Title: Is it possible to ensure Inclusive Humanitarian Responses while Developing a Deaf and Mute friendly sign language as a new form to spread awareness on COVID19 inside the Rohingya Refugees Camps?

“Hasan is a 45 years old deaf and mute refugee, working as support staff with an International NGO, at camp 14. Even hardly his co-workers communicate in sign language, but he has developed his mechanism to communicate. The fact is despite the communication barrier he is the best worker in the office who does not need any special instruction and he understands everything and works accordingly. The way he performs and works makes him different from others. Starting from the Army, CIC office, and his co-workers, everyone likes him.”

Inclusive Humanitarian responses are the most important part of ensuring the marginalized communities’ safety and security, but what about those who are more marginalized being silent? Although the exact number of Rohingya refugees with disabilities is unknown, it is estimated that around 44% of these refugees have a disability or a serious medical condition. (REACH, UNHCR Multi-Sector Needs Assessment Cox’s Bazar Rohingya Refugee Response, July 2018).

But the proportion of the deaf and mute refugees are quite in a number and some of the cases, they have been treated as a mental disorder patient.


  • Physical Barriers
  • Infrastructure
  • Distance to services
  • Long waiting time
  • Communication in sign language
  • Lack of representation
  • 15% reported they face discrimination inside the community
  • Stigmas are obtrusive

Concerning facts about the Deaf and Mute to think in terms of Socio-Economy and COVID 19 Messages in sign -language:

  • No persons being deaf and mute were participating in cash for work, vocational, livelihood, or skills training programs, even though they face greater difficulties than persons without disabilities in accessing informal work.
  • School-aged children as being deaf and mute attended school at a lower rate than average for the Rohingya refugee community. The main barriers cited were a lack of communication, lack of assistance for inclusive learning environments and practices, and negative attitudes from their peers or teachers.
  • Also reported not participating in any community decision-making.
  • None of the actors were using the Washington Group Questions4 to identify persons with disabilities. Only two service providers reported “fully” consulting with persons with disabilities about accessibility.

Multi-Sector Needs Assessment II All Camps Ukhiya/Teknaf says about “To understand the evolving priority needs of the refugees and to understand change over time, this Multi-Sector Needs Assessment (MSNA), coordinated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and with technical support from REACH, was conducted in 33 refugee sites using a household survey methodology. It is a follow-up assessment of the baseline MSNA conducted in July 2018. Results of this MSNA are generalizable to the camp level with a 95% confidence level and 10% margin of error. This factsheet presents an analysis of data collected in all camps where 3,165 households were surveyed between 8 and 26 January 2019. Support for questionnaire translation and enumerator language training was provided by Translators Without Borders. January 2019 data is presented in red, and July 2018 data is presented”.

The importance of COVID 19 Messages in Sign Language for the deaf and mute, but the question is who would pioneer into this? Even though one of the employees from the Centre for Disability in Development (CDD) stated that they have started working on it but still there are some challenges.

There is hardly any progresses, neither from the International agencies, NGOs nor from the RRRC (Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner), as all the messages are for the mainstream. While talking to B.B.C and Translators without Borders, despite having and producing a quality program like “Soiyee Hota”, hardly there are any initiatives to produce a video in sign language. The necessity of braille language has become important as well.

While talking to the “Translators Without Borders” one of the representatives stated that

“We are always very happy to provide any community-facing translation to organizations working with the Rohingya community.

I am not very sure if there are differences in sign language for different language speaking communities (e.g. Burmese, Rohingya, or Chittagonian), and also if so then which one should be used for wider understanding. But it looks like something we may look into. Also, as far as we can ascertain there is no sign language for Rohingya, so as such it would need to use another form of signing.”

The deaf and mute community inside the camps are still in a vulnerable condition, even the data have not been updated while asking from site management services in the camps, these are quite visible.

What could be a way forward to develop a Code of Conduct for the newest form of Sign Language?


  • Deaf and Mute refugees should be in the research process, including in study design, study implementation, data ownership, intellectual property, and authorship of sign language development
  • Access by researchers to any traditional knowledge, cultural or should be subject to the free and prior informed consent of the owners or Deaf and Mute refugees. transfer of any material or knowledge to researchers, on terms that are co-developed with resource custodians or knowledge holder
  • A culturally appropriate plan to share benefits should be agreed to by all relevant stakeholders and reviewed regularly as the research evolves. Researchers from high-income settings need to be aware of the power and resource differentials in benefit-sharing discussions, with sustained efforts to bring lower-capacity parties into the dialogue.

It is essential to compensate local research support systems, for instance, translators, interpreters, or local coordinators, fairly for their contribution


Potential cultural sensitivities should be explored in advance of research with local communities, research participants, and local researchers to avoid violating customary practices. Research is a voluntary exercise for research participants

Local ethics review should be sought wherever possible.


Ahead of the research, it should be determined whether local resources will be depleted to provide staff or other resources for the new project (e.g., engaging family members of the deaf and mute or interpreters staff). Tailored risk management plans should be agreed upon in advance of the research between the research team, local partners, and employers.

Exceptions might be permissible in the context of specific local conditions. Where research involvement could lead to stigmatization.


Lower educational standards, illiteracy, or language barriers can never be an excuse for hiding information or providing it incompletely while developing the sign language.

Plain language and a non-patronizing style in the appropriate local languages should be adopted in communication with deaf and mute participants who may have difficulties comprehending the research process and requirements.

The emergence of a new pattern of Sign Language development among the deaf and mute Rohingya Refugees clearly shows the possibility. The crisis and challenges have made the ground for the emergence of a new pattern of sign language inside the camps for the deaf and mute, which is neither similar to Bengali nor Burmese. This is the time where, the sectors focal, sub-sectors, camp stakeholders and actors can work together.


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