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‘A sample of hell’: Rohingya forced to rebuild camps again after deadly floods | Global development

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The process of rebuilding has begun once again for Rohingya refugees living in camps in Bangladesh after a week of heavy rains made thousands homeless.

The chest-high waters that flowed through parts of Cox’s Bazar have exposed the vulnerability of the area’s unplanned settlements, which have to be repeatedly repaired and rebuilt after flooding, cyclones and fires.

At least 21,000 refugees were displaced by heavy monsoon rains that began on 27 July and lasted for days. Flash flooding inundated the fragile shelters, which are made of bamboo and tarpaulin, with landslides crushing those perched on unstable hills.

Zahed Khan, a Rohingya youth activist who lives in the Kutupalong refugee camp, said: “All of our family was at home and we didn’t have any way to escape so we tried everything we could do to get rid of the water. We dug ditches to drain the water away.”

He said most of his family’s belongings and documents were damaged by the water. “We’re trying to rebuild, with difficulty because we don’t have the financial support to get materials. We spent days in the damaged shelter but after a few days some NGOs gave us materials like bamboo and tarpaulin.”

Girls walk along the remains of path in the camp.
The aftermath of the floods, which killed at least six Rohingya refugees and swept away infrastructure. Photograph: Yassin and Zia/Rohingya photographers on behalf of NRC

The main Kutupalong camp was established in the 1990s, but, since August 2017, it has rapidly expanded to become the world’s largest refugee camp. It is now home to 700,000 Rohingya who fled violence in neighbouring Myanmar.

Forests and hills were quickly cleared of vegetation by the refugees to make way for the expanding camp. But the mass deforestation has weakened the soil and rainwater runs straight off the hills instead of being drawn down into aquifers.

At least six Rohingya died in last week’s floods, along with 15 Bangladeshis. The rains damaged bridges, roads and paths used by the refugees to move around within the sprawling camps and which are crucial to deliver aid in hard-to-reach areas.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said hundreds of clinics, aid delivery centres and toilets were damaged, though some have since been repaired. UNHCR said it provided kits to help tie down shelters ahead of the monsoon and cyclone seasons, and trained thousands of volunteers.

But with the camps locked down, as Bangladesh goes through its worst outbreak of Covid-19 yet, and after fires displaced tens of thousands of people earlier this year, the past week’s deadly rains have increased desperation among the Rohingya.

“The life we are having here at camp is like a sample of hell. We don’t want to live here for one minute,” said Mohammed Zonaid, a Rohingya photographer and aid worker whose shelter was damaged by a landslide.

“As long as we live here in the camp, we want to live safely and with dignity.”

He said the pandemic had reduced the presence of aid organisations, which meant less preparation was made for this year’s monsoon season.

“NGOs were not ready to deal with the rains and their lack of care meant people died and so many became shelterless,” said Zonaid.

He said more pressure needed to be put on Myanmar to give the Rohingya the right to return, a move that seems highly unlikely after this year’s military coup.

Sandbags are used to try to stabilise a hillside in one camp.
Sandbags are used to try to stabilise a hillside. The floods caused landslides amid widespread deforestation in the surroundings of the camps. Photograph: Yassin and Zia/Rohingya photographers on behalf of NRC

Many Rohingya refugees have lived in the camps in Kutupalong and Nayapara, also in Cox’s Bazar, since the early 1990s.

A fire in January destroyed the homes and belongings of 3,500 people in Nayapara, including shelters where many residents had lived for almost 30 years.

The families began a hunger strike in early July, refusing to take rations from the UN’s World Food Programme until they were given better living conditions.

One of the strike organisers said, on condition of anonymity, that eight women involved in the strike had been beaten by police, and organisers had been threatened.

The World Bank announced on Thursday that it was committing $590m (£420m) to help support the Rohingya and local Bangladeshi communities.

With the flooding devastating the region, the UN has stressed that support also needed to be provided to people living in nearby villages.

“Extreme weather affects us all,” said Jamie Munn, director of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Bangladesh.

“Host Bangladeshis in Teknaf and Ukhiya [districts], many of whom live in extreme poverty, are suffering the aftershock of floods as well. Currently, we are working directly with local government officials to ensure communities who graciously host refugees are not forgotten in the aftermath of disasters. A collective tragedy demands a collective response.”

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‘They see it in corridors, in bathrooms, on the bus’: UK schools’ porn crisis | Pornography

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Barnardo’s works directly with children who are victims of abuse or display signs of harmful or risky sexual behaviour. In 2020-21, they worked with 382,872 children, young people, parents and carers.

In a recent survey of their frontline workers across England and Wales, staff reported a rise in the number of children participating in acts they have seen in pornographic videos, despite feeling uncomfortable or scared. They describe porn as having a “corrosive” effect on child wellbeing.

Child sexual abuse expert Sarah works with children who are displaying signs of inappropriate sexual behaviour. She also trains other professionals who work with children

“I started out as a primary school teacher eight years ago, and I’ve been worried about children seeing porn ever since. Children don’t have to be able to type to see porn – it can be sent to them or shown to them on someone else’s phone. They see it at school, in the corridors, in the bathrooms, on the bus. There is just no censor on any of it – one video leads to another. If you can imagine it, it exists as porn, and children are seeing it.

“I am working with a teenager who was sexually abused by a family member. This young person had been exposed to porn and it was perpetuating what the abuser told them – that this is normal, that it’s not abuse.”

She is particularly concerned, as are her colleagues, about the increasingly extreme nature of the porn freely available on mainstream sites.

