Climate resilience among Rohingya refugees and their host communities

In the world’s biggest refugee camp, DRC is helping to engage communities of Cox’s Bazar by building their resilience through the implementation of livelihood generating activities with a circular economy approach. In other words, this is a systemic approach to economic development which aims to eliminate waste and continually use and reuse resources.

DRC has just embarked on a nine-month project which aims at strengthening the resilience of Rohingya refugees and host community members of the Cox’s Bazar to the effects of climate change, environmental degradation and natural disasters through the adoption of regenerative circular economy solutions.

About Cox's Bazar

The Cox’s Bazar district is one of the most socially deprived and least developed districts in Bangladesh with extremely fragile infrastructure and services, and most people living on or below the poverty line. The crisis in Myanmar, resulting in the displacement of over 900,000 people, has put further pressure on this already fragile district with both the host communities and refugees suffering from

  • malnutrition,
  • food insecurity
  • and significant health issues.

The overpopulation coupled with poor infrastructure means there is a huge build-up of waste and the knock-on effects of this include infection of water sources, and health and hygiene risks.

Further exacerbating this unstable situation is the severe environmental degradation the area is concurrently dealing with. Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters and this is acutely felt in the Cox’s Bazar.

  • The area has experienced severe storms and cyclones every year since 2015, which weakens already feeble systems and increases vulnerabilities.
  • It is prone to frequent landslides and heavy rainfall which causes breakdowns of the basic infrastructure that the district does have, such as the irrigation systems and the roads (restricting movement and isolating hard to reach communities even more), not to mention the significant destruction to crop and food stocks.
  • Alongside all of this, the district also faces widespread deforestation and a long dry period between February to June, which without proper management leads to water scarcity.  

The government of Bangladesh has long been working on and engaging with environment and climate related initiatives in order to regenerate and preserve the country’s ecosystem. However, many of the policies, guidelines and frameworks devised do not reach the Cox’s Bazar district and even if they do the area does not have the resources, technologies or specialised knowledge to implement such plans.

This is where DRC comes in! DRC is helping to engage communities of the Cox’s Bazar by building their resilience through the implementation of livelihood generating activities with a circular economy approach. A regenerative circular economy approach is (simply put) is a systemic approach to economic development which aims to eliminate waste and continually use and reuse resources. The principle aim is to benefit society, the environment, and the economy in harmony. Using this underlying principle, the programme’s income generating activities will focus on waste management, rainwater harvesting, soil conservation and land stabilization activities. It will also build capacities in compost preparation, biochar production and organic kitchen gardening. DRC is also hoping to create two zero waste villages by the end of the project and it is also envisioned that those in the community who receive the project’s vocational skills training will be able to ‘sell their expertise’ in the future to generate income and to continue to grow the resilience skills and techniques learnt, aiming to create systemic behavioural change in the long term.

Due to an inability to access the site of the programme’s implementation because of COVID19, the project was delayed. However, as of August, the team have started and are excited to see how the project develops and the community responds. Watch this space!

Many thanks to the Bangladesh team for their help in putting together this post.  

Written by

Charlotte Brown

Student Assistant & MEAL Intern

[email protected]