This Rescue Dog Is Shining a Light on the Rohingya Refugee Crisis
Compassion fatigue seems to have dulled the world’s attention on the Rohingya crisis.
Now Foxtrot, a rescue dog in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, is adding humanitarian to the list of canine accomplishments, for his work shining a light on the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis.
Foxtrot was discovered when aid workers with the World Food Program joined a volunteer beach clean-up, according to NPR. The dog ambled up to the group and followed them back to their compound.
At first, Foxtrot was weak and dehydrated, so Gemma Snowdon, a WFP aid worker, gave him some food and water to help him recover. The next day, Foxtrot was full of life and he’s has been with the team ever since.
He now has his own Instagram account, where photos show him in various humanitarian situations often with an infectious smile or with his brow furrowed in deep contemplation.
Today I’ve been autographing books with our Gender Programme Officer, Binta. The covers of these books were hand stitched by Rohingya women in the refugee camps which has been helping them learn new skills and also earn some income! A lot of the women who helped make the books told us that they’d spend the money on necessary things like clothes and medication. Making the books has also given the women and teenage girls time to talk about their dreams and aspirations for the future. Binta’s job is to help make sure women and girls are at the centre of WFP programmes so that we reach each and every person in need and give them equal opportunities and access to food.
Posts show him helping teams building infrastructure to guard refugee homes against monsoon floods, reading books designed for children in the camps, and waiting to meet the World Food Program’s supply chain team.
WFP also features Foxtrot in videos, where a dubbed voice assumes his identity and tells the audience about the situation in Cox’s Bazar, where multiple refugee camps have combined to become the world’s largest refugee camp. It houses more than 870,000 Rohingya refugees who fled neighboring Myanmar in 2017 following a genocidal campaign waged by the army.
The violence that drove Rohingya out of Myanmar was the culmination of decades of violence and oppression. Refugees in Cox’s Bazar are essentially stateless because Myanmar refuses to recognize their citizenship, and efforts to return refugees to their home state of Rakhine have floundered partly because of mismanagement and partly because Rohingya fear going back to a place where they endured horrific violence.
As a result, the settlement near Cox’s Bazar has become a sort of purgatory. Refugees living in the camps are unable to get jobs in Bangladesh and the government prohibits people in the camps from building permanent structure homes to prevent long-term residence.
The humanitarian challenges facing the camps are multifaceted. Many Rohingya refugees require extensive therapy to overcome the trauma of being violently expelled from their homes, and countless people suffered life-changing injuries and wounds.
Children in the camps are often unable to go to school, setting them up for a lifetime of poverty. Girls, in particular, are being pushed into child marriages and sexual slavery and teenage pregnancies have become disturbingly common.
And the annual monsoon season threatens catastrophic landslides and flooding.
Amid this grim context, Foxtrot is helping to draw attention to a crisis that has seemingly been sidelined due to compassion fatigue.
Foxtrot started out as a stray, but these days he’s learning multiple languages, studying the latest humanitarian news, and helping his bosses manage spreadsheets. He loves to visit the logistics centers, where he monitors food deliveries. And when monsoon season arrives, Foxtrot is making sure the settlement will be prepared to handle the rain.
Foxtrot shows that in the toughest of situations, sometimes a dog can help people get through the day.
Check out all these mobile storage units! They can be erected really fast when there’s an emergency and they keep food and other aid items safe from sun, rain, wind, and dust. Did you know that the @worldfoodprogramme is the lead agency for the @logcluster? That’s because we’re experts in getting food and non-food items to places that are hard to reach. Rivers, mountains, and damaged roads and infrastructure can’t stop us from getting help to people who need it most 💪
A quick visit to the Logistics Hub to check on the food deliveries. This is where all the aid items from NGOs and agencies are stored before being distributed to people living in the world’s largest refugee camp. I was lucky enough to see a load of cooking oil come in for our General Food Distribution.