Cox’s Bazar, the southernmost district of the country with a population of 2,200,000, is one of the most vulnerable districts in Bangladesh, with one out of three people living below the poverty line. Health indicators in this district as well as neighbouring districts of Chittagong division are generally poor. Early marriages followed by teenage pregnancy, widespread gender-based violence, inadequate care during pregnancy and childbirth, poor access to family planning continue to be hindrances in female’s attainment of comprehensive and rights-based sexual and reproductive health services. To aggravate the situation, Cox’s Bazar is hosting about 700,000 displaced Myanmar nationals in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas of Cox’s Bazar district, which has placed an increased demand on the already fragile and limited SRHR services provided by the public facilities.
CARE Bangladesh along with Save the Children Bangladesh and Concerned Women for Family Development (CWFD) launched ‘Strengthening Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Gender-Based Violence Services in Cox's Bazar’ project on 04 September, 2019 at the Hotel Ocean Paradise. The objective of the project is to enhance provision of equitable and high quality SRHR services and improve accessibility to life saving GBV response services for local communities in Cox's Bazar. Project outcomes have been divided into SRH, GBV and SRHR education components to be implemented by CARE, Save the Children and CWFD. The project will attain technical support from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and funding from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) across a span of three years.
Dr. Mohammed Abdul Matin, Civil Surgeon, Cox’s Bazar District and Phedra Moon Morris, Head of Aid Development Cooperation, High Commission of Canada were present as special guests in the launching ceremony. In his welcome speech Zia Choudhury, Country Director, CARE Bangladesh put emphasis on the core focus of CARE that “We put women and girls in the centre because we know that we cannot overcome poverty until all people have equal rights and opportunities”. In this project, CARE Bangladesh will implement gender-based violence response and prevention services under leadership of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA) and in collaboration with police, the legal and justice system, and social services. On the GBV front, the project plans to improve availability of case management and psychosocial support for survivors of GBV. Other project plans include establishing referral mechanism, building self-resilience skills, creating ‘Women Help Desks’ in police stations and implementing SASA! toolkit to empower communities against GBV.
CARE Bangladesh has been implementing different development programs for local Bangladeshi communities in Cox’s Bazar apart from the above project. CARE is implementing ‘Promoting Resilience to Risks of Natural Hazards (PRERONA) to improve multi-purpose cyclone shelters (MPCS) through physical improvements to 96 MPCS, so communities will have safe, accessible shelter and school infrastructure that is adapted to natural hazards and that reduces disaster risk. CARE Bangladesh has also been working with community clinics in Cox's Bazar so that local community can access to non-communicable disease services from community clinic under ‘Strengthening MNCH and NCD services at community clinics of Cox’s Bazar district’ project.