Chairman of Nippon Foundation Sasakawa Yohei visits Bhasan Char

Sasakawa Yohei, Chairman of the Japan-based donor organisation Nippon Foundation, emphasised the importance of fisheries and skills development for Rohingya youth to enhance the quality of life of the Rohingya community in Bhashan Char. Former advisor to the caretaker government and BRAC Chairperson Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman was present along with the representatives from both organisations.

On Saturday, 6 April, the representatives conveyed their perspective while visiting the Rohingya community and various initiatives of BRAC on Bhasan Char. Arriving for a day trip they aimed to gain firsthand insight into the situation of the Rohingya community in Bhasan Char and observe BRAC's operations. The delegates received a warm welcome from the Head of BRAC Humanitarian Crisis Management Programme (HCMP) at Bhasan Char, Md. Abu Bakar Siddique and his team upon their arrival. Camp-in-Charge Rafiqul Haque, Assistant Camp-in-Charge Makchudur Rahman, Navy Commanding Officer M. Anwarul Kabir, and senior police officials were also present on behalf of the government.

The delegation from the Nippon Foundation comprised six members, including Sasakawa Yohei, Chairman; Arikawa Takashi, Senior Project Director; Suzuki Natsuko, Senior Officer and Executive Photographer; Nakayasu Shota, Secretary to the Chairman; Kuribayashi Franz Ken, Senior Project Coordinator; and Machida Kimiyo, Executive Interpreter.

Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, Chairperson of BRAC along with Dr. Md. Akramul Islam, Senior Director, Humanitarian Crisis Management Programme (HCMP); Mafruza Khan, Director, Global Resource Mobilisation and Partnerships; and Amit Das, Programme Manager, Outreach and Capacity, Advocacy for Social Change were present from BRAC during the visit.

The delegation toured various facilities, including the WASH Sector Clean Water Laboratory at Cluster 40 and Cluster 57, an Education Centre at Cluster 67, a Child Protection Centre, and Food Security Livelihoods at Cluster 68, interacting with Rohingya community members. They also visited agriculture, poultry, and livestock interventions and discussed with the farmers and entrepreneurs.

Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman stated that the government is prioritising the enhancement of the Rohingya community's quality of life on Bhasan Char. With governmental support, several development organisations, including BRAC, have initiated diverse programmes aimed at bolstering food security and livelihood. This marks a tangible step forward. However, it is imperative to continue and expand this process while actively involving the Rohingya community to a greater extent. Bhasan Char holds immense potential for fish and vegetable farming, coupled with environmental conservation across the island.

 Sasakawa Yohei, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, said, "I can see numerous possibilities and opportunities for fish farming here on Bhasan Char. However, fishermen need to possess exceptional skills in fish-catching, boat operation, and the trade of fish, particularly in fishing techniques."

He further emphasised that the Nippon Foundation and BRAC will collaborate on enhancing these skills. He also highlighted that by developing these skills, fishermen will become valuable citizens, even upon their potential return to Myanmar. The Chairman of Nippon Foundation commended BRAC's multifaceted efforts encompassing education, health, WASH, child protection, food security, and livelihood.

It's noteworthy that with government support and financial aid from UNICEF and BRAC USA, BRAC is currently running educational programmes benefiting approximately 6,000 Rohingya students across 18 schools in 38 Clusters on Bhasan Char. Simultaneously, under the WASH sector, activities related to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene promotion are being conducted across 37 Clusters, benefiting around 21,114 Rohingya individuals.

Furthermore, under the Food Security and Livelihoods (FSL) Sector, approximately 798 families are receiving support for commercial vegetable production, while 4,200 families are engaged in backyard vegetable cultivation. This initiative has directly and indirectly involved 13,950 Rohingyas, leading to increased monthly income and overall improvement in lifestyle. Moreover, BRAC is undertaking 29,500 plantation activities encompassing various tree types such as coconut, betel nut, guava, and sajne in Bhasan Char, which significantly contribute to environmental preservation.

Bhasan Char is a 40-square-kilometre island in Hatiya upazila, Bangladesh, located in the Bay of Bengal, approximately 60 kilometres (37 miles) away from the mainland Chattogram. As part of Government's Ashrayan-3 project, Bhasan Char began hosting Rohingya refugees relocated from Cox's Bazar in December 2020. As of 29 February 2204, it accomodates 8,222 families (35,026 individuals).