Camp overview: Minawao, Cameroon and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Minawao refugee camp was established in 2012, 56 miles from Nigerian border - refugees fleeing Boko Haram in Nigeria and internally displaced Cameroonians fled here and is administered by UNHCR (also caused by Lake Chad crisis).
Contamination of water is a cause of over-crowding, due to the sheer number of refugees, waste facilities and dumping are difficult to regulate
Overcrowded conditions have meant that supplies have become scarce and simply aren’t enough. However, there are many major NGO’s working on site to help the water crisis with the building of wells- also home-grown engineers working to increase water supplies and ensure that refugees don’t need to walk for hours to get to a fresh water.
A major problem is caused by the contamination of water. Due to the overcrowded conditions and lack of education many people have been disposing of waste in the fields/ water supplies- contaminating the water and causing a risk of water-borne diseases. This can be remedied with the chlorination of water supplies.
The monsoon season will make these pre-existing issues even worse, putting more people of concern at risk, affecting the operations conducted by the UNHAS (United Nation’s Humanitarian Air Services), preventing humanitarian staff from travelling to the field. According to the UNHCR 2018 regional update report, is during the monsoon season “terrorist attacks are likely to spill over into Adamawa and Yobe States as well as Niger, Chad and Cameroon”.
This refugee camp has been the focus of much international aid. Organisations like Plan have set up schools in the camp providing necessary hygiene information like digging latrines.
Camp residents are employed as much as possible in things like building work to give them a source of income.
Refugees in the camp rely on aid for food supplies which are given out with the use of ID cards- each ID card clearly states the number of people in a family and rations are provided accordingly. European humanitarian experts personally visit, and monitor aid projects funded by the EU to ensure the aid is going to the people who really need it.
The European Commission substantially increased its humanitarian support to Cameroon. In 2015 and 2016, over €50 million were allocated to respond to the growing needs in the country, which also hosts refugees from Central African Republic and has 223 000 of its own citizens displaced in the Far North by Boko Haram violence.
A tripartite agreement between the government of Cameroon, Nigeria and the UNHCR has led to measures to sustainably integrate the refugees into local communities.
Already the wettest parts of a wet country, with 12 feet of rain every year, Cox’s Bazar is home to the largest refugee camp in the world.
Located in South-eastern Bangladesh, the camp has been described as having ‘no site planning’ and is compared to a slum. With refugees living there over decades, the condition is dire and it’s only going to get worse.
A horrendous cocktail of no organisation, limited resources and severe weather changes.
Lack of planning and resources make the Rohingya community in the camp so much more vulnerable to changes in weather and widespread disease. Tarpaulin shelters are used both in Bangladesh and Cameroon refugee camps, however, weather conditions in Bangladesh mean that lives will inevitably be lost.
Military checkpoints around the camps prevent the refugees from leaving, the camp has been compared to a large detention centre. Bangladesh community are not willing to allow for more stable brick homes as they don’t want to encourage the Rohnigya to become permanently settled in Bangladesh- like how they feel about the introduction of schools.
Bangladeshi businesses have jumped at the opportunity of exploiting desperate Rohingya people.
Many of the Rohingya fled Burma with nothing but the clothes on their back and have started to work in the camp to make extra income as they currently have no access to food without a distribution card. Bangladeshi businesses have started to open inside the camps, paying Rohingya people half a normal salary.
Temporary learning centres have been set up and they seek to educate the Rohingya in English and in Burmese. The refugees are at risk of various types of trafficking; sex, drugs and labour included. The education centres don’t only focus on academics, but they seek to teach the Rohingya special measures that’ll prevent them from falling in to the aforementioned types of trafficking as organised crime networks are also eager to exploit those displaced by the crisis.
However, Bengali is not being taught as the government have no intention in integrating the Rohingya community into Bangladeshi society. The Bangladeshi government was to prevent the Rohingya from assimilating in to the local population. New refugees are barred from Bangladeshi citizenship through either birth or marriage.
Whilst temporary measures are being made, who is ensuring measures with longevity and quality of life for refugees?
Refugee camps have a total lack of economic opportunities available to refugees; the focus should be on integrating the refugees into the host country rather than leaving them in exile. Education on sanitation is very important in refugee camps as this can help to prevent the spread of many diseases. Also, Rohingya females are particularly at risk and providing them with basic self-defence is vital. Providing aid is only a temporary measure, and it’s important for the refugee community to try and become self-sufficient, reinforcing the importance of education.