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The Rohingya crisis: voices from the field

Time (GMT +01) 13:00 14:30

Contributing chair

Wendy Fenton @WendyFenton1 - Coordinator, Humanitarian Practice Network, ODI


Akke Boere - Operations Manager - Médecins sans Frontières (MSF)

Mark Bowden @UNMarkBowden - Senior Adviser with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, former UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan (via VC)

Nurul Islam - Rohingya political activist and Chairman of the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation

Caroline Nursey - Executive Director, BBC Media Action and Board Trustee at the Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities Network (CDAC)


Over the past year, more than 700,000 people have fled their homes for Bangladesh to escape violence and persecution in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. While the Rohingya have suffered persecution and cycles of displacement for decades, it is only this latest mass exodus which has attracted sustained global attention.

The Government of Bangladesh does not officially recognise the Rohingya as refugees, and as a result, they have limited rights and freedoms in-country. Housed in overcrowded camps, many lack adequate assistance and protection. Resources are stretched as the continuing influxes of Rohingya have turned Cox's Bazar into the world’s largest refugee settlement. The recent monsoon and cyclone rains have also destroyed and damaged shelters and essential services. 

Operational organisations in Cox’s Bazar face significant challenges, including those stemming from funding shortfalls, poor coordination and planning. Local organisations, in particular, have found it challenging working alongside international humanitarian agencies and the UN, with some feeling their efforts have been undermined and unappreciated. While the majority of operational organisations in Bangladesh initially prioritised providing life-saving assistance such as food, water and primary medical care, many have started to recognise that the Rohingya refugee crisis is here to stay, and are preparing for the impact of a longer-term displacement.

What are the ongoing challenges in engaging with and supporting the Rohingya refugees? How can humanitarian agencies be more effective in responding to their needs in this ‘mega-camp’ setting in Cox's Bazar? What can we learn from past Rohingya refugee responses?

At this event experts and practitioners working in the region discuss what needs to happen to help the Rohingya refugees now and in the future. Drawing on articles in the latest issue of Humanitarian Exchange magazine and their research and experience, panellists discuss the opportunities and challenges in responding to this protracted crisis.

203 Blackfriars Road London