Thousands of Rohingya Refugees Moved to Safer Ground As Monsoon Arrives in Bangladesh

*** Rohingya refugees brace for monsoon deluge in Bangladesh camps that sprawl near the border with Myanmar.
*** There has been a desperate effort to make ready for the coming cyclone and monsoon season. But the almost 900,000 refugees in these camps remain very vulnerable.
*** “We recognize the dangers that everyone in the camps will face when the worst weather arrives”

May 18, 2018 (DESPARDES) — Almost 12,000 Rohingya refugees have now been moved to safer ground by IOM, the UN Migration Agency, as storms continue to lash southern Bangladesh, damaging tarpaulin shelters and raising the risk of landslides on the steep sandy slopes of the refugee settlements. IOM is racing to support the ongoing relocation of 24,000 people recognized as being at highest risk.

Aid agencies race to relocate Rohingya refugees to safer ground ahead of monsoon.

The inter-agency Site Maintenance Engineering Project (SMEP) – a joint effort between IOM, WFP and UNHCR – is also working at full speed to prepare new land made available by the government to the southwest of the existing camps to allow more people to move to safer ground.

Almost 700,000 refugees have fled violence in Myanmar and arrived in Cox’s Bazar since August 2017. The initial influx saw hundreds of thousands of people desperate to find a place to shelter. As a result, many ended up living in drastically over-crowded conditions, on dangerous, unstable slopes stripped of vegetation and at risk of collapse in the rain.

The latest relocation numbers came as early incident reports revealed that lightning storms and strong winds, which have hit the refugee camps over the past few days, damaged scores of shelters and caused several small landslides, creating even more precarious living conditions for some refugees.

“The impact of the recent storms is a worrying indication of what people will face during the cyclone season and at the height of monsoon,” said Manuel Pereira, IOM’s Emergency Coordinator in Cox’s Bazar. “There is no time to lose in supporting those at risk to move to safer ground. The work being done under the SMEP will help save lives.”

The government of Bangladesh has made 500 acres of new land available to relocate refugees at risk, but due to the topography of the Cox’s Bazar area, where much of the land is hilly, major earthworks are needed to prepare the ground. Only a fraction of the newly available land can be made safe for relocation before the monsoon, which will begin in earnest next month.

Pereira added that relocation is one of a range of measures being taken by IOM and its partners to support the refugees in the months to come. Others include prepositioning of key road clearing equipment and emergency provisions, mobile medical services, training refugees in search and rescue and first aid, and raising people’s awareness of the risks.

“We recognize the dangers that everyone in the camps will face when the worst weather arrives. That’s why we are also preparing emergency response measures and supporting the refugees so they can work to strengthen their shelters and have the skills needed to respond to disaster situations,” he added.

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