Feedback centre helps Rohingya refugees communicate needs in Bangladesh camps

Source: International Organization for Migration
Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Many refugees have struggled to communicate their needs which has often led to a top-down approach to humanitarian work that has negatively affected service delivery.

Cox’s Bazar – This year’s monsoon season saw some of the heaviest rain and winds in two years. Gul Faraj and her family were left homeless when their shelter was destroyed in a fierce storm that blew in off the Bay of Bengal. The flimsy roof and walls were smashed, and the family was eventually forced to move in with neighbours.

Aid groups gave Gul tools and materials to fix her home, but with no carpentry skills – her shelter went unrepaired. “I’m a single widow and I don’t know anything about fixing or carpentry,” she explained from the Rohingya refugee camp, located just a mile from the Myanmar border.

Gul, 50, then learned from friends about IOM’s recently launched Feedback and Information Centre (FIC) at the camp’s Site Management office. So, she visited and told her story. Within six days, an IOM team arrived and carried out the necessary repairs.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have sought shelter in the Cox’s Bazar’s camps since August 2017 and while conditions on the ground have gradually improved – many have struggled to communicate their needs to the humanitarian community. This has often led to a top-down approach to humanitarian work that has negatively affected service delivery and left beneficiaries under-represented.

A newly designed and upgraded Complaint, Feedback and Response Mechanism at IOM-managed camps is addressing this problem by organizing both individual and group feedback meetings and opening kiosks where residents can make their views known.

Cases are entered into a digital system and referred to the agency responsible for responding to a particular issue. The primary channels for receiving complaints and feedback are community meetings at the block and sub-block levels, and with door-to-door visits by IOM staff.

Beneficiaries receive a response regardless of the category and whether or not it can be resolved. If the complaint time is slow, beneficiaries are given a response that includes the reason for the wait. When the matter is resolved, IOM contacts the beneficiary. If it takes longer than eight days, IOM staff gets in touch with the respective agency to request follow-up.

A total of 63,892 complaints were received between June 2018 and May 2019. Of these, 44,724 were resolved in this period. IOM Field Assistant Sayadul Amin Himo, who dealt directly with input from the refugees, said that the complaints he handled numbered 10-15 per day on average and most related to infrastructure and damage.

In addition to providing an outlet for complaints and feedback, the FIC democratizes the relief process and allows refugees to express their views, according to Technical Coordinator Daniel Coyle. “Refugees don’t choose the agencies assisting them, so the FIC process holds us to a higher standard and obliges us to respond. IOM sees this as required practice to ensure our programming is accountable to the needs of Rohingya community and ensures that they have a way to address their needs,” he said.

Other IOM programmes are considering using similar feedback centres to strengthen their programmes. For example, protection specialists looking to expand outreach to male victims of sexual violence say that they may use feedback systems to encourage victims to come forward. Representation in the camps is also set to change in the coming months and stronger communication systems will be needed.

Despite the early successes of the system, challenges remain. Many refugees still need to be made of aware of the FIC, which can be challenging because low rates of literacy. The Rohingya language has no writing system and most refugees are not educated in Burmese. Gender issues also present a challenge, because women are often discouraged from activities outside the home. Coyle says that better outreach will hopefully address these issues in the coming months.

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For more information please contact George McLeod at IOM Cox’s Bazar, Tel: +880 18 7071 8078, Email: