Effectively communicating with communities: A qualitative inquiry in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh

UNICEF-supported Community Arts Project Rohingya Camps – Staying Tuned

As part of UNICEF’s communication for development initiatives, Dr Hakan Ergül carried out qualitative fieldwork in refugee and host communities in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh. The fieldwork involved observations, focus group discussions and key informant interviews with more than 50 participants, including affected community members from Rohingya and host communities, community volunteers and staff from UNICEF and local implementation partners.

“Looking back to see forward: A case study collection on UNICEF’s response to the Rohingya refugee crisis” is the result of this initiative. Each case study in the collection (8 in total) focuses on a particular aspect of humanitarian response to the world’s fastest growing refugee emergency since 2017.


August 2017 was the month that changed the present and the future of hundreds of thousands of children, women and men from the Rohingya community and introduced the entire Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh to an unprecedented crisis and a new social reality. It was the month when more than 740,000 Rohingya people – victims of a massive military crackdown, extreme violence, sexual abuse, persecution and other brutal atrocities in their native Myanmar — began crossing the border into Bangladesh, bringing the total number of affected population in Cox’s Bazar to an estimated 1.2 million at that time, including 720,000 children. When they arrived to Cox’s Bazar, they were suffering from exhaustion, hunger, severe trauma and other serious health risks. Most of the families were completely reliant on aid agencies and humanitarian distributions. Almost 80 per cent felt they did not have enough information to make good decisions. Misinformation, myths and misconceptions were prevalent in a number of critical areas surrounding healthy behaviour, desirable practices, vaccination and maternal and new-born care.

Women and adolescent girls were particularly vulnerable and felt unsafe and their voices were largely unheard due to the lack of efficient feedback mechanisms to record their complaints concerning gender-based violence and sexual harassment. There was an urgent need to effectively disseminate life-saving messages and materials on site; provide safe spaces for the most vulnerable; and tackle the lack of credible sources of information, including media in the Rohingya language, as well as insufficient mechanisms of response, which further exacerbated the existing cultural, language and communication barriers in the field (for more details, see the Final Report). The following selection of case studies illustrates some of the effective ways in communicating with communities in a refugee emergency context.

Staying tuned

Radio programming for sustained behaviour change and accountability in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

In a refugee emergency, where other technologies such as television and internet are not readily available or difficult to reach, radio plays a primary role in safeguarding the right to life. Radio’s impact was particularly effective during the nutrition and immunization campaigns to combat outbreaks of measles and chickenpox.

Full report: https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/en/reports/staying-tuned

Art brings light into the darkness

UNICEF-supported Community Arts Projects in Rohingya Camps

In an emergency context where affected children and their families suffer from a convergence of vulnerabilities, the therapeutic power of community arts has helped humanitarians deliver life-saving messages to those who need them most, and it played a key role in promoting social cohesion and peaceful co-existence.

Full report: https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/media/4476/file/Case%20Study%207_CXB%20C4D.pdf.pdf

Information and Feedback Centres

Improving Accountability to Rohingya Refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

This case study takes a closer look at the Information and Feedback Centres (IFCs) that provide information and referral on available services and receive and respond to community feedback, grievances and complaints via face-to-face interactions with community members in refugee and host communities.

Full report: https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/en/reports/information-and-feedback-centres

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