Cardiff International Development Agency takes the lead in Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Rohingya refugees have witnessed killings, arson and torture. But Wales’ largest international development agency is taking action to improve conditions in the refugee camp in Bangladesh.

Image of Rohingya Muslims
Over 600,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for neighbouring Bangladesh. Photo credit: Creative Commons by Tasnim News Agency

Seventy-four year-old Abuallam and his family watched the Myanmar army murder his sister-in-law and set his house on fire. They then endured a seven-day walk to a sprawling refugee camp in Bangladesh they now call “home”.

Abuallam’s story is just one example of the plight of over half a million Rohingya people who have endured a traumatic journey to the refugee camp in the province of Chittagong, Bangladesh to flee persecution from the Myanmar army.

But unsanitary conditions in the camp mean that the Rohingya are still in danger.

Map of Rohingya immigration route
The Rohingyas have experienced brutal violence on their journey from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Map reproduced under Creative Commons licence by Al Jazeera

Wales’ largest international development charity, United Purpose is taking action to improve the state of the camp. “The Rohingya refugees have experienced unimaginable violence but facilities in the camp are in desperately short supply such as a lack of toilets and water points,” says Hannah Wharf, head of communications and public affairs at the charity.

United Purpose aims to build one water well, toilets and washing facilities as well as provide clothes, blankets and solar lights to the Rohingya refugees.

Image of a Rohingya family
A family just like Abuallam’s outside their makeshift hut in the Cox’s Bazaar camp. Photo credit: Kate Hartley, United Purpose.

Security in the vast camp is also of concern especially for refugee women and children who make up 80% of the camp demographic. Zahida and her six children are one such family who had the clothes on their backs, two plates and two metal spoons when they arrived.

The Cardiff based agency are helping female refugees who have experienced sexual abuse on their journey access emotional support. “Fifty per cent of female arrivals are victims of sexual violence so we’re creating women and child friendly spaces in the camp which will offer mental health support,” says Katie Lewis, media and editorial officer at United Purpose.


Image of Rohingya looking at housing in refugee camp
The sprawling make shift camp in Cox’s Bazaar. Photo credit: Kate Hartley, United Purpose

The crisis originates from a military clearance operation driving the Rohingya from Rakhine State since 2013. The most recent outbreak of violence was spurred on by Rohingya insurgent attacks on 30 Myanmar army security posts on 25 August this year.

Eye witnesses reported an army retaliation consisting of killings, rape and arson attacks across the area leading to over 600,000 refugees fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Rohingya arrive at the camp
More Rohingya refugees arrive at the camp. Photo credit: Kate Hartley, United Purpose

The State Counsellor of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been widely criticised for not condemning the army attacks against the Rohingya. “One of the challenges United Purpose faces as an organisation is that the global political situation is changing constantly, but we are managing to respond to it,” says Katie Lewis.

An image of Aung San suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi’s response to the crisis has been criticised by leaders around the world. Photo by Prix Sakharov reproduced under Creative Commons licence.

Cardiffians can help maintain Wales’ legacy of global solidarity and social justice by helping United Purpose in their work, where £15 can provide clothes and a blanket for one child. “Our agency is uniquely effective in its mission as the Rohingya will directly receive 93p for every £1 donated,” says Hannah Wharf.

United Purpose is asking for people to donate to their appeal which you can do here.