The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has launched a 24-month project for returning migrants and vulnerable host communities to use the troubled time to do something crucial, even though it may not pay off for years.
The project called “Building Social Cohesion in Host Communities in Cox's Bazar through Skills Development” is for acquiring the skills needed to land and keep a job in the future, IOM said.
“We are committed to working with our partners to build the resilience of returning migrants and foster social cohesion among their communities of return,” explained Patrick Charignon, IOM Cox’s Bazar Transition and Recovery Programme Coordinator.
“We are convinced that through this project we can provide unemployed community members the skills needed to build better futures for themselves, their families and their communities.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Bangladesh harder than any tropical cyclone. Instead of uprooting trees and hurling powerful tides from an angry sea, what’s been uprooted are entire livelihoods—as well as the families trying to survive in one of the world’s most crowded countries, said a media release on Saturday.
Returning migrants and host communities in the southernmost district of Bangladesh are feeling the worst of the onslaught.
There, some 700,000 people have lost their source of income, just since the mid-March 2020 COVID-19 outbreak.
Almost one year later, most have limited access to jobs. Women are less likely than men to secure any job at all.
Adding to the struggle for jobs are the many migrants forced home as jobs are lost overseas.
According to the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, over 400,000 migrant workers have returned to Bangladesh since March 2020.
The ripple effect is not only heightened competition for work, but also a collapse of a local economy due to inability to pay back loans—including funds borrowed to go abroad for work.
The primary driver of migration from Cox’s Bazar district is the lack of employment opportunities. Sadly, the current pandemic is further threatening the welfare of millions of people in the country, where there have been large-scale redundancies of workers, especially in the garment sector. Now, there is wide-spread food insecurity.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Cox’s Bazar is one of the lowest-performing districts in Bangladesh in terms of education and skills training, with about 33 per cent of the population living below the poverty line.
Through the project, over 200 community members will receive skill development and livelihoods support.
To ensure the sustainability of the initiative, the project will encourage the trained beneficiaries to conduct their own training sessions for other community members.
This “train the trainers” approach means the beneficiaries will well exceed the relatively few people attending the first training sessions.
This will be achieved through the profiling of skills of selected unemployed community members and returning migrant workers, and the implementation of a series of targeted livelihood diversification training modules based on the findings of the skills profile assessment.
The training modules themselves will be chosen following an assessment, and will depend on the capabilities and interests of the participants.
Previous modules here have covered topics such as construction, dry fishing and tailoring—skills those in better times quickly translate into local jobs.
While targeted economic stimulus packages are being discussed for the most vulnerable, IOM has undertaken this new project because of its belief that it is critical to build the resilience of host communities in Cox’s Bazar through skills development.
The initiative aims to ease unemployment by equipping beneficiaries with the know-how to develop the skills needed to meet the employment demands of the labour market, as well as investing in self-employment opportunities.
The project will be implemented in close partnership with the Deputy Commissioner’s Office in Cox’s Bazar, the Department of Public Health and Engineering, civil society organizations, host communities and key stakeholders.
“IOM has already been implementing several projects supporting host communities in Cox’s Bazar,” said Cox’s Bazar’s Deputy Commissioner Md Mamunur Rashid.
“We applaud this new initiative and guarantee the continued support of the District Administration, Upazila and Union for the successful implementation of the project.”
The project is being funded with USD 300,000 under the IOM Development Fund.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has urged the new US administration to play a leading role, both bilaterally and multilaterally, in bringing about a durable solution to the Rohingya crisis.
He made the request during his interaction with the US Think Tank ‘Newlines Institute on Strategy and Policy’ on Friday.
Foreign Minister Dr Momen is currently visiting Washington DC to reach out the new US administration to further enhance the bilateral relations and convey Bangladesh’s willingness to work closely with the Biden’s administration.
Director of the Institute Dr. Azeem Ibrahim moderated the event.
During the discussion, Dr Momen reiterated that the only durable solution is the repatriation for the persecuted 1.1 million Rohingyas temporarily sheltered in Bangladesh.
Among others, dignitaries, including former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Commissioner from the US Congress on Religious Freedom, and prominent journalists, Members of Congress, State Department officials, UN personnel, and senior leadership of the OIC attended the event, both physically and online.
The event was live-streamed on YouTube.
During the question-answer session with the audience, Dr Momen briefed on how the Bangladesh government is working for the welfare of Rohingyas during the Covid-19 pandemic, as a result of which there was not a single case of death due to the Covid-19 in Rohingya camps.
He also explained the context and rationale of relocating some of the Rohingya population from the overcrowded Kutupalong camps to Bhashan Char.
