The Netherlands will provide $7.5 million to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for a project aims to provide multi-sectoral support assistance for the Rohingya refugees and the host communities in Cox's Bazar.
The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Dhaka and the IOM have signed an agreement for the implementation of 'Restoring the Environment and Strengthening Resilience of Rohingya Refugees and Host Communities in Cox's Bazar' project.
An Exchange of Notes was signed by Chargé d'Affaires Thijs Woudstra, Deputy Ambassador of the Netherlands to Bangladesh, and Fathima Nusrath Ghazzali, Officer in Charge of IOM Bangladesh at the IOM Office in Dhaka on Monday.
Cox's Bazar District, currently hosting nearly one million Rohingya refugees since 2017, is prone to natural disasters and climate change impacts. Refugees and host communities are vulnerable to landslides and floods, particularly during cyclones which can occur annually.
The temporary and often weak shelter structures in which the refugees live further exacerbate not only the vulnerability of the refugees to natural disasters but also psychosocial stress.
For this reason, the project seeks to integrate mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) into the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) activities.
This integrated approach adopted by the Netherlands and IOM aims to build resilient communities and reduce negative mental health and psychosocial outcomes, and to increase the community's capacity in DRR prevention and preparedness as well as their resilience to hazardous events.
It is envisioned that 196,463 people from refugee and host communities will benefit from the project, receiving assistance through the continued operation and maintenance of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, environmental rehabilitation activities and MHPSS (psychiatric consultations, counseling, case management).
Some 18,000 beneficiaries will receive lay-counseling by trained community volunteers.
At least 200 volunteers will be trained on Psychological First Aid (PFA), lay counseling, stress management and other MHPSS-related and residence-oriented topics.
At least 18 community support groups will be established, involving 180 community members.
The project will also benefit at least 30,000 refugee families (approximately 150,000 people) living in the Balukhali landslide and flood-prone areas (inside the camps) and 3,000 families from the Bangladeshi host communities (approximately 16,410 people) living in the area outside the refugee camps.
"The Rohingya live in congested camps with limited opportunities and complex challenges. Host communities also face issues that increase their vulnerability, including strained resources, limited market access, limited employment opportunities, insufficient infrastructure, and recurring environmental shocks," said Ghazzali,
"With support from the Netherlands, IOM will provide life-saving support to Rohingya refugees and host communities, contributing to improved social harmony and human security. This will include providing essential services focusing on camp life; mental health; disaster risk reduction, and water, sanitation & hygiene," she added.
Chargé d'Affaires Thijs Woudstra expressed hope that the support from the Government of the Netherlands will help to improve the living conditions of both Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi communities and mitigate disaster risks.
"We particularly value the innovative angle this project takes in integrating MHPSS in DRR. Increasing community resilience and preparing the community to adequately respond to disasters is key to ensure a sustainable reduction of disaster risks for refugees and host communities in Cox's Bazar." the Deputy Ambassador said.
The project will be implemented in coordination with the government of Bangladesh and other relevant stakeholders.