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Impending development requires skills

  • Published at 12:14 pm October 24th, 2018
More than 700,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh fleeing the violence which erupted in Myanmar on August 25, 2017 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Many challenges to overcome 

Over a year on from their influx, forced to flee for their lives the close to one million Rohingya are now being moved from atrocious dwellings to more humane ones in Bangladesh.

Cited as a role model for the developing world the once infamous comment of the “basket case” is now providing both food and shelter to people who aren’t its citizens and whom, the country they belong to don’t want them back.

And in the midst of it, friends and neighbours alike have not lifted more than a finger to supply them with emergency aid.

In a way, it runs contrary to everything donor countries are now asking of the Non-Government Organizations essentially entrusted with disaster and humanitarian relief.

The development and support aid that must be sustainable is a welcome departure from chucking in money, medicine, and supplies which will have to end at some time.

Till and if, these people are ever to go back to their homes or whatever is left of them, politics and protracted negotiations inevitably prolongs their stay in Bangladesh. 

The initial makeshift-built homes were precariously but of necessity set up on hillsides that were never meant to house people. The needs have expanded from food and essentials to social realities such as schools, proper hospitals and probing questions about the citizenship of the newborn.

Donald Trump wants the United Nation to change and this is a perfect example of how it truly can turn the dusty pages of processes that were perfectly adequate in the past but now sings out of tune. 

There is very little chance of Bangladesh being able to ever absorb the Rohingyas -- with its burgeoning population -- but if there’s even a glimmer of a chance or the more realistic proposition of their repatriation, the children have to be schooled, societal realities faced and above all new skills sets imparted to a generation that might not be able to return to the farms that was once theirs. This does, in a way help Myanmar to take the bitter medicine down easier.

Qualified people as per International Labour Organization certification could be assets than hangers-on in their own society. 

In the meantime, under close supervision, they might be put to a useful purpose than just idle round camps. As it is, the usual paraphernalia of illegal business activity has grown in the refugee camps -- ones that even aid workers have to look away from.

A working population is better than a restive one. Many children are being born following mass-rape prior to the exodus and leave alone parentage, the social stigma will stick close to these unfortunate children.

Those who choose to progress in life including seeking partners will have to be officially solemnized by either of the governments of Bangladesh or Myanmar or be publicly declared outcasts. That just exacerbates an issue that shouldn’t have been raised in there first place.

Myanmar is dodging between denying all the refugees are theirs because they don’t have papers air land documents and suggesting that “legitimate” refugees will be repatriated. The number is zilch till today.

The international community has sent dozens of representatives to get the “ground level feel” --  all of whom left ashen-faced at the magnitude of the problems. 

“More awareness’ is the lamb-like response to what needs to be done.

That’s the irony of it all. BBC and ITV have been awarded plaudits for their reporting on the crisis. That must qualify as awareness but where are the donors seeking sustainability in aid? Not in sight. 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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