MOAS is an independent NGO dedicated to mitigating the suffering of people forced to risk their lives to reach safety and communities facing global crises. We are a global organisation providing humanitarian aid and assistance and implementing projects to support the most vulnerable groups. As an independent NGO, MOAS was founded and continues to operate on the principles of humanity, impartiality, and neutrality.
In 2014 and 2015, MOAS was operational in the Central Mediterranean, where the crews on board its specialist SAR vessel, the Phoenix, rescued and assisted than 11,685 people.
From October 2015 the Phoenix was deployed in the Andaman Sea in response to the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis. As Rohingya people fled persecution and violence in Myanmar by attempting to reach Malaysia by boat, our SAR team worked closely with stakeholders in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, India, Malaysia and Indonesia in a process of fact-finding and expanding diplomatic relations, establishing a vital ground network of information-sharing and advocacy around SAR in the region.
In December 2015, the organisation expanded its operations to the Aegean Sea is response to the crisis on the Turkey – Greece border, where countless Syrians were attempting the crossing to Europe. There, it operated with a second vessel, the Responder, saving the lives of 1,869 people during its three-month mission.
In June 2016, both MOAS assets were repositioned to the Central Mediterranean in response to escalating death tolls. Between June and December, the MOAS crews rescued and assisted almost 20,000 children, women and men.
On April 1st 2017, MOAS launched its fourth Central Mediterranean mission, comprising one SAR vessel, the Phoenix, supported for the first time by a manned aerial asset. The mission ended in August 2017, having rescued and assisted 7,286 people.
In September 2017, MOAS shifted operations to South East Asia in response to the escalating Rohingya refugee crisis along the Myanmar and Bangladeshi border. Our team worked to provide aid and medical assistance through the provision of Primary Health Centres and aid delivery. In early 2019 we launched our Water and Flood Safety training, in collaboration with UNHCR and IOM, intended for Rohingya refugees and the Bangladeshi host community, to provide expertise in water safety and first aid. Course participants are trained to transfer their knowledge to the rest of the community through trainer-training.
In 2019, MOAS also launched an assistance project in Yemen where we are working to provide nutritional and medical aid with our local partner ADRA, and recently expanded that aid delivery project to Somalia, working with new partner IMC.
MOAS was pleased to use our innovative approach and rapid turnaround to establish several COVID-19 response programs in the face of the global pandemic.
In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, we turned our newly constructed workshop in Shamlapur into a production hub for the manufacturing of reusable, washable cotton face masks to be distributed across the region as a preventative measure in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. All our materials and labour for the production of the masks have been sourced locally to further support the host community during these challenging and uncertain times.
We also launched the campaign #MoasMasksMalta to encourage home seamstresses to make face masks for vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees in Malta, distributing masks across the closed and open centres and throughout the community. In Malta MOAS is also implementing a remote education project enabling refugee children to access at-home education through the provision of tablets and internet connectivity. Meanwhile, in Italy MOAS is preparing to purchase ventilators for the local hospitals should as needed.
Finally, in Yemen and Somalia, aid deliveries continue to bolster crisis affected communities through the crisis, and plans are in place to develop new Livelihoods projects with local partners.
Beginning in early 2017 the geopolitical environment in the Central Mediterranean has worsened and the policy agreement between Italy and Libya changed the situation in the Mediterranean Sea significantly.
MOAS did not want to become part of a mechanism where there is no guarantee of safe harbour or of timely and systematic disembarkation for those being assisted and rescued at sea. As a humanitarian organisation, we cannot take part in a process that would actively send vulnerable people back into harm’s way. As such, in August 2017 the decision was taken to indefinitely suspend our operations in the Central Mediterranean and shift our resources to areas we felt more able to have an impact.
MOAS continues to be engaged with the current situation in the Mediterranean, and we are ready to respond to any changes that would allow us to resume our operations, granted they are in line with our humanitarian principles. Meanwhile, and we are continuing our campaign to advocate for the creation of safe and legal routes worldwide.
Ever since MOAS’ inception, we have monitored global humanitarian issues and have quickly adapted to fast-moving developments, making sure we are always where we are most needed.
Determined to continue our humanitarian work and building on MOAS’ long-standing dedication to alleviating the plight of the persecuted Rohingya people, in September 2017 MOAS took the decision to shift our operations to South East Asia to provide much-needed aid and assistance to Rohingya refugees.
Over 742,000 Rohingya people have fled across the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh, where they are in desperate need of food, shelter and medical assistance. Many are living in makeshift camps with little access to humanitarian aid. Recognising the need for our dynamic and fast-moving operational model, MOAS has been on the ground in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, providing urgent medical care, assistance and the Flood and Water Safety Training since the 2017 exodus began.
