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Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh hit by biggest storm of the year

15 June 2018, Voices from the Field, Emergencies

Dozens of Rohingya refugee shelters were inundated with floodwater or hit by landslides over the past few week, as the biggest storm of the year has hit refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar.

At the time of reporting, three people have died and at least 24 people are seriously injured. These numbers, sadly, are expected to rise given the crowded and temporary living conditions for more than 800,000 Rohingya.

Heavy showers and powerful winds have torn through the camps, leaving behind crumpled shelters and families scrambling to rebuild. Save the Children staff found major roads cut off when they arrived in the camps, with teams having to enter central parts of the camp on foot in order to provide essential services to children, like food programmes and learning centres.
Daphnee Cook, Save the Children’s Communications and Media Manager in Cox’s Bazar, said: “A powerful storm—the strongest so far this year—has again wreaked havoc in the camps, leaving many areas accessible only on foot. We’re especially concerned for children, as they’re the most vulnerable in events like this—leaving them at risk of developing skin diseases, being separated from their families, and losing access to critical services.”
More than two and a half metres of rain are expected to fall in Cox’s Bazar throughout June, July and August during peak monsoon season, with more rains forecast to fall later this week.

Dr Unni Krishnan, Director of Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit visited Cox’s Bazar in May 2018 and made some concerning predictions for the Rohingya given the oncoming monsoon season and the muddy, crowded composition of the camps. Here’s an excerpt from Unni’s blog. Read the full blog post

Monsoon rains are imminent in this part of Bangladesh, one of the most flood prone parts of the country. This year’s rainy season is going to be even more dangerous than the last, with almost 800,000 Rohingya refugees now living in overcrowded camps. UN and aid agencies have warned of the potential for a “disaster within a disaster”.

Floods can inundate camps, and cause landslides on denuded hill slopes. They can cut water supply, sanitation and health care systems, and cause epidemics. Rohingya children are particularly vulnerable, suffering high levels of malnutrition and low rates of immunisation back in Myanmar, and now living in harsh conditions where they rely on food rations to survive.

In what was the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world, Rohingya refugees settled in a relatively small amount of land, in a densely populated country quickly creating the world’s biggest refugee camp. Jungles frequented by elephants were even cleared so Rohingya families could set up tents. In October four Rohingya people, including three children, were trampled to death by an elephant in Balukhali makeshift camp.

Storms and floods amplify anxiety amongst refugee children who are already distressed from the inexplicable violence they faced back home in Myanmar. Children are very resilient but there is a limit to what young minds can withstand.

We need a strong, thoughtful response from the international community. Rohingya children deserve a second chance and it is possible to change their sad tales.

Please donate to our Rohingya crisis appeal.

Header image: Kristiana Marton/Save the Children

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