As the pre-monsoon downpours hit Bangladesh, the lives of the Myanmar refugees in Cox’s Bazar are becoming increasingly vulnerable. On 18 April Wednesday, the Cox’s Bazar Met office recorded 43 millimeters of rain in the area.
The first downpours indicate a major disaster waiting to happen. Field reports tell the brief rainfall last week is already creating accessibility problems in the muddy hills, while overflowing small puddles into sizes of pools.
“With the monsoon here, the situation for every single person living in the camps in Cox’s Bazar will change for the worse. There still is a lot to do and not enough time. We are working effectively to help the communities in preparing themselves for the coming rains and storms while also supervising mitigation measures that prevent these people from becoming homeless again.” says Zia Choudhury, CARE Country Director in Bangladesh.
“We are very worried to stay on the top of the hill with our children. We get scared when the rain comes, for ourselves and our children.” shares Monara Begum from the Potibonia camp.
The situation may worsen when the rains become severe, around May or July. Slippery roads and small puddles will be the least of the problems for the refugees living in different camps from Ukhia and Teknaf sub-district under Cox’s Bazar. The humanitarian community is anticipating massive casualties of about 23,000 from landslides, about 85,0001 will become homeless, outbreak of water-borne diseases due to flooding, breakdowns in access to health services and a complete collapse of the emergency support system, the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) together with the aid agencies have made it their top priority to take immediate precautionary measures.
The GoB has begun relocating 100,000 refugees to safer grounds2. A total of 540 acres of forest land, which lies in the north-west of the existing Kutupalong expansion camp in Ukhiya and Teknaf, has been allocated for the relocation of the refugees at risk of natural calamity. Additionally, the Fire Brigade and Civil Defense, and the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry have been campaigning to generate awareness among the refugees while the highly risky areas have already been marked with red flags.3
CARE is also collaborating with the GoB to address the situation. On behalf of the Government, CARE is managing one of the camps named Potibonia (Camp 16) with a population of 22,000+ people. To reduce the risks of rain and flooding, a number of measures are already in place with funding from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).