The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and partners are assisting efforts in Bangladesh to protect over 100,000 Rohingya refugees at risk from landslides and floods
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and partners are assisting efforts in Bangladesh to protect over 100,000 Rohingya refugees at risk from landslides and floods.
Efforts are underway to mitigate some of the expected impacts of the country’s imminent monsoon season, which includes flooding and destruction of settlement services.
An initial risk analysis of the world’s largest refugee settlement area, located in Kutapalong and Balukhali, indicates that around a fifth of refugees are at risk, with up to a third of the area potentially flooded in the coming months.
More than 85,000 refugees of the 569,000 living in the settlement area could lose their shelters, and a further 23,000 living on steep slopes within the site could be at risk from landslides.
Furthermore, key services such as latrines, washrooms, health centres and tube wells could be washed away and access roads could be blocked, making the site inaccessible to emergency aid vehicles.
Outbreaks of communicable diseases could follow, the report warns.
The Bangladesh Government has committed to addressing the concerns highlighted by the analysis, while the UN has set up an emergency preparedness group with its humanitarian partners to co-ordinate efforts.
UNHCR has already provided biodegradable sandbags to help anchor structures in heavy rains, and is carrying out several engineering projects to raise bridges, build bamboo-reinforced footpaths and stairs, and construct retaining walls for drainage networks and soil stabilisation.
Work on levelling steep hilltops to reduce landslide risk and increase the amount of useable area is scheduled to start within the next month, and families living in the most at-risk parts of the camp will be relocated.
Furthermore, early warning systems and public information campaigns are being put in place and Bangladeshi authorities are working with UNHCR to preposition heavy-lifting machinery and materials.
As of December 2017, nearly 860,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have fled the violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state to settle in Cox’s Bazar.
A spokesperson for UNHCR, Andrej Mahecic, said in a press statement on February 2, 2018: “The adverse weather conditions, including potential cyclones, could put tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees staying at the highly congested settlements in Cox’s Bazar district at serious risk.”