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Another Goma in the Making? Taking stock of the Humanitarian Response to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

A lonesome voice from Myanmar
In January 2018, a team of HERE-Geneva, including Director Ed Schenkenberg, visited Bangladesh to review the humanitarian response. At this event, they shared their main findings and reflections.

At the request of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), the UK-based platform for mobilising funding at times of major international humanitarian crises, a team of HERE-Geneva including Director Ed Schenkenberg visited Bangladesh from 17 to 27 January 2018. Ed and his colleagues reviewed the humanitarian response, in particular as delivered by the DEC members and their partners, to the Rohingya refugees. The preliminary findings and emerging conclusions especially as they relate to the overall state of the (system-wide) response are reason for alarm. Few of the lessons that arose out of the 1994 response to the Rwandan refugees in Goma, then Zaire, seem to have been applied in this response from the start of the crisis in August 2017, while the situation is comparable to the one in Goma in terms of size, scale, and speed by which it has evolved.

Following a debrief and validation workshop with the DEC and the 13 DEC members in London on 20 February 2018, Ed Schenkenberg will be available to share the main findings of the real-time review with organisations and other stakeholders (including DRA, MoFA, Red Cross, Unicef, MSF) in the Netherlands. Zia Choudhury, Country Director Bangladesh of CARE will attend the meeting to share his reflections on the findings of HERE Geneva.

The challenges are multiple and several of them pose fundamental dilemmas:
– Why did so few (humanitarian) actors and organisations sound the international alarm with so many refugees arriving in Bangladesh in such short period of time?
– Is the hesitation from a number of organisations to recognise these people as refugees justified?
– With at least 100,000 refugees at immediate risk because of the monsoon rains, what options are left to avert a second major disaster?
– What will agencies’ responses be if the Government of Bangladesh starts to return people to Myanmar against their will? Do agencies agree that working in possible new (IDP) camps in Myanmar poses ethical questions?

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