The impact of financial assistance through volunteer programmes in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, June 2022

Bangladesh is among the top ten refugee-receiving countries globally, hosting over 920,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar who have little opportunity to formally interact with the host country’s economy. In addition to in-kind assistance humanitarian actors implement a wide range of assistance by engaging refugees in some livelihood activities through two programmes: cash-for-work and refugee volunteer programmes. Both schemes provide a stipend equivalent to the hours worked times the hourly minimum stipend and provide, for most, the only opportunity for livelihood opportunity.

A UNHCR-Yale survey of refugees finds the humanitarian refugee volunteer programmes and cash-for-work are the main sources of generating income inside camps. Average household income closely follows the refugee volunteer guidelines set by the humanitarian coordination mechanism and agreed by the Government of Bangladesh, and much below the minimum expenditure basket. Households with access to cash-for-work or refugee volunteer opportunities are likely to earn more than the rest of the population. Over 1 in 4 households monetize some form of assistance to meet their family needs.

Household needs often remain unmet regardless of income levels. Earners tend to spend all their income on their family’s needs. Only about 10 percent of the households make any savings from their income. 38 percent households donate, predominantly in the form of religious offerings. 63 percent of households have unmet needs despite receiving humanitarian assistance. 82 percent households could not pay for critical needs for not having cash. Food, clothing, and healthcare remain the largest unmet needs among refugees.

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees