Operation: Opération: Bangladesh



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Key Figures

2020 year-end results
866,457 Rohingya refugees (100% of people of concern) for whom data disaggregated by sex, age, location and diversity is available
527,167 primary health care consultations were provided
78,196 shelter maintenance tool kits and materials provided
31,856 children enrolled in primary education (unofficial curriculum)
100% of refugee households had access to sustainable energy
2021 planning figures
345,719  people will have access to newly constructed water taps
90,000 refugee households and 40,000 households of host community will receive liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) assistance
44,716 children will be enrolled in primary education
19,000 people of concern will receive legal assistance
10,000 individuals will be referred to secondary and tertiary medical care
34 health facilities will be equipped, constructed, and/or rehabilitated

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2020 1,338,552
2019 854,820
2018 906,690


[["Refugees",866534],["Asylum-seekers",18],["Others of concern",472000]]
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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[13.667946901,67.59621592,220.44281185,307.55339657,318.82158633999995,294.46972121],"expenditure":[7.28402193,49.60677532,159.89516472,175.66794425,173.79958346,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[13.60402556,67.58199943000001,220.44281185,307.55339657,318.82158633999995,294.46972121],"p2":[0.063921341,0.01421649,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[7.23156013,49.605719979999996,159.89516472,175.66794425,173.79958346,null],"p2":[0.0524618,0.0010553399999999999,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

Although Bangladesh is neither a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees nor its 1967 Protocol, it has generously offered safety and refuge to large numbers of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar for decades. However, the absence of a national asylum framework does leave refugees and asylum-seekers without a legal status, which increases their exposure to protection risks.

The Government maintains its focus on voluntary repatriation as the primary solution for Rohingya refugees, and the policy framework therefore emphasizes the temporary nature of the presence of the Rohingya refugees and limits refugee support to short term humanitarian assistance only.

In 2020, increased violence and criminality in the camps including the cross-border drug trade and human trafficking, resulted in additional security enforcement measures being implemented in the camps by the Government. A lack of opportunities, including in relation to livelihoods and formal education, continued to push some refugees to undertake dangerous onward movements by sea, as well as turn to other negative coping mechanisms. A necessary reduced humanitarian footprint to slow and reduce the transmission of COVID-19 exacerbated existing protection challenges, including child protection and gender-based violence, while also underscoring how vital refugee volunteers are to the response.

The impact of the presence of over 860,000 registered Rohingya refugees on the environment and on the socioeconomic conditions of host communities has been substantial. UNHCR’s programmes continued to, as far as possible, mitigate this impact, including by strengthening Government leadership toward improving services to refugees and building social cohesion with host communities.

Population trends

The refugee population in Cox’s Bazar can be broadly categorized into two groups: (i) refugees who arrived in the 1990s, and (ii) refugees who arrived in subsequent waves, particularly the arrival of over 700,000 Rohingya who arrived in the months following August 2017.

By the end of December 2020, 866,457 Rohingya refugees were registered in 34 camps in Cox’s Bazar district (including 35,519 who arrived in the 1990s and 716,915 who arrived after August 2017).

Of the total registered Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar, 68% originated from Maungdaw, 26% from Buthidaung, and 5% from Rathedaung. Roughly 52% were under 18 years of age, while 52% were female. Around 4.3% of the population had specific protection needs. Approximately 87% of the refugee population was residing in Kutupalong and adjacent settlements in Ukhiya, while the remaining 13% was accommodated in the settlements in Teknaf.

Rohingya refugees continued to seek protection in Bangladesh throughout 2020, with 1,185 individuals arriving from Myanmar, along with 127 others who had initially resided or sought asylum in other countries. In 2020, 226 individuals also entered the camps after initially living in host communities.

Key achievements

  • 91,371 refugee households and 17,148 host community households were supported with liquefied petroleum gas, which replaced firewood and led to successful reforestation.
  • 87,795 households were provided with pre-monsoon kits composed of shelter reinforcement materials in anticipation of natural disasters.
  • 649 patients from both refugee and host communities were successfully treated and discharged from UNHCR-supported COVID-19 treatment facilities.
  • 82,635 outreach sessions reaching 439,291 refugees covering topics on health, hygiene, COVID-19 prevention and response, emergency preparedness and a range of general protection issues were conducted by community outreach members from refugee communities.
  • 96,428 handwashing tippy taps were provided at household level in the camps, along with 14,928 handwashing devices at latrine blocks and 307 handwashing devices in public places. 