Dr Momen hoped that the Biden administration would put more political and economic sanctions on Myanmar to create a conducive environment for safe and dignified return of the Rohingyas to their homeland Myanmar.
He noted that the Bangladesh government looks forward to the US government’s concrete steps and leading role, including his proposal to appoint a Special Envoy on Rohingya, in achieving a sustainable solution of this Rohingya crisis, and hoped to work closely with the US administration in this regard.
Later, the Foreign Minister attended a virtual event entitled “Bangladesh-US bilateral relations and Rohingya issue”, organised by the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
The session was moderated by Ambassador Isobel Coleman.
At the session, Dr Momen highlighted the socio-economic development of Bangladesh, tackling of the Covid-19 pandemic and efficient management of the ongoing vaccination program in Bangladesh under the judicious direction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Referring to his recent discussion with the US Secretary of State, he expressed satisfaction on the existing bilateral partnership between the two countries and hoped to enhance it further towards a strategic level.
On the Rohingya issue, he reiterated his appeal to the US administration to appoint a Special Envoy on Rohingyas who will focus on it and coordinate efforts for their repatriation.
On the same day, the Bangladesh Foreign Minister virtually met US Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky from Illinois, who appreciated Bangladesh for sheltering a huge number of Rohingyas.
Dr Momen thanked the US government for its humanitarian and political support to Bangladesh to cope with the Rohingya exodus.
He also requested for US lawmaker’s support to influence the US government for taking more effective measures like imposing economic sanction and withdrawing GSP facilities of Myanmar.
Both sides agreed to have a deeper and wider engagement in the days ahead.
Dr Momen also had a telephonic discussion with a high official of the Department of State as a follow up of his earlier discussion with US Secretary of State on last Tuesday.
US Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry has said displacement due to climate change would be a vital security issue for everybody, and international financial institutions could do more for the climate change issue.
During his recent meeting with Kerry, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen discussed the global issue of climate change and the possible US-Bangladesh collaboration in this connection.
They agreed to work closely in the COP26 and other multilateral platforms in order to fulfil commitments under the Paris climate agreement and even go beyond Paris.
Dr Momen is currently visiting Washington DC on an official trip to reach out the new US administration to further enhance the bilateral relations and convey Bangladesh’s willingness to work closely with the new US administration. He is scheduled to return home on Sunday.
The Foreign Minister recollected the vital contributions of Kerry towards the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and welcomed the decision of the US to return to the Paris Agreement.
He described the various actions taken by the government of Bangladesh under the prudent leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on mitigation, adaptation and resilience.
Dr Momen also briefed John Kerry on all the current and future activities of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA) regional office in Dhaka.
Kerry recognised the extraordinary challenges faced by Bangladesh due to climate change and frequent natural disasters, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday.
Meeting with US Lawmakers
During his recent discussions with three US lawmakers, Dr Momen urged for US lawmakers’ intervention to put enough political pressure on Myanmar to create a conducive environment for the sustainable return of Rohingyas.
The three US lawmakers are Senator Edward J. Markey (Democratic, Massachusetts), Congressman Michael T. McCaul (Republican-Austin) and Congressman Jim McGovern (Democratic, Massachusetts' 2nd Congressional District).
The Foreign Minister talked about the potentials of further accelerating political and economic ties between Bangladesh and the US.
Bangladesh wants to upgrade her relations with the US from partnership to a strategic level by sharing common goals and working closely with the US new administration, he added.
The Foreign Minister informed US lawmakers about the trajectory of economic growth and socio-economic development of Bangladesh and briefed how the Bangladesh government has tackled the Covid-19 pandemic and managed the ongoing vaccination programme effectively with the able guidance and direction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Also read: John Kerry chosen as Biden’s climate tsar
He noted with satisfaction the excellent bilateral cooperation between the two countries in tackling Covid-19 in the initial phase of the pandemic, through the US donation of high-quality ventilators and Bangladesh’s supply of 6.5 million PPEs.
US lawmakers appreciated Bangladesh for sheltering over one million Rohingyas and expressed concern on the tremendous pressure it has created on the government and the people of Bangladesh.
On trade and investment matters, the Foreign Minister welcomed US investment in Special Economic Zones and High-Tech Parks, highlighting the higher return of investment from Bangladesh by utilising two major resources efficiently and effectively, namely, young and hardworking manpower and plenty of water.
He said the geo-political importance as well as the good connectivity of Bangladesh in the South Asia region, which could serve as a launching pad for US companies to get access to the wider regional market.