Yes; in October 2015, the Phoenix travelled to the Bay of Bengal on a seven-month fact-finding mission working closely with stakeholders in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. We were able to expand diplomatic relations and establish a vital ground network of information-sharing for advocacy around SAR in the region. Our sister organisation, Xchange, also conducted a survey of 1,000 Rohingya people to understand how they perceived migration in the region (the report can be found here).
The Rohingya are a minority Muslim population living in Rakhine State, Myanmar, which spans Myanmar’s coast along the Bay of Bengal from Bangladesh to the Irrawaddy Delta.
The Rohingya speak Rohingya, a dialect that is distinct to others spoken in Rakhine State and throughout Myanmar. They are not recognised as one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups and have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982.
Although they have lived in Myanmar since the 12th Century, the Myanmar government considers the Rohingya people as illegal immigrants. From 1824, the British began the colonisation of Myanmar, and in their rule between 1824 and 1948 oversaw a considerable movement of labourers to Myanmar from neighbouring countries. As the British administered Myanmar as a province of India, they considered this as internal movement. Post-independence, the government viewed this migration as illegal, and on this basis deny the Rohingya people citizenship.
There are currently an estimated 1.1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar, mostly in Northern Rakhine State, where they face discrimination and poverty. Following outbreaks of violence in 2012 and 2016, more than 120,000 Rohingya people are living in Internally Displaced Persons (IPD) camps in Central Rakhine State.
For decades, Rohingya people have sought sanctuary from conflict and persecution in nearby countries. Further violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, in August 2017 has led to at least 742,000 people fleeing across the border with Bangladesh, with thousands heading to the camps in Cox’s Bazar. The speed and scale of the arrivals has led to a critical humanitarian emergency.
Bangladesh has been hosting Rohingya refugees for the past 30 years, but even beyond the escalating Rohingya refugee crisis, Bangladesh is facing a humanitarian crisis of its own. Bangladesh is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, and as of September 2017 over 8 million people had been affected by floods. While the country has made significant progress in reducing poverty, its extremely high population density and vulnerability to climate change mean that resources are spread thinly.
Refugees arrive with very few possessions and are reliant on humanitarian assistance for food and shelter. According to the IOM, all new arrivals are in need of emergency food assistance. Over 150,000 children under the age of 5 need malnutrition prevention, and at least 14,000 children are acutely malnourished. Hundreds of thousands of newly arrived refugees are living in makeshift camps, where there is often no access to water and sanitation facilities. Primary health care coverage needs to be urgently established in all new settlements, as those in makeshift camps are often unable to access medical care due to the distance to established healthcare facilities and the extremely poor condition of the roads.
In this context, international awareness of and action on the Rohingya refugee crisis is sorely needed.
Bangladesh, like all other nations, is now facing the Covid19 pandemic which threatens to hit the makeshift Rohingya camps, as well as the vulnerable local community hard. MOAS remains active in country to provide support and assistance.
Throughout September 2017, MOAS completed a ground assessment regarding the dire conditions faced by Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. We found that there was an extremely urgent need to distribute food and provide medical assistance to the ever-increasing number of refugees in Cox’s Bazar.
On 1st October and 18th November 2017, the Phoenix completed two 20-tonne aid deliveries to Bangladesh, comprising essential rations such as rice, salt, vegetable oil, sugar and lentils which were shared with the Bangladeshi national agencies responsible for aid distribution.
The Aid Stations provided primary health care to over 90,000 people. Add: Since 2019, responding to a call from the Inter Sector Coordination Group, we have been engaged in providing our expertise in Water and Flood Safety training intended for Rohingya refugees and the Bangladeshi host community. In the first year we trained a total of 1,402 safety volunteers in collaboration with IOM and UNHCR. We are now planning a Water and Flood Safety training for fishermen and the Cyclone Planning and Preparedness teams in Cox’s Bazar.
MOAS was founded by Christopher and Regina Catrambone in conjunction with search and rescue professionals, completing its first proof of concept mission in 2014. This initial 60-day mission was funded through the contributions of our founders and donations from private citizens.
From 2015, MOAS was privately funded through the support of the public, grant-making organisations, crowd-funding initiatives, foundations and corporate sponsorship. Operational partners, including MSF, Emergency, and Red Cross Italy with the support of the International Federation of the Red Cross, have also been major contributors to our mission.
In October 2016, MOAS received its first grant from the Swiss Development Agency, the SDC, marking our first contribution from any state-affiliate.
Today, MOAS continues to be primarily supported by grant-making foundations, corporate sponsorship, and donations from private citizens.
Our high profile supporters who help to publicize our missions include:
We need supporters at every level to ensure the successful continuation of our mission, and help raise awareness of the plight faced by those in the regions where we operate.
For more information, or if you represent a foundation or a private company interested in partnering with MOAS for the purposes of operations, fundraising or advocacy please email us at [email protected].
MOAS is looking for skilled volunteers in the areas of operations. If you think that our activities are in tune with your skills please email your CV with a cover letter to [email protected]
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