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Light in the darkness: making the Rohingya refugee camps safer at night

Tearfund | 11 Sep 2020

Image credit: Md. Al Amin and Dileep K Bhowmik, COAST Trust

Warning: contains mentions of sexual and gender-based violence that some readers may find upsetting.

It’s not easy to feed your family, find clean water or see a doctor in the Rohingya refugee camps. It’s also not safe to walk alone at night. Reports tell of women and teenage girls being attacked, sexually assaulted or abducted by human traffickers. 

Tearfund’s local partner, COAST Trust, are helping to make the streets in the camps safer. 

Since 2017, as well as providing food, water and medical services, COAST Trust have installed 463 solar-powered street lights in the camps. The lights charge during the day and stay running all night long.

Staying home
An estimated 910,000 Rohingya people have arrived in Bangladesh, seeking shelter in refugee camps after fleeing violence in Myanmar in August 2017. Three years on, the camps are still a harsh place to live.
 
Until the street lights were put up, most women and adolescent girls couldn’t go out to use the toilet or washing facilities during the night for fear of being attacked. With poor visibility, it’s also dangerous to not be able to see where you’re walking – some children and the elderly have fallen into the storm drains.

‘This street solar light is like a blessing for us.'
Laila

These challenges mean that for the 12 hours that it’s dark each night, from 6.30pm until 6.30am, many people are effectively housebound. 

A blessing
‘We couldn’t go out to bring the water at night,’ a woman called Jahura told our partner staff. ‘But after the installation of the street solar light we can bring the water safely.’ 

‘This street solar light is like a blessing for us,’ says Laila, who also lives in the camps. ‘We were at risk in the night, but now there is no problem at all.’

Sanjeev Bhanja leads Tearfund’s Disaster Response work in Asia and has witnessed firsthand the benefits of this new lighting: ‘I’ve seen it bring a sense of security among women and children. Women in the camps say they use the latrine in the evening without any fear. I’ve also seen children playing freely around the neighbourhood in the early evening hours.’

The lights bring safety and a sense of freedom and healing. Many of the women and girls in the camp are recovering from trauma after being attacked when fleeing Myanmar. Walking in darkness can add to the fear of being attacked again, so having this lighting helps as they recover from the physical, psychological and emotional effects of the terrible experiences they’ve faced.

In 2019, Tearfund’s Rohingya Refugee Crisis Appeal helped raise money to pay for these street lights. Thank you, once again, for all your support.

PLEASE PRAY

Photo credit: Md. Al Amin and Dileep K Bhowmik, COAST Trust

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