Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh are bracing for the upcoming monsoon season that is due to bring heavy rains, flash floods, landslides, and cyclones to the vulnerable refugee community who have already struggled with ethnic violence in Myanmar that forced them to flee to the neighbouring country of Bangladesh.
The camp, known collectively as the Kutupalong-Balukhali settlements, is currently the world’s largest refugee camp, located near Cox’s Bazar in the southeast. Home to almost 600 000 Rohingya refugees, the settlement was created when thousands of Rohingya refugees poured into Bangladesh last year, and acres upon acres of forest was felled to create space for the camp. Meant to only act as a temporary solution to the refugee crisis, homes in the camp are predominantly made from bamboo and tarpaulin, and 85 000 people could face losing these shelters due to heavy rain and potential cyclones which are generally active in the region March through July. Another 23 000 living on steep banks are at high-risk for landslides, as the deforestation has created increasingly drier and looser soil. Heavy rains and flooding are also likely to overflow latrines, resulting in an uptick of sickness and diseases, including cholera.
Currently, aid agencies are working in the area to secure as many homes as possible, primarily through the use of sandbags. Brick roads are being laid to reduce landslides, concrete drains are being built to prevent excess flooding, bamboo bridges are being constructed across low-lying areas, and blocked sewage canals are being cleared.
However, despite these steps, more could still be done to ensure the safety of the Rohingya refugees and their homes. Unfortunately, one of the largest obstacles is the Bangladeshi government’s ban on the construction or creation of any permanent structures or facilities in the camp, which they have frequently stated is only a temporary settlement for refugees. Aid workers are banned from creating any permanent structure or facility, including schools for children. UN agencies are also banned from giving out fuel for cooking, which has forced many refugees to search for firewood in areas further and further from the camp.
In order to protect the refugees and ease the strain that monsoon season will bring to their community, the Bangladeshi government must allow aid agencies to do more to help and sustain the settlement through this turbulent season while a more permanent solution is developed.
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