The Rohingya Muslims lived in Myanmar in the Northern Rakhine state. The government of Myanmar is almost exclusively Buddhist, and have denied the Rohingya people citizenship, going so far as to completely exclude them from the 2014 Myanmar census. In August 2017, Myanmar began to attack the Rohingya people without mercy. While the Myanmar government says it was fighting dangerous Rohingya militants, the UN has since deemed this warfare a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
The Rohingya are often considered one of the most discriminated against groups in the world, and despite having lived in the region for generations, were and are the target of ethnic genocide. Almost 7,000 Rohingya are estimated to have died in the month following the August attacks. These attacks caused a mass exodus from Myanmar, and the Rohingya refugee crisis was born. There are now over 13 refugee camps in the bordering country of Bangladesh, with over 1 million refugees. These refugee camps are severely short on resources and aid and need desperate help. The largest camp, Kutupalong, has over 700,000 refugees and is the largest refugee settlement in the world today. In May of 2020, a fire broke out in this settlement which killed destroyed over 300 homes.
Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) has performed work in Myanmar since 2008 and increased its support following the August 2017 attacks and subsequent mass migration. Through partnerships with local non-profit organizations, they are able to work with the refugees on the ground to provide many forms of assistance. With so many refugees in one area, almost all of the specialty teams that HHRD employs were mobilized.
The Water For Life team works to ensure that there are clean drinking water and bathrooms. By working with engineers, they assess the needs of the local refugees based on population density, and design and install water supply schemes for the camps. In addition to drinking, water is used for cooking and washing. General hygiene kits are also distributed to ensure preventable and communicable diseases do not spread through the population. Without water and proper resources to address hygiene, the refugees would not be able to stay in the area and would be forced to make the dangerous decision to return to Myanmar, where 500,000 Rohingya still live.
In addition to ensuring clean drinking water, HHRD plays a role in building sustainable living quarters for the Rohingya refugees. The shelter homes created by HHRD’s teams have two rooms, a balcony, and are made from strong materials to withstand the elements. The homes also come with solar panels that power outlets for use by the families and are suitable for a family of 6. Rain is not the only type of weather that the Rohingya people must worry about. During wintertime, HHRD provides clothing, blankets, and extra food supplies to the families. The houses are weatherproof, but lack insulation that a more permanent structure would contain.
During this crisis, children who have been orphaned need someone to look after them. HHRD’s trained professionals run 3 different child care homes that provide for the children in their time of need. These homes look after the children, educate them, feed them, clothe them, and ensure their safety. They provide structure and companionship to the children during a time of chaos, while giving them an opportunity to learn valuable life skills.
While no one knows what the future holds for the Rohingya people, the only way to resolve this crisis, and save lives, is by giving them a helping hand. HHRD’s Rohingya relief program was established in 2008 and expanded in 2017 to respond to the growing crisis. Please visit their website, and consider making a donation to help the Rohingya people in their time of need. All donations made to this cause go directly to assisting the Rohingya refugee camps that HHRD is assisting.