Rohingya children study the Quran in a makeshift Islamic school at Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar of Bangladesh. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)
Three leading Catholic charities have launched a joint venture to assist thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh who fled deadly bouts of persecution in Rakhine state of Myanmar.
Caritas Bangladesh, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and Catholic Relief Service (CRS) have joined hands to support the beleaguered community in the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar in southeast Bangladesh.
A project workshop held in Cox’s Bazar on Nov. 15 kicked off the new project called Multipurpose Adolescent Center that aims for psychological development of children, counseling, skill development for adolescents, care for expectant mothers, child care and care for children with special needs.
The project, due to run until April 2021, will cover children aged 12-18 with possibilities of an extension, officials said.
Staff from Caritas emergency response program (ERP), representatives from JRS and CRS and officials from the state-run Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission participated in evaluation of work in 2020 and formulated a strategic plan for 2021.
Caritas has been active in refugee camps since 2017, when the mass exodus of Rohingya started following a genocidal military crackdown that led to more than 700,000 fleeing to Bangladesh.
With funding from Catholic agencies across the globe, Caritas has reached out to 146,819 refugees as well as 8,641 host community members with aid including food, non-food items, water and sanitation in the past years.
Inmanuel Chayan Biswas, head of operations of Caritas ERP, said that JRS funding for the project was mainly for protection sectors, whereas CRS provides support for disaster risk reduction, shelter and protection. In addition, CRS also provides for technical and advisory support.
In the protection sector, JRS and CRS provide funding and support for mental health and skill development, he noted.
“Caritas Bangladesh is very proud to work with two donor agencies together. They are providing vital support to the Rohingya community through Caritas. They are not only donors but also technical supporters and advisers for Caritas,” Biswas told UCA News.
JRS, which celebrated its 40th founding anniversary on Nov. 14, started working among Rohingya refugees in April 2018.
Bangladeshi Jesuit priest Jerry Gomes, JRS representative in the country, told UCA News that JRS funds 11 child-friendly spaces that already reached about 4,000 beneficiaries with basic education. In the past three years, JRS provided funds worth US$ 2.5 million.
“We are only donors but the specialty of JRS is we always work in the field to observe work. In Bangladesh, JRS has been working through Caritas by maintaining the government’s rules and regulations. Governments have many restrictions, especially in the education sector. If Bangladesh allows formal education for refugee children, we will be happy to help,” Father Gomes told UCA News.
Bangladesh hosts more than one million Rohingya Muslims who fled the crackdown in their homeland in Myanmar, where they have faced systematic persecution and denial of basic rights including citizenship for decades despite their presence in the Buddhist-majority country for centuries.