Coronavirus: WFP launches project to help regulate vehicle access to refugee camps

Previous vehicle tracking processes created long waiting times, leaving less time to deliver the humanitarian assistance needed in the camps

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has designed a fully digitized vehicle tracking tool to ensure the humanitarian community can keep critical services running in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in a timely manner.

The digitized system, called the Humanitarian Access Project, was launched in collaboration with the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC), the logistics sector, and the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), to support authorities in regulating vehicle access to the camps.

The launch was announced by a WFP press release on Thursday.

Previously, at the beginning of April, when access to the camps was limited, the RRRC would approve a list of vehicles each day. Using this list, the local and national law enforcement agencies would manually check each vehicle to ensure access was approved. This process created waiting times of up to two hours, leaving less time to deliver the humanitarian assistance needed in the camps.

To speed up this process and make it more efficient, a fully digitized vehicle tracking tool was developed under the Humanitarian Access Project, in less than 48 hours, to minimize delays and significantly reduce waiting times at the checkpoints. It also allows authorities to practice physical distancing because passengers and drivers are not asked to get off the car and sign the book.

At the checkpoints, WFP staff assist authorities to track vehicles from organizations going into the camp by scanning the unique QR codes provided to the vehicles. Within a few seconds the vehicle is crosschecked and approved for entry.

“As the Covid-19 outbreak began in other cities and towns of Bangladesh, the RRRC office wanted to find a solution where we can provide critical services to the camp while also stopping the spread of Covid-19 in the camp area,” said Mr. Md. Mahbub Alam Talukder, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner. “Here WFP, ISCG, and the Logistics Sector came forward with the idea of QR coded vehicle passes for a limited number of vehicles. Through this vehicle monitoring system now we can check the numbers of vehicles along with passengers daily. We are really grateful to the team who are directly involved in this process.”

“This collaboration between agencies and authorities to get projects up and running is extremely important in the fast-paced environment of emergencies,” Richard Ragan, WFP Representative to Bangladesh, said. “The entire humanitarian community is working extremely hard to provide lifesaving assistance and mitigate the risk of Covid-19 in the camps by reducing the number of vehicles and staff entering the camps.”

At present, there are 8 checkpoints where 12 WFP staff are crosschecking the vehicles along with Bangladesh Army, Border Guard Bangladesh and local police.

Coronavirus has so far infected 7,103 people and killed 163 people in Bangladesh.

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Globally, the virus has infected 3,221,029 people and killed 228,252 people thus far