6 July 2021, New York – The massive March fires in the Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp in Bangladesh took 15 lives and affected more than 61,000 Rohingya refugees. In response to the devastating fires, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today a US$250,000 first emergency response grant that will support non-profit BRAC and other local partners in rebuilding learning centers, and building back better from the tragic disaster that continues to put vulnerable refugee children and youth at risk.
While many major international non-profits and UN organizations have already stepped up their response to the fires, smaller organizations like BRAC lack the funds to fully rebuild.
The ECW investment will provide a targeted 12-month response in four camps found in the sprawling Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp – the largest refugee camp on the planet. Approximately 5,000 girls and boys will benefit from the investment, with specialized support for girls and children with disabilities.
“Before the fires, Rohingya refugee children and youth had already lived through horrific traumas. They have fled through the night and lost loved ones. They’ve been targeted for attacks. They’ve been kidnapped. Girls have been raped and faced unspeakable attacks. These devastating fires displaced over 45,000 people – half of whom are girls and boys. Many now only have the clothes on their backs. To build back better, we are supporting smaller local organizations such BRAC to provide these children and youth with the protection and hope that quality learning environments provide,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the UN’s global fund for education in emergencies.
According to recent reports, 212 learning centers (including 54 BRAC learning centers) were damaged beyond repair in the blaze. Child friendly spaces run through the Child Protection Sub-Sector were also damaged, and water and sanitation facilities were burnt to the ground. This poses a serious protection risk for girls, who are fearful to sleep in group settings or use non-gender-specific facilities.
“The fire in the camp reminded us once again that the situation is still very volatile. We quickly responded by providing psycho-social support to every household. We understood that we need to create a system where every beneficiary – in this case, every child and caregiver – need access to psycho-social support. However, we also must remember that every frontliner who is providing this support also needs access for her own wellbeing. We developed a ‘system of care,’ which we think is absolutely necessary in the humanitarian setting,” said Dr. Erum Mariam, Executive Director of BRAC.
Among its outputs, the new investment will rebuild six learning centers run by BRAC and other small-scale organizations, reconstruct toilet facilities and hand-washing stations – an essential step in preventing the spread of COVID-19 – provide targeted mental health and psychosocial support services, and distribute uniforms and hygiene kids.
To build back better and reduce the risks from future disasters, fire extinguishers, first aid equipment and trainings on disaster risk reduction will be provided.
The first emergency response grant builds on existing ECW investments in Bangladesh. In 2018, ECW announced US$12 million in catalytic grant financing for a multi-year resilience programme in Bangladesh. A US$100 million funding gaps remains to reach over 560,000 refugee and host community children and youth through the ECW-financed multi-year programme. Key partners who have participated in the development of this framework include the Government of Bangladesh, UNHCR, UNESCO, UNICEF, and international and local civil society organizations.
According to Education Cannot Wait’s 2019 Annual Report, ECW investments have already reached over 90,000 children in Bangladesh. Close to 2,000 teachers have been trained and over 300 learning spaces have been built and equipped with the necessary learning supplies.
Note to Editors About Education Cannot Wait (ECW):
Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises. We support quality education outcomes for refugee, internally displaced and other crisis-affected girls and boys, so no one is left behind. ECW works through the multilateral system to both increase the speed of responses in crises and connect immediate relief and longer-term interventions through multi-year programming. ECW works in close partnership with governments, public and private donors, UN agencies, civil society organizations, and other humanitarian and development aid actors to increase efficiencies and end siloed responses. We urgently appeal to public and private sector donors for $400 million to reach even more crisis-affected girls and boys. ECW is administered under UNICEF’s financial, human resources and administrative rules and regulations; operations are run by the Fund’s own independent governance structure.