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Comprehensive, sustainable approach needed for effective solutions

Simon Mohsin
04 Apr 2024 19:40:28 | Update: 05 Apr 2024 16:28:12
Comprehensive, sustainable approach needed for effective solutions
— Courtesy Photo

The economic landscape of Cox’s Bazar underwent a profound transformation as the refugee crisis unfolded. Tensions between the host community and the Rohingya community escalated due to perceived fear of job loss, livelihood challenges, insecurity, and instability.

Although, the immediate consequence of the refugee influx was the escalation of a humanitarian crisis in Cox’s Bazar, the sudden surge in population fleeing violence strained local resources to their limits, creating a daunting challenge for the host population.

This strain extended to various facets of daily life, intensifying the pressure on the host communities and setting in motion a series of interconnected issues.

Cox’s Bazar, designated as a 'lagging district' by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, heavily relies on agriculture, with 81 per cent of the population in Teknaf and 63 per cent in Ukhiya engaged in farming.

 However, the region's hilly terrain and limited cultivable land contribute to low agricultural productivity, escalating food expenditure, and economic uncertainty.

The fishery sector, both in the river Naf and along the shore, serves as a critical income source for locals, supplementing the predominantly agricultural livelihoods. Non-agricultural day labour and small businesses, including firewood and vegetable vending, tea stalls, and limited service providers, represent additional avenues of employment within the district.

Unfortunately, one-third of the population in Cox’s Bazar lives in severe poverty. Climate change further compounds the challenges in the region, affecting both agricultural and fishing activities.

The engagement of the working population in the informal sector is intricately shaped by societal and household factors, where access to resources and opportunities plays a pivotal role.

Despite the emergence of new job opportunities post-influx, accessibility issues have arisen, leading to heightened competition between the local population and Rohingya refugees, resulting in job losses for the lower economic class.

The heightened demand for resources and services translated into decreased employment opportunities for the local population. The influx of refugees also intensified business competition, leading to a decline in wages and profits for businesses within the host communities.

This economic downturn cast a long shadow, affecting the livelihoods of individuals and families who were already grappling with the challenges imposed by the crisis. Beyond the economic fallout, the higher population density resulting from the influx contributed to environmental degradation.

The strain on local ecosystems became evident through deforestation, pollution, and the depletion of natural resources. This environmental stress further impacted the host communities, particularly those reliant on the region's ecosystems for their livelihoods. Additionally, the strain on local infrastructure, from sanitation facilities to waste management systems, adversely affected the overall well-being of the communities.

The influx of Rohingya repercussions span from immediate challenges such as increased prices of essential goods to systemic breakdowns like the education system and a reduction in work opportunities for locals. One of the immediate consequences experienced by the host community is the surge in prices of essential goods.

The massive inflow of foreign aid, while critical for supporting the Rohingya population, has shifted market dynamics and led to an increase in the prices of daily essentials due to heightened demand.

The breakdown of the education system is another critical aspect of the disruption. The sudden increase in the population due to the arrival of Rohingya refugees has strained the existing educational infrastructure, resulting in overcrowded classrooms and a compromised learning environment for local students. The reduction in work opportunities is a significant concern for the host community, especially daily and unskilled workers.

The influx of Rohingya refugees, some of whom engage in agricultural and construction activities, has altered the employment landscape. While Rohingya refugees contribute to various economic sectors, locals, particularly in the unskilled labour market, bear the brunt of the economic downturn. Exploitative practices, such as the exploitation of cheap Rohingya labour, further compound the economic disparities.

The influx of Rohingya refugees has brought about a notable expansion in market areas within the host community, introducing a variety of new trades such as mobile phone servicing, jewellery shops, and retail for daily essentials.

While this diversification signals a dynamic shift in the local economy with the emergence of novel economic activities, the benefits derived from this economic surge do not uniformly extend to the host community.

The introduction of new trades and the surge in informal jobs have altered the economic landscape. Mobile phone servicing and jewellery shops represent burgeoning sectors catering to both refugee and host community needs.

Additionally, retail outlets for daily essentials have witnessed growth, responding to the increased demand generated by the influx. While these changes reflect economic adaptability and entrepreneurship within the host community, the overall impact is nuanced, and the benefits are not evenly distributed.

While there are instances of locals benefiting from the economic activities associated with the Rohingya influx, the overarching sentiment within the host community is one of concern. The refugees' influence on the local job market and economic dynamics raises apprehensions about the long-term sustainability of the local economy.

The uneven distribution of benefits and the negative impact on certain segments of the population contribute to a sense of economic insecurity among the host community.

While the influx has introduced new economic activities and trades within the market, the repercussions on the host community's livelihood are complex.

The challenges arising from increased competition, particularly in the informal job sector, highlight the need for nuanced and context-specific interventions that address the concerns of the host community while fostering sustainable economic development in the designated region.

The Rohingya crisis in Cox’s Bazar underscores the complex interplay of humanitarian, economic, and environmental factors in the wake of large-scale displacements.

As efforts continue to address the aftermath of this crisis, it remains crucial to learn from the past and approach future responses with a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies involved in supporting both displaced and host communities.

There is a strong perception among the locals that the negative effects seem to outweigh the positive impact, with locals expressing genuine concerns about their future, declining incomes, and rising living costs. The disruption caused by the Rohingya influx extends beyond immediate economic challenges to encompass broader societal issues.

This underscores the need for comprehensive and sustainable solutions that address the economic, educational, and social dimensions of the crisis. Balancing the humanitarian response with measures to mitigate the long-term adverse effects on the host community is crucial for fostering stability, social cohesion, and sustainable development in the designated region.