Expanding early warning into refugee settlements of Cox’s Bazar
The project in brief
American Red Cross
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
From December 2017.
As an example of an ongoing and protracted crisis, this initiative will be continued as an integrated component of the national Cyclone Preparedness Program to ensure that refugees living in locations at a high risk of natural hazards are appropriately prepared for such anticipated future events.
Ensure refugee and host communities at risk are effectively prepared for and better able to respond to disasters as well as strengthening capacities of existing coordination mechanisms and disaster management institutional structures.
The program used a diverse range of material, technical resources and skills of various stakeholders which included national and local government agencies, UN agencies, international and local non-government actors, specialized organized and media.
The inclusion and recognition of refugees as CPP Camp Volunteers has been an important policy change and achievement. It signifies the Government’s recognition of and approach to enhancing DRR in camp settlements and ensuring that displaced community members are empowered by ensuring their meaningful participation in all relevant processes.
- Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) - a joint initiative of Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR), Government of Bangladesh and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS)
- Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Office
- InterSector Coordination Group (ISCG)
- United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
- International Organization for Migration (IOM)
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Challenges and how they were overcome
- A limited understanding of the displaced communities’ aspects of culture, language and experience challenged the initial work.
- Training of Rohingya volunteers due to their low levels of literacy and capacities in disaster preparedness.
- Low levels of trust between the host and refugee communities with a possibility of creating a sense of fear and concern.
- Low level of awareness among humanitarian partners on the Bangladesh national early warning and emergency response systems initially created confusion among partners on related response protocols.
How they were overcome
- The program recognized the cultural and sociological context of the displaced people by ensuring the Rohingya language was used across all trainings and communication messages with the partnership fromTranslators without Borders (TwB) and BBC Media Action. A glossary of terms has been developed, in consultation with the displaced communities, to ensure culturally appropriate words are used resulting to greater understanding by the displaced community.
- The inclusion of local staff having the knowledge of refugee community language (Rohingya) was critical in increasing and improving communication with the Rohingya community. Having the engagement of TwB to bring in the anthropological and cultural perspectives in trainings and communication materials increased greater participation and knowledge transfer.
- The role of the host community and its related governance systems was important to foster and promote understanding and cohesion within these two sets of communities; this was considered in the planning stage, as well as their participation throughout implementation. Interface and communication were promoted between the local governments, the Rohingya refugees and camp management systems to ensure that the risks and realities for both populations were considered. CPP volunteer focal points from host communities for each camp provided a vital link between the national program and the refugee community volunteers.
- To ensure an increase in knowledge of the national early warning systems, orientation sessions were conducted for humanitarian workers. To ensure all partners understand the current status and gaps, prior to cyclone seasons, stakeholders’ workshops are organized with key stakeholders including MoDMR, RRRC, Army, ISCG, UNHCR, IOM,Bangladesh RedCrescent Society (BDRCS), IFRC and all sectors and site management partners.
Results of the Good Practice
- Rohingya refugees have increased knowledge and capacities to prepare and response to disasters.
- Refugees trained and appointed as Cyclone Preparedness Programme Volunteers which increases their access to information that enhances their protection. It has increased refugees’ confidence and dignity through meaningful inclusion as part of the wider Cyclone PreparednessProgramme.
- Bangladesh National Early Warning System and related systems has been extended across all 34 refugee camps covering the entire refugee population in the Cox’s Bazar district.
- Both refugee populations and host communities have increased awareness of risks and impacts of disasters through their participation in the wider emergency response mechanism.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
This good practice focuses on one of the key objectives of the GCR - enhancing refugee self-reliance, specifically related to natural hazard events and strengthening capacities of refugees to take appropriate pre-emptive actions to reduce loss and damage.
The GCR emphasises strengthening the protection of refugees to natural disasters as well as integrating refugees within local and national disaster management systems (Section 52 and 53). One key outcome was the recognition of the knowledge and capacities of the refugee population and the value of creating a space for refugees in their current situation where they directly contribute to reducing risks related to disasters and act as first responders.
Significantly, through this program, refugees are recognised not as passive victims but rather as the main agents in strengthening their own resilience to natural hazards.
In each camp teams of CPP Camp Volunteers were formed with equal participation from both women and men, who were trained (and equipped) in broader disaster preparedness, early warning dissemination, first aid and emergency response. These volunteers have been instrumental in emergency response and disaster risk reduction activities.
The program has also taken into consideration multiple disaster risks faced by both host and displaced communities alike and has promoted better engagement through set up of direction coordination systems with each camp as well as ensuring the application of the national institutional mechanism for disaster management for all affected people.
Interface and engagement has been promoted between the host community and camp management systems to ensure that emergency response and disaster management plans are harmonized.
The good practice has considered and acknowledged the cultural context of the displaced people by ensuring the Rohingya language is used across all training and communication messages through support from Translators without Borders (TwB) and BBC Media Action. A glossary of terms has been developed which covers a range of sectors related to disaster risk, response and management to ensure that culturally appropriate and relevant terminology are used, to enhance the impact of the project amongst the displaced community.
Through this program various agencies - government, military, UN and civil society organizations - working in camp settlements have been brought together to ensure more effective use of resources and leveraging the expertise within these agencies.
The project operates through the existing coordination system and partners–national government authorities (MoDMR, RRRCOffice1), UN Inter SectorCoordination Group, key UN agencies (UNHCR, IOM, UNDP), Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, international and local civil society organizations (BRAC, DRC and ActionAid2), media and technical institutions.
The Consortium approach of working to extend this initiative to all camps demonstrates the scale of reach and impact that can be achieved together for increasing the resilience of displaced and host populations. There is immense potential for the sustainability and ownership of this initiative by local and national government as it uses the existing national disaster management framework, mechanisms and institutions.
Given the success in working through a consortium approach for collective action, the program will continue working with both refugees and host communities in increasing their resilience and safety through camps level organized platforms that will voice and their rights and concerns.
Achala Navaratne, Country Representative, American Red Cross, Bangladesh Country Office