Close to half a million refugees from Myanmar are in urgent need of assistance as they have either witnessed, experienced or are at risk of gender-based violence, the international aid organisation CARE has warned.
CARE’s Country Director for Bangladesh Zia Choudhury said these refugees required urgent assistance.
“We have encountered horrific stories of sexual violence, including rape, and trafficking, experienced by refugees during their journeys. They need immediate medical and psychological support to deal with the trauma resulting from this violence,” Mr Choudhury said.
According to the UN, 92 per cent of those needing assistance for gender-based violence are female, and 58 per cent are children under the age of 18. Limited awareness and distance from available services have prevented most survivors from seeking specialised support. Overcrowding and unregulated movement in the refugee settlements have increased the threat of sexual violence.
“Many women and teenage girls suffer in silence. Inadequate sanitation, a deep sense of insecurity, sexual exploitation and not knowing where to go for help are common complaints from refugee women and girls. We need to make sure they know how and where to access appropriate services and seek help,” Mr Choudhury said.
CARE will establish four centres in the coming weeks to provide support to 30,000 survivors of sexual violence, to raise awareness of emergency care services, and to establish safe entry points for life-saving medical referrals and psychosocial support. CARE will also establish three mobile health clinics where women and adolescent girls can seek support for family planning, maternal health and child care.
“Many women and girls wait until night time to relieve themselves and bathe, as there is no privacy. This puts them at greater risk of assault. We urgently need more funds so we can provide them with adequate protection and ensure their safety and dignity,” Mr Choudhury said. To respond to the most urgent needs, CARE is appealing globally for $US10 million to assist more than 150,000 refugees until the end of the year. Less than half of the funds have been secured so far.
In total, more than 800,000 people from Myanmar have now fled to Bangladesh. CARE has worked in Bangladesh since 1949, and has extensive experience responding to humanitarian crises, providing life-saving assistance to 450,000 people in the last five years.
Donations can be made to CARE Australia’s Myanmar Bangladesh Crisis Appeal at www.care.org.au/bangladesh
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Note to editor: statistics from UN OCHA Bangladesh: Humanitarian Response Plan