Bruneian NGO Hand4handbn has set up a crowdfunding campaign to help raise money for Rohingya refugees during Ramadhan.

Dubbed ‘Ramadan4Rohingya‘, the group aims to raise enough money to purchase 30,000 ready-to-eat food pouches for the refugees who live in squalid camps in Bangladesh.

Iqbal Damit, founder of Hand4handbn, said in the past six months the group’s volunteers have gone on three humanitarian missions to the Balukhali refugee camp to distribute food aid and humanitarian relief funded by Bruneian donors.

Brothers Bahzi and Iqbal Damit of local NGO Hand4handbn. Photo: Ain Bandial/The Scoop

The donations have also financed the construction of two schools, one mosque and 51 home shelters within Balukhali, a settlement of over 500,000 refugees.

“During the fasting month we want to relieve some of the burden for our fellow Muslims,” Iqbal said. “This is one small way we can help, even though it is a drop in the ocean.”

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This time around, Hand4handbn has chosen to distribute food pouches instead of the uncooked food packs it gave out on previous missions which contained rice, onions, potatoes, lentils and cooking oil.

Iqbal explained that refugees have limited access to clean water and cooking fuel, and that pouches presented a better solution for immediate food aid because they have a long shelf life and don’t require refrigeration.

Iqbal Damit at the Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, during the distribution of Bruneian food aid. Photo: Ain Bandial/The Scoop

The food pouches are manufactured in Brunei by Saahtain Foods, which produces ready-to-eat meals for humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

In addition to the uncooked food packs, Iqbal said they took a few boxes of the ready-to-eat meals to Bangladesh last November and distributed them to schoolchildren in the refugee camps.

Hand4hand is collecting donations until April 30 to purchase 30,000 food pouches for their ‘Ramadan4Rohingya’ campaign.

Rohingya schoolchildren hold up ready-to-eat meal pouches in their classroom at the Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: Beedee Creative for Hand4handbn

In the camps, food aid is being managed by the Bangladeshi Army and World Food Programme — families are given rice, lentils and oil every fortnight — but many children are still struggling to eat properly.

A survey conducted by UNICEF found that a quarter of all Rohingya refugee children in the Bangladeshi camps are malnourished, a condition which leads to low immunity causing children to be more susceptible to other illnesses.

Children make up around 54 percent of the refugee population in Cox’s Bazaar.

Bangladeshi authorities have registered 844,000 refugees since violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state triggered a mass exodus of Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority, across the border into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh in August 2017.

The speed and scale of the influx has resulted in one of world’s most critical humanitarian emergencies.

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