Ro­hingya women face new risks

Women and girls face re­newed harms in refugee camps: Ox­fam

Fort McMurray Today - - NATIONAL NEWS - TERESA WRIGHT

OT­TAWA — Ro­hingya women and girls who sur­vived a geno­cide in Myan­mar are fac­ing new risks in refugee camps in Bangladesh and need more help from na­tions like Canada, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from Ox­fam Canada.

In­for­ma­tion gleaned from a se­ries of in­ter­views, fo­cus groups and sur­veys of hun­dreds of women and men from the host and refugee com­mu­ni­ties in Bangladesh over the last year sug­gests the hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse to the year-long se­cu­rity cri­sis is not ad­e­quately meet­ing the spe­cific needs of Ro­hingya women.

As a re­sult the agency is call­ing on Canada and all donor na­tions to ear­mark 15 per cent of all hu­man­i­tar­ian aid for the Ro­hingya Mus­lims specif­i­cally to ad­dress the needs of women and girls.

Girls and women have de­scribed fear­ing for their safety and dig­nity when ac­cess­ing wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties lead­ing some women to choose to go hun­gry and thirsty and to re­strict their chil­dren’s di­ets, Ox­fam Canada says.

Women feel es­pe­cially un­safe at night and many fe­male-headed house­holds feel par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse, ha­rass­ment. There have also been re­ports of hu­man traf­fick­ing and girls dis­ap­pear­ing from the camps.

Me­lanie Gal­lant, man­ager of hu­man­i­tar­ian cam­paigns for Ox­fam Canada, says these in­ter­views shed light on some “shock­ing” statis­tics and “hor­ror sto­ries” that some of the Ro­hingya women have had to face in refugee camps in Bangladesh since flee­ing their homes in Myan­mar last year.

Some of the in­for­ma­tion sug­gests many of these women have likely sur­vived at­tacks as a re­sult of the cur­rent setup of liv­ing and san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties at the refugee camps, Gal­lant says.

“There’s a lot of shame of­ten at­tached to hav­ing been at­tacked, es­pe­cially when we’re talk­ing about sex­ual vi­o­lence, but a lot of things said in the in­ter­views lead us to be­lieve this is hap­pen­ing, and it’s some­thing we not only need to re­spond to if it hap­pened, but we need to put things in place to pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing.”

Other con­cerns have been raised about women who ob­serve the cul­tural prac­tice of “pur­dah,” which in­volves screen­ing women and men from strangers, ei­ther through spe­cific types of cloth­ing or by us­ing a cur­tain in the home. A lack of ap­pro­pri­ate cloth­ing as well as shared wash­ing fa­cil­i­ties is lead­ing some women to not want to leave their homes, lead­ing to san­i­ta­tion and in­fec­tion con­cerns.

Women have also de­vel­oped in­fec­tions from a lack of ac­cess to ma­te­ri­als to man­age their men­stru­a­tion cy­cles, Ox­fam says.

The end of Au­gust marked one year since nearly 725,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims fled their homes fol­low­ing a mil­i­tary crack­down in the Rakhine state, per­pe­trated by the Myan­mar se­cu­rity forces.

Canada has con­demned the vi­o­lence and has com­mit­ted $300 mil­lion over the next three years to sup­port dis­placed and other vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions.

Gal­lant says that Canada has been a leader when it comes to re­spond­ing to the se­cu­rity cri­sis and has placed a fo­cus on the needs of women and girls in its ap­proach to its hu­man­i­tar­ian aid but there is room for im­prove­ment.

More fe­male staff and more stand-alone pro­gram­ming to ad­dress the prac­ti­cal needs of women and girls are needed in the re­gion, the agency rec­om­mends.

Mean­while, the Ro­hingya refugees will also likely con­tinue to face a se­ries of other con­cerns as dis­placed peo­ple liv­ing in camps in South Asia.

On Tues­day, the United Na­tions is­sued a sep­a­rate, un­re­lated re­port rais­ing con­cern about a rise in global hunger, which high­lighted a higher preva­lence of food in­se­cu­rity among women in South Asia. It pointed to cli­mate change as the cul­prit for in­creas­ingly volatile weather pat­terns, which have hurt ma­jor crops — a sit­u­a­tion that is only ex­pected to worsen as global tem­per­a­tures con­tinue to rise.

In a state­ment last week, For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land said Canada “re­mains com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing the hu­man­i­tar­ian and se­cu­rity cri­sis in Myan­mar and Bangladesh,” high­light­ing the fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments made over the last year.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

Ro­hingya women cry as they shout slo­gans dur­ing a protest rally to com­mem­o­rate the first an­niver­sary of Myan­mar army’s crack­down which lead to a mass ex­o­dus of Ro­hingya Mus­lims to Bangladesh, at Ku­tu­pa­long refugee camp in Bangladesh, on Aug. 25. Ro­hingya women and girls who sur­vived the geno­cide of their peo­ple in Myan­mar are fac­ing on­go­ing risks to their pro­tec­tion and health in refugee camps in Bangladesh, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from Ox­fam Canada.

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