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Bangladesh: Rohingya Refugees brace for rain and cyclones


The largest refugee camp in the world is built on tree-stripped hills in a flood-prone area of southern Bangladesh. With annual rains expected to arrive in April and the threat of cyclones looming, HI staff in the camps are extremely concerned about the impact of flooding and landslides on the most vulnerable.

Shelters in an extension camp, October 2017

Shelters in an extension camp, October 2017 | © E.Pajot/ HI

In August 2017, Rohingya refugees fled en masse from neighbouring Myanmar and set up rudimentary shelters across a 3,000 acre area in the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh. Kutupalong-Balukhali camp now hosts over 600,000 people and is the largest and most densely populated refugee settlement in the world.

The threat posed by the upcoming rainy season is likely to worsen from April to August” explains Sophie Dechaux, HI Country Director in Bangladesh. “Almost all trees and shrubs have been cleared to make space for shelters and many have been built on steep hillsides. When the rains arrive, the ground will be unable to absorb the water so we are expecting significant flooding and multiple landslides”

The knock-on effects are likely to put even greater strain on already stretched humanitarian services. “Families will be forced to move into safer areas; they will need new shelters. Overcrowding and standing flood water will create ideal conditions for waterborne diseases.”

HI has been supporting the most vulnerable people in the camps since the beginning of the emergency in August 2017. The challenges of the coming months will disproportionately affect our beneficiaries. People with physical disabilities will not be able to move around the camp to access services due to floods and many may not be able to move quickly in the case of a landslide.

HI is working with local authorities and coordinating with other humanitarian organisations to prepare for the worst. Our priority is to ensure that vulnerable people are taken into account and will still have access to the support they need.

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