Unmet needs

The reduction of the humanitarian footprint in response to the COVID-19 outbreak significantly affected implementation of activities in the camps. Activities that involve Rohingya community gatherings were suspended and learning centres have been closed since March 2020. Most protection services were provided remotely or with limited capacity, contributing to a further deterioration of the protection environment and overall security situation. 

In late 2020, the planned construction of semi-permanent shelters and double-storey learning centres was put on hold, pending further policy guidance from the Government. The implementation of the planned Myanmar curriculum pilot was postponed due to continued school closures owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, while necessary preparations for the pilot were completed during this period in anticipation of the reopening of schools and learning centres.

Due to the pandemic, poverty rates and food insecurity increased in the host community. In addition, lack of access for refugees to employment and various restrictions resulting from COVID-19 preventative measures exacerbated refugees’ and host communities’ vulnerabilities and ability to meet their socioeconomic needs.

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

In 2020, UNHCR Bangladesh did not receive any allocation of unearmarked funds, but did receive over USD 21 million of softly earmarked funds. The flexibility of the funds is greatly appreciated by the operation as flexible funds played a vital role in supporting the humanitarian response to the unplanned COVID-19 pandemic, both in the health sector as well as by supporting vital sanitation and hygiene programmes in the camps. Other examples of activities the softly earmarked funds were able to support include efforts to improve safety and security in the camps, ensure sustainability through support to a robust environmental programme and provide support to community mobilization, camp management and coordination as well as the procurement of essential medicines.

Working environment

The main potential solution for refugees in Bangladesh remains voluntary repatriation. Although conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for repatriation, UNHCR will continue consulting with refugees on how to best improve conditions in their places of origin.  UNHCR projects that the security environment in the operational area in Cox’s Bazar will remain stable in 2020. The social, economic and environmental impact of the large-scale influx in 2017 have given rise to tensions with the host community, which must be addressed through greater, visible support from development partners and localisation efforts. A major disaster during the monsoon and cyclone seasons could push the operation back into the critical emergency phase.
The Government and people of Bangladesh have demonstrated remarkable solidarity by keeping their border and communities open to an estimated 744,000 refugees from Myanmar while providing land, sharing natural resources and expanding health services and the national cyclone preparedness programme.
UNHCR takes the lead on protection and currently shares other aspects of coordination leadership for the Rohingya response with the UN Resident Coordinator and IOM Chief of Mission as co-chairs of the Strategic Executive Group. An interagency coordination review has recommended clarifying the division of responsibilities to reinforce accountability, with UNHCR taking leadership for the refugee operation, IOM leading on disaster preparedness and social cohesion with host communities and the RC coordinating the humanitarian-development nexus. Inter-agency operations in Cox’s Bazar, including the development of a Joint Response Plan, are coordinated by the Inter-Sector Coordination Group, which is led by a Senior Coordinator who reports to UNHCR. UNHCR will also contribute to the formulation of the Cox’s Bazar District development plan that focuses the attention of development actors, such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, on challenges that threaten to undermine the local community’s generosity to refugees, such as environmental degradation, water scarcity and competition for livelihoods.

Key priorities

In 2020, UNHCR intends to prioritize 1) protection through continuous joint registration with the government resulting in more targeted assistance; engaging refugees in child protection and prevention of sexual and gender based violence through community-based education, legal aid and mental health support integrated service centres and community facilities for refugee protection; 2) assist  the most vulnerable families with transitional shelters/materials, CRIs or vouchers and dignity kits; 3) maintain a critical health and nutrition response, while ensuring complementarity with other health actors; 4) care and maintenance of site management, WASH facilities while continuing capacity building of local actors; 5) LPG refills and other targeted energy-saving measures; 6) mainstream peaceful co-existence programmes with the host community.
In 2020, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Involvement of the community and local actors, requiring extensive capacity building in order to meet international assistance and protection standards.
  • Establishing, improving and maintaining shelter and infrastructure with a continued focus on community engagement, which should ensure the maintenance of infrastructure and shelters for over 87,000 households as well as the development of 7,500 transitional shelters. Services for persons with specific needs will be strengthened through prioritized medical, rehabilitative, psychosocial and community support.
  • Improving the health status of the population by providing primary healthcare services through 23 facilities and supporting the referral of 5,000 patients to secondary/tertiary health facilities.
Latest contributions
  • 15-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 14-OCT-2021
  • Qatar

    private donors

  • 12-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Ireland
  • Italy

    private donors

  • 09-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 08-OCT-2021
  • Japan

    private donors

  • 06-OCT-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 05-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 04-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 01-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 30-SEP-2021

    private donors

  • Switzerland

    private donors

  • Brazil

    private donors

  • Philippines

    private donors