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, warns the international aid organization CARE.
“We have encountered horrific stories of sexual violence, including rape, and trafficking, experienced by refugees during their journeys. They are in urgent need of medical and psychological support to deal with the trauma resulting from this violence,” says Zia Choudhury, CARE Bangladesh’s Country Director. According to the UN, 92% of those in need of assistance for gender-based violence are female and 58% are under the age of 18.
Limited awareness and distance from available services prevent most survivors from seeking specialized support. Furthermore, 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 that they can access appropriate services and know where to seek help”, says Choudhury.
CARE has secured funds to establish four women-friendly spaces for 30,000 refugees in the coming weeks. The centers will be used to identify and provide support to survivors of gender-based 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 risks of assault. We urgently need more funds so we can provide them with adequate protection to ensure their safety and dignity,” says Choudhury. To respond to the most urgent needs, CARE is appealing for 10 Million USD 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 900,000 people from Myanmar have now fled to Bangladesh. CARE has worked in Bangladesh since 1949, and has extensive experience responding to humanitarian crises. CARE has worked in Cox’s Bazar district, where most refugees have sought shelter, for many years, working in the areas of food security, disaster risk reduction, women’s empowerment and emergency response. In the last five years, CARE Bangladesh has supported more than 450,000 people with life-saving assistance.
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