What the Rohingya thought of the response

Source: Wed, 5 Sep 2018 06:21 PM
Valentina Shafina, Ground Truth Solutions
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Last month, Ground Truth Solutions published three bulletins summarising feedback from the Rohingya on the aid provided. Their responses and the recommendations cast a bright light on where the Rohingya response is improving lives – and where it could, and should, do more. This is a brief summary of their findings, but we urge you to read the short reports and share with colleagues working on the response, as they not only provide a critical insight into the views of the Rohingya, but also demonstrate how on-going feedback has the potential to drive programme quality.

Needs and Services

The awareness of aid available was varied across camps, ranging from 37% to 83%, the most trusted information channels being community members or representatives (Imams and Majhis). However, 77% of respondents reported that people’s needs are still not fully covered by the aid that they receive. Unmet needs include cash, food, shelter and non-food items, as well as WASH items including tube wells, toilets and showers.

Many respondents reported wanting the opportunity to work, and there was thriving market for the sale of aid items: 43% reported needing to sell aid items for cash in order to meet their unmet needs, primarily for food items and firewood or cooking fuel.

There is general satisfaction of cash support – 60% –  however, over one quarter of respondents felt that those most in need, the disabled and those with illnesses – are less likely to get their needs met, owing to difficulties getting to distribution points.

"There is very little improvement in my life. It would be better if I can get a job" – survey respondent


  1. Cash transfers appear to be effective, and agencies should consider diverting some of their assistance from in-kind to cash.
  2. However, delivery mechanisms for cash transfers need to be given a lot of consideration. Cash should target women and in particular female-headed households.
  3. Distributions need to take more consideration of vulnerable groups. The use of volunteers for distribution, or direct household distributions should be considered.
  4. Scaling up broader livelihood programming necessary to empower refugees, through training and work opportunities. Households should be given the means to grow some basic produce themselves.
  5. Improved shelter was repeatedly mentioned as a priority need and should be addressed.
  6. There needs to be better coordination to ensure consistent messaging on available aid.

Feedback and Trust

Respondents generally felt well treated, with a high level of trust in the work of aid agencies. However, there was widespread concern about repatriation, and concern that information regarding this was not available. Given the uncertainty of longer-term prospects, only 28% of respondents said their lives had got better. Only 23% said that aid covers their basic needs, and close to half said that they did not have a say in the aid that was provided. Most respondents were happiest with verbal and face-to-face complaints reporting, while information desks, helplines and radio programme appeals seemed to have little impact. For reporting instances of abuse, respondents feel most comfortable talking to a Majhi, an Army representative, or an agency volunteer. However, roughly one third of respondents were unaware of available complaints mechanisms.

"Although [aid providers] come to us and ask about our problems, sometimes we get what we need and sometimes we don’t" – survey respondent


  1. More communication is needed to inform communities about how complaints mechanisms work.
  2. More effort is needed to demonstrate that complaints are not just listened to, but are responded to.
  3. There needs to be clear and confidential communication lines to Majhis, the army and agency volunteers on how to record and handle complaints on abuse and mistreatment.
  4. There needs to be greater efforts to collect the views of, and provide information to, women and vulnerable individuals, including the elderly and those with disabilities.
  5. Clear and standard messaging is needed regarding repatriation to stem the flow of rumours and uncertainty.
  6. While trust in the work of agencies is good, there are still large portions of the population who are neutral on these issues

Safety and Outlook

Only 24% of Rohingyas said they feel the support they receive will help them to become self-reliant. They cite their inability to work and earn money and the need for more permanent housing being the main reason for this. 37% of men feel their lives have improved, while only 17% of women feel the same. Those who have been in camps longer do not feel any more self-reliant than those who arrived more recently. 79% want to return home to Myanmar safely and peacefully, but only with certain assurances.

Levels of education are good: 89% of those with children are sending them to an educational programme, and just over half of parents say they are happy with the education their children receive.  

Fifty-eight percent of respondents feel safe in their places of residence, reduced to 39% for those with disabilities. Women, particularly those between the ages of 31 and 40, feel less safe: 47% responding positively. This is compared to 65% of men feeling safe. Poor or totally lacking lighting was,cited as the main reason for personal safety concerns, though other concerns included lack of safe spaces, human trafficking and flooding.

Only 9% of respondents said that the host community had been unwelcoming, though this increased to 24% in a camp situated in a coastal village where locals and refugees live in close quarters.

"Children like the lessons. Slowly they learn how to read and write" – survey respondent


  1. Extensive lighting improvements, especially around WASH facilities are needed.
  2. Issues around access to WASH facilities need to be addressed, especially with regards to the safety of vulnerable groups and the distance they must travel.
  3. Better shelter is needed to protect from flooding.
  4. There is a clear need to better support women as a group, providing safe spaces where mother-to-mother support, case management services and psychological support can be offered.
  5. It’s important to set up programmes to increase positive feelings of empowerment and self-reliance, including training and work opportunities.
  6. More needs to be done to resolve the problem of misinformation, which tends to undermine feelings of safety.

The survey, carried out in July 2018, surveyed 1,003 displaced Rohingya in 23 collective sites in the Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts. This survey process will be repeated twice more in the next eight months, allowing for some interesting cross-time analysis, where improvements will hopefully be seen.

Read the full reports on the Ground Truth Solutions website.

Humanitarian Exchange Magazine will be dedicating its next issue to the Rohingya Crisis.

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of the CDAC Network. For more information see our Acceptable Use Policy.

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