“A common role play theme on porn sites is intra-familial abuse – on mainstream sites you will see fetishisation of grandad and granddaughter sex, or stepfathers and stepdaughters. This may lead to a young person not disclosing or getting the support they need. From both angles it is dangerous; it puts the child at risk and encourages the perpetrator.

“The impact of porn shows in children harming others or themselves because they either don’t understand or are so ashamed of sexual urges. Shame is very prevalent and is often hidden.

“We are working with a seven-year-old who has been exposed to porn and is now displaying sexualised behaviour. They had free rein on a device, and someone hadn’t deleted a browser history. Once a young person sees porn, they may feel a need to come back again and again – porn is designed to meet a need. That is a form of sexual abuse against that child.”

Brian* is a senior social worker who has worked with children for over 30 years

“Unfortunately, porn is a feature for the majority of the children who come into our service. The children we support are very damaged. They would be likely to have experienced multiple forms of abuse – sexual, physical and domestic. Porn in and of itself is not the cause of their behaviour but it becomes a compounding factor when it hits that history of vulnerability.

Adult sex offenders can give children a distorted rationalisation for their behaviour, and the messages that are given through porn then fit with that distortion.

Lucy* has worked within the field of child sexual abuse for 16 years.

“We know children find porn distressing – they are telling us that themselves. We have done research with children in schools so that we have a cohort to compare our vulnerable children to, and they are saying the same thing.

“This is not what could be described as erotic or soft porn. They may start on porn sites and quickly begin to see very hardcore material. Or [extreme material] lands in their social media feeds, and they can then feel compelled to go back and look again.

“Children are less able to manage sexual arousal, and this material is designed to be arousing. Lots of children can feel guilty and distressed by what they see. We have 14-year-olds telling us they have to watch it as soon as they wake up. They describe being preoccupied with accessing porn to an extent that impacts upon their day-to-day life.

“We also regularly work with children with learning disabilities, another group vulnerable to the harm of porn. They may be shielded from sexual information and then reach 13 or 14 and take away the wrong learning from porn. They may learn that no means yes, that if you persist, women will enjoy forced sex. These messages are harmful for any child but for children with learning needs or who have developed unhealthy beliefs around sex as a result of abuse, it’s particularly bad.

“After lockdown, we began to get more calls from parents where there is no other obvious trauma, just the exposure to porn. I’ve been doing this 16 years, and children have far more access to porn now.”

* Names and some details have been changed to protect identities

In the UK, the NSPCC offers support to children on 0800 1111, and adults concerned about a child on 0808 800 5000. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) offers support for adult survivors on 0808 801 0331. In the US, call or text the Childhelp abuse hotline on 800-422-4453. In Australia, children, young adults, parents and teachers can contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or Bravehearts on 1800 272 831, and adult survivors can contact Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380. Other sources of help can be found at Child Helplines International

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French centre-right tilts toward Pécresse

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Valérie Pécresse, a moderate conservative who has likened herself to former British and German leaders Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel, has emerged as a front-runner in primaries in France’s centre-right Les Républicains party, Reuters reports. “I won’t flinch. I have a project for a clean break, a project for the unashamed right,” she said Thursday, ahead of elections against liberal incumbent Emmanuel Macron and far-right contenders in spring.

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Poland plans to set up register of pregnancies to report miscarriages | Poland

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Poland is planning to introduce a centralised register of pregnancies that would oblige doctors to report all pregnancies and miscarriages to the government.

The proposed register would come into effect in January 2022, a year after Poland introduced a near-total ban on abortion.

This has raised serious concerns among women’s rights activists, who believe that in light of the abortion ban, the register could be used to cause legal difficulties for women who have self-administered abortions.

The draft legislation is part of a wide-ranging project to update the medical information system in Poland.

“It’s about control, it’s about making sure that pregnancies end with birth,” Natalia Broniarczyk, an activist from Aborcyjny Dream Team told the Polish weekly Gazeta Wyborcza.

The plan prompted online protests. A social media initiative titled “I’d like to politely report that I am not pregnant” encouraged Polish women to email photos of their used sanitary pads, tampons and underwear to the Polish ministry of health.

The ministry has strongly denied the project amounts to a centralised pregnancy register, with a spokesperson saying the changes are simply part of wide-ranging digitalisation project that will update the way data about a multitude of conditions, including allergies, is stored.

The spokesperson said doctors always had information on pregnancies, but before it was stored on paper by hospitals, rather than centrally by the government.

The concerns of activists about the register grew considerably after a bill proposed by the government that would establish an “institute of family and demographics” passed first reading in the Polish parliament by one vote on Thursday.

The institute would aim to monitor family policy, pass opinion on legislation and educate citizens on the “vital role of family to the social order” and the importance of “cultural-social reproduction” in the context of marriage. The institute would have access to citizens’ personal data and prosecutorial powers in the realm of family law, prompting worries it could be used to enforce the country’s strict abortion law.

The project has drawn widespread criticism from Polish academics and civil rights advocates.

“Maybe just call it the ‘Red Center of Rachel and Leah’,” a feminist organisation from Łódź said in an Instagram post, referencing Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. In the novel the Rachel and Leah Center is a training facility for women designated to be “breeders” by the authoritarian regime.

The committee of demographic researchers at the Polish Academy of Sciences has issued a statement expressing concerns that the “pro-natalist propaganda” would take precedent over scientific research at the institute.

“The project aims exclusively to promote traditional model of family,” Adam Bodnar, Poland’s former ombudsman for citizen rights, told the Polish news website Oko.press. “It could also become a tool against those who fall outside this model, for example those who do not conform to heteronormative norms.”



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