Monsoon in Cox’s Bazar: “Everything could collapse in an instant”
850,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are facing rains under makeshift shelters. The monsoon is posing a major humanitarian challenge at Kutupalong camp where the health situation is liable to deteriorate and affect the well-being of children who are already vulnerable. To tackle this crisis, Terre des hommes is preparing for the severe weather and cyclones, which are renowned for being devastating in this region.
In south-eastern Bangladesh, unparalleled rainfall and cyclones will occur between April and September. Successive flooding of access roads to the Kutupalong camp, some of which are narrow slippery dirt tracks, will make it difficult to deliver aid to the 850,000 Rohingyas who have fled the violence in Myanmar. 91% of these people now depend on humanitarian supplies. Families will soon face three major problems: access to food, finding a dry place to sleep and avoiding epidemics.
At present, malnutrition is the camp’s number one health problem. 400,000 children live in the camps. One quarter is malnourished, and most are under 5 years of age. “We have trained about 100 Rohingyas to identify serious cases of malnourishment. They crisscross the camp every day and refer these malnourished children to one of our seven feeding centres. Between 2000 and 3000 sick children are being monitored at the moment,” explains Martin Morand, our humanitarian emergency expert. Problems in accessing food due to the severe weather and the limited range of food will increase the risk of acute malnutrition and death among an already vulnerable population.
The dilapidated shelters where the Rohingya live are in danger of deteriorating rapidly. They are made of a simple bamboo structure that is pushed into the ground and then covered with plastic sheets which the water can trickle through. “It’s difficult to know in advance which shelters will or won't withstand the rain as this is the first monsoon in this overcrowded camp. What we do know is that it will be a disaster. Everything could collapse and fly away in minutes. There are no foundations, nothing permanent can be built. We’re in the process of ensuring our health and childcare centres can provide proper cover when the most precarious shelters collapse,” says Martin Morand.
In anticipation of the emergency, we are stocking up on mattresses, hygiene kits and dried food, as well as medical equipment to fight cholera, acute diarrhoea and dengue fever. Tdh is supervising the construction of latrines and deep wells and highlights the importance of hand-washing to prevent the spread of diseases.
After the cyclones, the refugees will need ropes, bamboo and tarpaulins. “We're stocking up on these materials. We will also be able to provide access to building materials if the supply vehicles are unable to reach the people,” says Martin Morand.