Half a million Rohingya refugees crammed into over 30 makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar in southeast Bangladesh face a critical situation as the cyclone and monsoon season begins in a few weeks’ time.
The United Nations and international and local NGOs, along with the Bangladeshi government, have issued emergency calls to safeguard the population, especially those who are most vulnerable.
Already burdened with the world’s largest refugee crisis, the host country and its partners remain concerned at the slow pace of action on the ground, although preparations are already underway.
The biggest threat is the terrible conditions in the camps, most of which are frail shelters made up of bamboo sticks and plastic tarpaulins unlikely to stand up to gusting winds and heavy downpours.
In mid-January, Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Country Representative in Bangladesh, sent out a press statement saying, “As we get closer to the cyclone and monsoon seasons, what is already a dire humanitarian situation risks becoming a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of children are already living in horrific conditions, and they will face an even greater risk of disease, flooding, landslides and further displacement,”
“Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene conditions can lead to cholera outbreaks and to Hepatitis E, a deadly disease for pregnant women and their babies, while standing water pools can attract malaria-carrying mosquitoes,” he added. “Keeping children safe from disease must be an absolute priority.”