While the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis spurred the need for supplies, the recipients were not refugees themselves. Instead, this particular distribution focused on helping vulnerable families who were already living in the area before the recent flood of refugees arrived.
Since August 2017, over 600,000 Rohingya people have fled persecution in Myanmar. Many have made their way across the border into Bangladesh, where areas were clear cut to settle the new arrivals in temporary camps. These new refugee “villages” are neighbors to long-term communities in places like Jaliapalong, which is located about a kilometer away from a large refugee camp.
As World Renew staff members talked with host community members, they learned that host communities like theirs are being affected by the Rohingya crisis in many different ways.
Because of the sudden nature of this crisis, settlements rose up almost overnight. Trees were cut to clear space, with bamboo and other locally available materials used to build temporary shelters. As a result, building materials traditionally abundant for the local community have grown scarce.
In addition, with the large influx of refugees, prices of daily commodities are on the rise, and competition for day labor jobs has grown fierce.
It was the first time in this region that a local community, who had been hosting large numbers of refugees, actually received some relief themselves.
This is happening in places that struggled with poverty before the refugees arrived. Now, with the increased competition for resources and employment, purchasing even basic household goods has become a challenge for local inhabitants. The community members also expressed concern that they may soon become the minority population in the region. They worry about how this demographic shift will affect their future.
On this day, however, fears slipped aside as families gathered to receive household supplies from World Renew. It was the first time in this region that a local community, who had been hosting large numbers of refugees, actually received some relief themselves.
Before distribution could begin, World Renew needed permission from the local district government. With the Islamic Eid holiday looming, many applications had piled up. Permission didn’t come through until 3:30 p.m on the day of distribution. Fortunately, the details were well arranged, and the people were already at the site by the time the paperwork was complete.
Men and women leaders from the community assisted at the site to manage the crowd. They helped community members line up and maintain discipline. By 7:30 p.m., a mere four hours later, the distribution was complete.
Altogether about 700 families received assistance. Each family received umbrellas, raincoats, rubber sandals to use in the rainy season, soap, a solar light, detergent, and a large plastic container in which they can store these items during the wet, rainy season.
Later that week, World Renew also distributed goods to about 2,000 Rohingya families. By assisting both refugees and host families, World Renew and its local partners hope to help all who are in need and to foster ongoing good relationships between these new neighbors.
World Renew asks for prayers and financial support as they continue to respond to the needs of those affected by the Rohingya Crisis. Ask God to protect and strengthen Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and those coming alongside them to provide them with comfort and care.
This story first published on July 5 here; written with reporting from Shagota Chism and George Gomez, World Renew.