With new funding, local non-profit Brac and partners will rebuild learning centers, provide mental health services for vulnerable children and youth, and build back better
The massive March fires in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar refugee camp killed 15 people and displaced over 61,000 Rohingya refugees.
In response to the devastating fires, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) on Tuesday announced a US$250,000 first emergency response grant that will support non-profit Brac and other local partners in rebuilding learning centers, and building back better from the tragic disaster that continues to put vulnerable refugee children and youth at risk.
While many major international non-profits and UN organizations have already stepped up their response to the fires, smaller organizations like Brac lack the funds to fully rebuild.
The ECW investment will provide a targeted 12-month response in four camps found in the sprawling Cox’s Bazar refugee camp. Approximately 5,000 girls and boys will benefit from the investment, with specialized support for girls and children with disabilities.
“Before the fires, Rohingya refugee children and youth had already lived through horrific traumas. They have fled through the night and lost loved ones. They’ve been targeted for attacks. They’ve been kidnapped. Girls have been raped and faced unspeakable attacks,” said Yasmine Sherif, director of ECW, the UN’s global fund for education in emergencies.
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“These devastating fires displaced over 45,000 people – half of whom are girls and boys. Many now only have the clothes on their backs. To build back better, we are supporting smaller local organizations such Brac to provide these children and youth with the protection and hope that quality learning environments provide,” she added.
According to recent reports, 212 learning centers (including 54 Brac learning centers) were damaged beyond repair in the blaze. Child friendly spaces run through the Child Protection Sub-Sector were also damaged, and water and sanitation facilities were burnt to the ground. This poses a serious protection risk for girls, who are fearful to sleep in group settings or use non-gender-specific facilities.
“The fire in the camp reminded us once again that the situation is still very volatile. We quickly responded by providing psycho-social support to every household. We understand that we need to create a system where every beneficiary – in this case, every child and caregiver – need access to psycho-social support,” said Dr Erum Mariam, executive director of Brac.
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“However, we also must remember that every frontliner who is providing this support also needs access for her own wellbeing. We developed a ‘system of care,’ which we think is absolutely necessary in the humanitarian setting,” she added.
Among its outputs, the new investment will rebuild six learning centers run by Brac and other small-scale organizations, reconstruct toilet facilities and hand-washing stations – an essential step in preventing the spread of Covid-19 – provide targeted mental health and psychosocial support services, and distribute uniforms and hygiene kids.
To build back better and reduce the risks from future disasters, fire extinguishers, first aid equipment and training on disaster risk reduction will be provided.