Cox’s Bazar in eastern Bangladesh, home to nearly a million Rohingya refugees, has been plagued by heavy rains since Monday. According to the UN, the floods and landslides caused by the monsoon have left more than 5,000 people without shelter, and six refugees have died. NGOs struggle to keep up with disaster relief.
The Rohingya people, a persecuted Muslim minority, live in makeshift shelters – made of tarpaulin and bamboo – thousands of which have been destroyed or damaged by an estimated 300 landslides since the rains began. The floods have also affected mosques and cemeteries. After two days of severe flooding, more than 14,000 people are now living in damaged, swampy shelters, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.
In Camp.10, Block G.38, there had been a massive landslide that destroyed nearly 5 shelters and 5 people went missing. Toch@IOMBangladesh @UNHCR_BGD @BDRCS1 pic.twitter.com/8ho1YNBJrY
— Ro Yassin Abdumonab (@md_yasiein) July 27, 2021 Photos posted to Twitter on July 27 show the aftermath of a landslide in the Camp 10 section of the settlement.
The water level in some parts of the settlement was higher than a meter, completely submerging the low-lying shelters and closing the access roads to the camps.
Many of the Rohingya living in the Cox’s Bazar camps, the world’s largest refugee settlement, fled military action in 2017 in neighboring Myanmar.
‘In the four years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen such rain’
Ro Yassin Abdumonab is a freelance Rohingya photographer capturing the dire situation in the camp.
Many people live in the low-lying areas, in the valleys and in very weak shelters. On the slopes, the shelters are not well built, therefore they have been destroyed. The main thing is that the water cannot drain properly. The water cannot move from one place to another, it stopped in the camp areas and only got bigger and bigger.
Heavy rain, floods and landslides Hundreds of shelters are flooded in flood-prone area. Several Rohingyas, including babies, have died today. Some were left without shelter We are: 1st: victims of genocide 2nd: victims of fire. 3rd: Flood victims 4th: Landslide victims pic.twitter.com/P1iztUzBx4
— Ro Yassin Abdumonab (@md_yasiein) July 27, 2021
In the four years that I have lived here, I have never seen such rain as this year. There are a total of 34 camps, and in every camp there is a disaster, be it flooding, landslides, soil erosion, and so on.
Many people had already moved to places where they feel safer, such as secular centers, some of the higher places. Others moved to stay with their families. But some people also had to go hungry, without food.
The damage poses a significant risk to those in the camps, whose living conditions were already precarious. Repeated fires have hit the settlement in recent months, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless. The Covid-19 pandemic has also contributed to increased food insecurity among Rohingyas.
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Members of the Rohingya Youth Association, which is run by Rohingya refugees to promote youth empowerment, have been mobilized to distribute food to flood victims.
Members of the Rohingya Youth Association distributed dry food to flood victims. Photos posted on Facebook July 27.
‘Half of the camp’s population is affected’
Khin Maung is the founder and president of the Rohingya Youth Association. He fears that continued bad weather will be a catastrophe for the residents of the camps.
The people whose shelters have already been destroyed have gone to stay with other people whose shelters have not been destroyed. They went to stay with relatives, relatives, friends. But the shelters are very small, so the whole family doesn’t have enough space to accommodate the extra family members who come to live with them.
It is still not clear when the shelters can be rebuilt again. But people are trying to rebuild themselves. If this continues to happen in the long term, such as a week of sustained heavy rainfall, half the population will be affected by this natural disaster. It will be a huge risk for our people in the future.
The NGOs responsible in the camps are not working well to prepare for the monsoon rains. This is the responsibility of NGOs, but there has been poor management in the camps.
“The camps have been devastated by fires, flash floods, life-threatening landslides and Covid, at a time when aid agencies are severely limited in their full capacity,” said Imrul Islam, Bangladesh advocacy manager for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). ), one of the NGOs active in the camps, in an interview with the JowharObservers team.
Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions have forced NGOs to significantly limit their capacities in the Rohingya camps and only carry out activities deemed “critical” or “essential”. Activities in various sectors have been limited or completely stopped, and the number of staff working in the camps has been greatly reduced.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR prepared for the monsoon season by distributing tie-up kits to reinforce shelters and training Rohingya volunteers in water safety and emergency response.
Heavy rainfall is expected to continue for several days. UNHCR estimates that more than 5,000 people have been displaced from their shelters since the rains began, and at least six refugees have died in the floods and landslides.