31 December 2023 DanChurchAid in Bangladesh closed its office in Cox’s Bazar. This page and associated articles are about the legacy left after more than half a century of operation – with a special focus on the most recent work in Cox’s Bazar with Rohingya refugees and the Bangladeshi communities that host them.
DanChurchAid started working in Bangladesh in 1972 shortly after the country gained independence.
Through key partners DanChurchAid introduced rural development programmes targeting the most vulnerable groups, pushed actively for better conditions for local communities, and provided disaster related emergency assistance and response throughout climate induced catastrophes.
Working with national partners
DanChurchAid has historically been deeply engaged in the continued progression of Bangladeshi economic empowerment and democratic development.
In collaboration with Bangladeshi civil society organizations, DanChurchAid has provided the capacity, tools, and knowledge to reduce or eliminate poverty and fight injustice in all its forms.
Focus on the Rohingya crisis
When violence erupted in Myanmar in 2017, it was of such intensity that the Rohingya community saw no other option than to leave their homes – and the vast majority crossed the border and found shelter in Bangladesh.
In August and September 2017 Bangladesh witnessed the largest and fastest influx of refugees on record when more than 773,000 people including at least 400,000 children fled into Cox’s Bazar. They formed some of the largest refugee camps on earth. And the needs among the refugees – and the communities who hosted them – were massive.
DanChurchAid took a stand in actively advocating and pushing for the rights of the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar. An office was opened in Cox’s Bazar and all activities have been focused here since 2017 – and until the closure of the office at the end of 2023.
Concretely, DanChurchAid and partners have been working for the empowerment of women, protection from sexual and gender-based violence, and in support of strengthened livelihoods and improved preparedness in case of disaster.
Tackling sexual and gender-based violence
Even if the Rohingyas fled violence in Myanmar in 2017, peace in Cox’s Bazar was relative.
Unemployment, illiteracy, and a lack of opportunities created a dangerous atmosphere posing a particular risk to the safety, security, and wellbeing of everyone – and especially to children, women, and girls.
In 2020 the International Rescue Committee (IRC) released a report in which they labeled the level of violence against women and girls in the camps ‘an epidemic’.
DanChurchAid placed great emphasis on tackling violence against women and girls – and the gender-based violence (GBV) programme encompassed GBV prevention, risk mitigations and response intervention by providing comprehensive services for women and girls.
100,000 people reached between 2017 and 2023 in our GBV program.
Accessing education in an emergency
DanChurchAid and Finn Church Aid launched an Education in Emergency Programme in Cox’s Bazar to fill in a critical gap in access to education for the most vulnerable adolescent girls and women among the Rohingya and in the host communities.
All staff involved in delivering education were women and the response was designed to be learner-centered and be guided by the specific needs of the women and girls in the programme.
The teaching focused on literacy and numeracy but also brought in elements related to women’s rights and safety – to integrate the goal of learning to read and write with the knowledge and insights needed to protect the girls and women from violence and abuse.
Between 2020 and 2023 more than 7,500 girls and women were able to access education through DCA’s program.
Additionally, DCA provided professional development opportunities for female Rohingya teachers and supported the development of structured curricular materials for adolescents.
During the COVID-19 lockdown DCA designed and developed innovative teaching and learning approaches.
Click here to download the TiCC Training Package developed by DCA:
Food security and livelihoods
To ensure better and more stable access to nutritious food in the camps, DanChurchAid provided training and support to the refugees to make them more self-sufficient.
People targeted by the programme were trained in various aspects of climate-smart homestead gardening, including soil preparation, seed selection, organic farming techniques, pest control, and post-harvest management.
Through the programme DanChurchAid and partners also distributed essential gardening inputs such as seeds, tools, and organic fertilizers to ensure that the refugees had the necessary resources to start and maintain their gardens.
More than 25,000 people have benefitted from training and support for farming – and better nutrition – by the end of 2023.
Responding to other emergencies
Whilst programming has focused on thematic interventions addressing some of the structural issues related to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis DanChurchAid also responded to other emergencies.
In 2023 DanChurchAid provided basic goods to people affected by an outbreak of a fire in one of the camps so they could rebuild their homes – and has also responded to flooding, and other disasters caused by the global climate crisis the effect of which Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to.
Many different donors have supported DanChurchAid’s work since 1972 – since 2017 the following donors have played an important role in enabling us to deliver humanitarian and development assistance in Cox’s Bazar
Working with national partners is key to successful and lasting change – this is true anywhere and also in Bangladesh. DCA Bangladesh has worked with a handful of partners who have brought expertise and local insights to the table – DCA’s mission to inspire hope and create a better world would not be complete without our national, implementing partners’ commitment and will to make a difference.