Clean water, sanitation vast challenges as Bangladesh copes with 607,000 new refugees

News Hour

Since 25 August, over 607,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed the border into Bangladesh from Myanmar.

Although the number of new arrivals is now slowing, people continue to arrive in the makeshift settlements of Cox’s Bazar every day, bringing the total Rohingya population of the district to over 820,000.

The settlements are dangerously congested and overcrowded and the pressure on sources of clean drinking water and basic sanitation are enormous. Having walked for days without water and food, the refugees arrive to the settlements exhausted and thirsty. Many are ill.

“All of the spontaneous and makeshift sites where the Rohingya have sought shelter are in urgent need of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) support to prevent diseases and to restore basic human dignity,” says IOM WASH expert Antonio Torres. “Existing WASH facilities are not yet sufficient to cope with this number of people,” he notes.

The Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), which coordinates the work of aid agencies in Cox’s Bazar and is hosted by IOM, estimates that of 750,000 people initially targeted for WASH assistance, some 530,000 have now been reached. The UN Humanitarian Response Plan estimates that over the next six months, some 1.166 million people in the Cox’s Bazar settlements and host communities will need WASH assistance.

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is providing vital WASH services to both the Rohingya and the communities hosting them, while scaling up its work to meet the needs of new arrivals.

In total, some 100,000 people already directly benefit from IOM’s WASH activities in the makeshift settlements.

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