for camp residents. Monsoon poses risks of landslides, mudslides, and flash floods in the hilly campsite.
In collaboration with its Alliance2015 partner Helvetas, ACTED is responding to the Rohingya emergency to ensure protection and dignity of the displaced persons. ACTED works toward Rohingya refugee population’s safe and equal access to camp facilities and services by delivering site management support functions, including strengthened coordination of service partners, service monitoring, increased and inclusive community participation, community representation support, and emergency preparedness and response. Moreover, ACTED supports community structures to mobilize and empower refugees and increase access to a responsive feedback and complaints mechanism. Finally, ACTED carries out site improvement and disaster risk reduction works to increase the resilience of refugees to climate shocks.
A key part of ACTED’s response in Cox’s Bazar is reforestation activities in the now deforested areas where the Kutupalong-Balukhali zone is situated. The mass exodus of Rohingya refugees brought immense ecological changes in the affected area’s landscape. About 2,500 hectares of forest have been cleared to provide shelter materials, firewood for fuel, and space. The camp zone contains hillocks covered in sandy soil. Topsoil erosion, dense settlements, and risk of landslides are thus prevalent, exacerbated by the deforestation trend. ACTED has been planting bamboo and Arjun saplings alongside vetiver plantations to increase water retention capacity of the soil and combat erosion. Reforestation is carried out through Cash for Work laborers managed under ACTED’s disaster risk reduction activities.