The Foreign Minister, referring to the celebration of birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden Jubilee of the Independence of Bangladesh, invited US lawmakers to visit Bangladesh to see the remarkable socio-economic progress achieved under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and also the situation of the displaced Rohingyas.
Welcoming US investments in key areas of Bangladesh, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has reiterated that strong Bangladesh-US economic relations are critical.
Bangladesh seeks US investments in renewable energy, shipbuilding and recycling, automobile and light engineering, chemical fertilizers, agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, ceramic and plastic goods, ICT, marine resource extraction, tourism and medical equipment.
Dr Momen highlighted the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her vision of economic growth and transforming Bangladesh into a developed country by 2041.
He called upon the US government, both in order to help US consumers and also assist millions of female workers in Bangladesh’s RMG sector, to put a three-year moratorium on the tariff on imports from Bangladesh, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday.
Dr Momen expressed his support for the launch of the US-Bangladesh Business Council, and highlighted the partnership opportunities in Bangladesh, opening of the digital economy space, success of the digital payments, importance of media and entertainment, energy transition and future of Bangladesh and its role as a partner in the Indo-Pacific with US companies and partners.
He expressed Bangladesh’s desire to work closely with the Biden administration on climate, trade and investment, and security.
The Foreign Minister addressed the US Chamber of Commerce and met US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and three US lawmakers namely Senator Edward J. Markey (Democratic, Massachusetts), Congressman Michael T. McCaul (Republican-Austin) and Congressman Jim McGovern (Democratic, Massachusetts' 2nd Congressional District) on Thursday, during the third day of his official visit to USA.
The US Chamber of Commerce organised a virtual discussion with Foreign Minister Dr Momen titled as “Strengthening Bangladesh-US Trade and Economic Cooperation”.
Nisha Biswal, Senior Vice President (South Asia) of US Chamber of Commerce and former Assistant Secretary of State, opened the engagement highlighting how Bangladesh has set a path towards strong economic growth and thus the interest from American corporates engagement with Bangladesh is growing.
The discussion, also featuring Bangladesh Ambassador to the US Shahidul Islam and US Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary Laura Stone, focused on Bangladesh’s role as an evolving trade partner both globally and regionally as well as on how to engage with the American business community to increase US-Bangladesh bilateral economic activities.
Corporate leaders from different sectors including such as, energy, banking, insurance, digital economy, financial services, healthcare, aerospace, defence and others actively participated in the discussion.
The global Covid caseload has now surged past 113 million, despite high rates of vaccination in several countries.
The total case count reached 113, 375,335 while the fatalities mounted to 2,515,896 on Saturday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
The US, the worst-hit country in the world, has so far recorded 28,484,429 cases and 510,323 deaths, as per the data.
India’s total Covid caseload reached 11,063,491 and death toll 156,825 on Saturday morning, according to the latest figures.
Brazil has the world's second highest Covid death toll after the United States and the third largest caseload after the US and India.
The South American country's Covid caseload and death toll stand at 10,455,630 and 252,835, respectively, as on Saturday morning, as per the varsity data.
Situation in Bangladesh
Bangladesh’s coronavirus caseload climbed to 545,424 on Friday after the health authorities detected 470 new cases in the past 24 hours until morning.
With 11 newly recorded Covid-19 deaths, the fatality count now stands at 8,395.
The mortality rate is 1.54 percent, a handout from the Directorate General of Health Services said.
Bangladesh reported its first cases on March 8 last year and the first death on March 18.
So far, 4,018,268 tests have been carried out – 15,032 in the past 24 hours.
“The daily infection rate jumped to 3.13% and the overall rate stands at 13.57%,” the DGHS said.
On Thursday, the daily infection rate was 2.63% which was 2.65% on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the health authorities reported 743 recoveries, taking the total to 495,498 or 90.85% of the total recorded cases.
Covid Vaccination Drive in Bangladesh
Bangladesh launched a countrywide coronavirus vaccination drive on Feb 7.
Until Friday afternoon, 4,108,165 people registered to get the first shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. By Thursday, 2,850,940 people had received the first dose. The second dose has to be taken between 8 and 12 weeks of the first one.
The government is providing the vaccine free of cost.
Last year, the government signed an agreement with the Serum Institute of India for acquiring 30 million doses of the vaccine. Serum will provide five million doses every month between January and June.
Also read:Covid-19: Global cases top 108.7 million
People, who are 40 or above, can register for getting the jab at www.surokkha.gov.bd. On-spot registration system has been scrapped.
Health experts and the government have been urging people to get registered and follow safety guidelines even after getting vaccinated.