The United Nations’ refugee agency has just completed the first phase of a family counting initiative at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, with a major assist from biometric technology.
The majority of the Rohingya Muslims have fled from neighboring Myanmar, where they have faced what many are calling a genocide that has intensified over the past year. In Bangladesh, the refugees have become the the subjects of one of the UNHCR’s first intensive applications of biometric identification, which the UN agency believes can offer substantial benefits in helping to manage and aid populations of displaced persons.
In the UNHCR’s family counting exercise, undertaken in collaboration with Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC), it appears that the biometric registration has helped the agency to keep accurate track of the individuals in the Kutupalong camp and makeshift areas further to the south. Workers proceeded from shelter to shelter to enroll 517,643 individuals comprising 120,284 families. Data is collected on mobile devices, even in areas without a network connection, and geo-tagged for each family; information collected without a mobile connection is immediately uploaded to a central server when devices are able to get back online.
The project has allowed for extensive demographic analysis, with officials finding that children make up 54 percent of the populations, and that women account for 52 percent, with 14 percent being single mothers. Seventy-two percent had fled to Bangladesh after state terror escalated in Myanmar’s Rakhine state this past August.
In a statement from the UNHCR’s spokesperson, the agency indicated that this work is ongoing, and that the data collected “will be useful not only for UNHCR and the Bangladeshi authorities but also for all humanitarian partners in their planning and ‘interventions’ for the benefit of the refugees.”
November 13th, 2017 – by Alex Perala