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Start Fund Bangladesh: first use of new country fund

Thousands of Rohingya helped after cyclone destroys makeshift homes

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Thousands of families left homeless when Cyclone Mora hit Bangladesh are to be helped in the first crisis response by the new country-based Start Fund. Most of those to be assisted are Rohingya refugees, who had previously fled persecution in neighbouring Myanmar.

Start Fund Bangladesh, designed to enable aid agencies to respond early and fast to humanitarian emergency within the country, has approved £395,000 of funding to four agencies and their partners working in the region.

The funding will be used to provide urgent help for more than 50,000 of the most vulnerable people affected when the storm hit coastal districts on Tuesday. Many were living in makeshift shelters that were destroyed by the winds the reached up to 84 mph.

Some 12,000 Rohingya refugees have made temporary homes in the coastal region close to border, where the brunt of the storm was felt. It struck the island of Saint Martin and Teknaf in the coastal district of Cox's Bazar, where officials said some 200,000 people had been evacuated to shelters. In nearby Chittagong district, about 150,000 people were evacuated.

Shamsul Alam, a Rohingya community leader, told Reuters news agency the damage in the camps was severe with almost all 10,000 thatched huts in the Balukhali and Kutupalong camps destroyed. "Most of the temporary houses in the camps have been flattened," he said.

Funding was agreed in principle on Wednesday May 31 after two agencies, Handicap International Bangladesh and Solidarites Intern¬ational Bangladesh, raised the alert.

Four projects were selected from among six competing proposals in Dhaka on Friday, during a meeting chaired by Golam Billah of Islamic Relief. None of the five locally based Start Network members who took part in the selection meeting had put forward proposals of their own.

The projects selected are all in the Cox’s Bazar district. Among the activities to assist vulnerable families will be:

  • Distribution of hygiene kits – water containers, soap, other sanitary equipment – to prevent the spread of disease
  • Cash grants to the most vulnerable affected households to enable repairs to their makeshift homes and for other basic needs, including food
  • Repairs to latrines, washrooms and water points in makeshift camps
  • Repairs to schools damaged by the cyclone, to enable children to return to their education as quickly as possible

The agencies whose projects were selected are Action Against Hunger, CARITAS Bangladesh, Concern Worldwide and Save the Children Bangladesh.

Start Fund Bangladesh is funded by the UK government and Start Network worked with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) Bangladesh office to set it up. It is accessible to national and international Start Network member NGOs within Bangladesh and will operate on the same principles as the global Start Fund. It is the first separate country fund to be set up by Start Network and has been open to alerts since April. 

The new fund’s country manager, Sajid Raihan, said:

“The way Start Fund Bangladesh has been activated so quickly for Cyclone Mora shows the value it will bring to this country in the future. It is quick – with funding on its way within 72 hours of this alert, enabling an immediate response; and it is addressing pockets of vulnerability that might otherwise be overlooked.”

The new fund will have up to £10m for emergency response over four years, and will be able to tackle more such crises, drawing on local expertise and knowledge. Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, said:

"We welcome the initiative. We hope that this fund will be flexible enough to address the immediate, unmet needs; and will not be entangled in bureaucratic and administrative formalities. The success of Start Fund Bangladesh will depend on transparency and accountability, which will be at the core of the its management."

A.K.M. Musha, Country Director for Concern Worldwide, said:

“Start Fund is a unique funding mechanism for rapid and effective humanitarian response to disasters. The localisation of this funding mechanism, by establishing the Bangladesh Start Fund with country-specific funding allocation and local management involving both national and international humanitarian actors, will further enhance its effectiveness.”

Abdul Alim, Programme Officer for ActionAid Bangladesh, who was in the decision-making group in Dhaka, said:

"I am excited to have been a member of first project selection committee of Start Fund Bangladesh. It was a very lively and democratic process and all members were cooperative, transparent and logical. It was good that none of agencies applying for funding was present in the committee.”

Start Fund Bangladesh will be collectively owned and managed by its members, expected to extend to a growing number of national NGOs during its initial four-year life span. It will gradually devolve to the Bangladesh level with the ultimate aim of it becoming an independent local fund.

Nipin Gangadharan, Country Director for Action Against Hunger, whose project was among those selected, said:

"This moment of first award from the Start Fund Bangladesh facility is especially a gratifying as we were a founding member of Start Fund and are also the host of the Start Fund Secretariat here in Bangladesh. I have been lucky to be a part of the Start Fund's journey from the beginning, to this moment here in Bangladesh.

“There will be opportunities for learning from this award and the ones to follow. I hope a transparent and inclusive process of learning from this very moment, will enable us to achieve the vision of making the Start Fund Bangladesh truly local."

The new fund aims to operate along similar lines to the global Start Fund, in which aid agencies take swift, collective and transparent decisions after a member raises a crisis alert:

  • Day 1: Immediately an alert is raised, members are surveyed to gather first-hand information. Results are fed into a formal discussion by a smaller group.
  • Day 2: If this group activates the fund, members active in the area affected by the crisis have a further 24 hours to submit proposals to tackle the crisis.
  • Day 3: Project selection based on peer review is undertaken in country, as close to the crisis as possible, after which disbursement of funds begins. Agencies must complete their projects within 45 days.

Start Fund Bangladesh is managed by a small local team based in Dhaka at the offices of Action Against Hunger Bangladesh, which was selected as host in consortium with Christian Aid and Oxfam in Bangladesh (until 31 August 2017) through a competitive process.

Members operational in Bangladesh are: Action Against Hunger (ACF), ActionAid, CARE, Caritas Bangladesh, Catholic Relief Services, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Handicap International, HelpAge International, Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Oxfam, Plan, Relief International, Save the Children, Solidarites International, Tearfund, World Vision.

Keep reading:

Start Fund Bangladesh

  • by David Wastell

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